The Happy Prince Of Calcutta


He has given the city that which matters most – water, clean, crystal clear –
by laying the waterworks at Palta and afterwards by maintaining it. Not only that, he has to his credit completing the pilot project of bringing to the city that precious elixir of life by installing 40 inch dia main pipe under the B. T. Road. And then, his company had the sole distinction of building the solid foundation of the large water tank at Tallah, an engineering marvel of its sort, which supplies water to its dwellers even today.

Tarun Rana

He has spearheaded again the job of laying much of the city’s remarkable underground drainage system. He has gifted to the city many of its wonderful buildings, memorials, palaces, mansions. In the central business and administrative district itself, around Lal Dighi and the Writer’s Buildings – Standard Chartered Bank, Central Bank of India- the one which had been gutted, Royal Insurance Building opposite GPO, Shaw Wallace House, Hongkong & Shanghai Bank Building, Rallis House near Metcalfe Hall, Esplanade Mansion- the first multi storied flat building across Raj Bhavan in the Government Place East.

The stately Tipperah Palace (Tripura House ) at Ballygunge Circular Road, the Mysore Memorial having the replica of a little South Indian temple and adjacent to Keoratala Burning Ghat, Bengal Assembly House to name just a few – all architectural masterpieces and priceless heritage structures, are his other contributions to the city he loved most. It was his passion to dot it with such fabulous majestic structures all over the place and in this he succeeded unimaginably well.

So much so, he had the unbelievable fortune of having been awarded the job of building for long seventeen years the massive and the most monumental marble white marvel – the Victoria Memorial Hall – overlooking the lush green Brigade Parade Ground, his boyhood dream to recreate and reconstruct ,after having seen the Taj Mahal, its ethereal charm becoming a reality one day.

And at the fag end of his life, his Company had the proud privilege of executing the vision of a savant, Swami Vivekananda’s heart felt desire to raise a temple, an Universal one, in dedication to his Master, Sri Ramakrishna who believed and practised in his life the rituals and rigours of all religions. And for which SV had the plan drawn in his own life time by a brother monk Revered Swami Vijnananda, an engineer by profession before he joined the Order.

The temple of chunar stone at Belur, Howrah– a “ symphony of architecture “, representing fusion of all faiths stands as a tall testimony to the capacity of executing brilliantly by his Company the design of the architects all through.

It was under his Chairmanship that the Technical Committee constituted to suggest the most suitable type of bridge across the river Hoogly recommended the construction of a cantilever sort , replacing the old floating pontoon bridge which served the twin city of Calcutta and Howrah for more than fifty years.

He had the sole distinction of running narrow gauze trains in a bid to connect the far flung suburban areas to the city, thereby augmenting supplies on both sides.

He was the most successful Industrialist. a sound business man Bengal had ever produced. His business interests ranged from civil constructions, iron, timber, electricity, shipping, cement, mining, railway wagons and what not.

Not only in the field of business and commerce, he excelled in almost every walk of life. He espoused the cause of education, especially girls’ studies, as he fervently believed that the future of a child depends on the hand that rocks the cradle. The success of Gokhale Memorial School depended a lot on the financial support it received from his munificence.

Technical education , of not just graduate engineers, but diploma studies received a major boost in Bengal due to his strong advocacy. He was instrumental in the founding of Calcutta Technical School on S N Banerjee Road – the first of its kind in pre- independent India. Apprenticeship training in different government run departments like the Railways and shipping or in various industrial concerns was introduced due to his initiative.

As a founder President of the Institution of Engineers at Gokhale Road, he had brought the engineering fraternity of all disciplines and of all the states under one roof. A singular achievement indeed.

Physical culture movement – be it football, swimming, Boy Scout or athletics got a big thrust due to his support, encouragement and patronisation. He was one of the Executive Committee members of the Mohunbagan Club when it won the IFA shield in 1911 defeating all white British or European outfits.

He was the President of all most all the Swimming Clubs in Calcutta by turn. Himself a President of the Calcutta Boy Scout Association, he had the honour of having received the award of Silver Wolf and of being the top person of the Bengal Olympic Association at one time.

His contributions in the field of culture and social service was no less. His services were requisitioned by the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad and Raja Ram Mohun Library at the time of the construction of the respective buildings. He was besides holding the high offices of either in the capacity of President or Vice President for many years.

As a President of Asiatic Society for two years, he did yeoman service. He was behind the founding of Calcutta Club set up to ward off racial prejudice and superiority.

“ The Calcutta Orphanage owes its inception and growth entirely to its sustained efforts; the Society for Improvement of Backward Classes claims him as its chief benefactor.”

He is the Happy Prince of Calcutta. He has given to the city his all , made it a City of Palaces, once the second most important city after London in the British Empire.

Now he has nothing his own – his residence at 7 Harrington Street having been sold out, his office at 12 Mission Row a poor show of its glamorous past after the Company changed hands..

There is only a life size statue of him, sculpted by no less a person than the renowned G. Paul, the maker of the seated image of Sri Ramakrishna at Belur, in the Victoria Memorial Hall premises near the PG side entrance.

Alone and forlorn, except for the moving figure of an angel on top, his swallow, watching for him how “Calcutta” of his dream, of his making is being converted to today’s “ Kolkata”.

He is Rajendranath Mookerjee , the legendary Sir R .N. Mookerjee, of Martin Burn fame – the celebrated engineer, a resourceful entrepreneur and an exemplary personality. All but forgotten, it seems except in the name of a stretch of the road -the Mission Row rechristened after his demise.