The 100-year-old crowd favourite bids adieu to the City of Joy
If you happen to walk down from Howrah Bridge to Burra Bazar, after you’ve trudged through the cacophony of horns, vehicles, and hawking street vendors, you’d have been bound to get hit with the aroma of freshly made Hing-er Kochuri. You’d turn your gaze to your left where Mahatma Gandhi Road is and right where the descent from the bridge ends and MG Road begins, you’d find a yellow sign that says Deshbandhu. But Deshbandhu Mishtanna Bhandar is no more. Part of Kolkata’s burgeoning heritage and abound in stories and lore, this larger-than-life sweet shop had to finally close its doors due to losses incurred during the pandemic.
The story goes that in 1921, the founder of this shop, Shri Bibhutibhushan Chowdhury left his job in Burdwan city in hopes of mesmerizing the people of Kolkata with the native delicacies of his place like Mihidana and Sitabhog. And mesmerize he did, as the humble shop in Burrabazar would go on to attract Bengalis and people from all over in hopes of tasting their quality products. And even though the marquee read sweet shop, it was a full-blown eatery as their signature hing er kochuri and shingaras fried in gawa ghee would stop the pedestrians and even bus drivers on their tracks from dropping in and having their food to heart’s content. Legend has it that freedom fighter Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was enamoured by the Mihidana at this place so much that Mr. Chowdhury decided to name the shop after the honorary statesman. Henceforth, many astute personalities were also regulars at the shop like Dadathakur Sarat Chandra Pandit, reputed singer and composer Krishnachandra Dey and Pankaj Kumar Mullick, and even freedom fighter and governor of West Bengal Padmaja Naidu just to name a few.
From Koda Paak er Sondesh, to Chitrakoot and Kalojaam, this place would have its absolute must-haves, and the walls spoke more of the shop’s long-standing legacy that it had with the city and its people. Having tirelessly served the city for over a century, it became part of the city’s history and heritage. Sources claim that the family behind the functioning of Deshbandhu were incurring heavy losses throughout the pandemic and the newer generation of the family had made their mark in life away from the overarching umbrella of the shop itself. With no one left to prop up the shop to its heyday, both the branches of this iconic shop, the main one near Jagannath Ghat, on Mahatma Gandhi Road at Burrabazar and the other at Hazra-Landsdowne crossing, did not open its doors even after the lockdown was over.
The harshest slander thrown at time itself is that it is quite untimely, cold, and hurtles on having taken our loved ones away from us. The pandemic wreaked havoc worldwide and claimed the lives of close friends and family and to us Bengalis, the news of the tragic end of Deshbandhu Mishtanna Bhandar hits just like a ton of bricks, given how ingrained it was to the fabric of our daily lives.