DOVER LANE STORY – Rajesh Sen
On Dover Lane
In the heart of South Calcutta’s bustling culture and shopping district, Gariahat, lies quieter Dover Lane. At one end it leads into a leafy quadrangular enclave of residences built mostly around the early second quarter of the 20th Century.Almost all the houses are in use, some are crumbling, some in disarray and a few obliterated and replaced with nondescript flats of no personality.
However, many are still reasonably maintained edifices, looked after by caring owners proud of their inheritance. These honorably salvage the historic ambience of the lane. Art Deco is a significant feature that recurs here, along with other influences of middle-class urban Bengali architecture between the
1930s and the 1960s.
18/76A Dover Lane
Home to sisters, educationist Sutapa Roy and journalist Sumana Mukherjee Gupta, from their childhood, their grandparents Basanti and Baman Das Mukherjee bought the house in the early 1950s. Though built in the 1930s, there are presently no records of the previous owners with the family. After the passing away of their parents, bio-physicist Sheela and historian Nilmani, the house lay unused for about two years. Sutapa and Sumana, now settled in their own homes, were in a quandary of sorts over its future. Living there was not feasible, but upkeep was a burning issue and selling their home not a desirable option.
I, a friend of several years, suggested a reuse possibility of an unusual kind. It involved renovation, of course; but the building was to transform essentially into a gallery for the arts. Sutapa and Sumana, both attracted by the arts, expressed interest and I volunteered to take the project on. Much deliberation, second thoughts and agonizing over the ‘unknown’ followed but hope and intent prevailed to finally create a special space. A space that flowed naturally, did not hide its age, but displayed a grace that came with dignity.
I jumped in at the deep end. My working career of 30 odd years closed and then began my journey as a restorer and the promise of later turning entrepreneur. Restoration to me meant keeping the house true to its origins. Woodwork was scraped to expose the natural finish, old fans oiled and serviced to prolong their lives, floors cleaned of years of settled dirt and washrooms updated to serve modern needs. These now coexist with and effortlessly steal the limelight from air-conditioners, gallery tracks and other interventions introduced to serve the new use requirements. Soon 18/76A Dover Lane looks forward to soon being home to The Zs’ Precinct.
The Zs’ Precinct
Nestled in the environs of a carefully restored house of this period, The Zs’ Precinct, comprising of Zarah’s Gallery and Zoyah’s Treasury, curates fine offerings of contemporary design & engaging events.
A space with two facets:
The Permanent Gallery is dedicated to miniature format art and print making while the ShowSpace celebrates larger expression, changing moods, rhythm and definitive style.
The Screening Room facilitates live communication and visual interaction, connecting real-time with a network of galleries, collectors, aficionados and designers.
Fashioned on the lines of a Museum Shop with a focus on the eclectic, here is a range of wearables for sheer personal expression, both for men and women, essentially pampering the inner self. Here too is a range of designed artcentric wares for home and other personal spaces that delight the senses. These are carefully picked from selections of designers from across the country and the world. Collections will evolve and change, new product lines will emerge, so as to be contemporary and fresh at all times.
A great mug of coffee or a lovely cup of tea complete the ensemble and enliven the experience. Brewed beverages and small eats served home-style will flavour the mood, from specially chosen sources and unusual recipes.