Remember Erith Maria Ramark,s "Three Comrades"? This seminal piece of world literature takes place during the depressed and highly volatile times prevailing in Germany between the first two world wars. The Nazis were making rapid strides in gaining absolute power and everything was extremely uncertain. In times like these, three friends, motor car resellers by profession, used to frequent a small eating joint. The owner was a strong man with an enviable personality, always treating customers like friends. Participating and contributing in the happier and sad moments of the customers' lives, he would always lend them a helping hand and extend his shoulder during difficult times too.
Cut to…. Calcutta, around 70 years ago. Times were quite turbulent too, if not like Germany, but well… almost. Partition had happened just a couple of years back, there were demonstrations on the road everyday, basic necessities were scarce, police firing had become an everyday affair… in one word, it was "depressing".
But then, there was this small eatery behind Bijoli Cinema in Bhowanipore where students of Asutosh College and the likes would frequent for endless cups of tea, lip-smacking snacks and most importantly… long "adda" sessions. The customers were mostly students and young people with dreams in their eyes, poetry books in their pockets and loads and loads of topics for continued discussion, accompanied by tea at 3 paise and toast at 4 paise.
And why was the place so special? Well, it all came down to Debu Barick… the owner. In shorts and vests, chopping onions and sizing meat, listening to the dreams, aspirations and frustrations of the youngsters and sometimes participating in the conversations, he would sometimes say, "One more tea for you? The bill's on me!"
Back then, Bijoli Grill would be frequented by people like Dibyendu Palit, Manas Roy Choudhry, Somnath Bhattacharya, Ajoy Roy Choudhury, all of whom achieved great renown later for their contributions in the fields of literature, education and medicine. They would keep coming back to Bijoli Grill for their quota of "adda", literary discussions and the customary cups of Debu Barick's tea.
Debu Barick started small. As a matter of fact, the small eatery was started by his uncle and was called "Dipti Cabin". He recalls, "I renamed "Dipti Cabin" to Bijoli Grill in 1947 when I was 22 or 23 years old. I have studied till class 7th in Corporation school and from 16 years of age, started working in my uncle's eatery because my father's stationery shop had failed and the financial condition was quite bad."
The journey which started from a small eatery behind Bijoli Cinema 75 years ago, has become a story of achievement and a true legacy of Bengal. Debu Barick elevated Bijoli Grill to make it a formidable brand in food and catering and Bijoli Grill had the privilege of hosting some of the most recalled celebrities of the 20th century - Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Zakir Hussain, Jyoti Basu, Mithun Charaborty, Aparna Sen, the Indian and West Indies Cricket team.. the list is endless. Today, Bijoli Grill caters simultaneously to 22-25 marriages in an evening and is the top brand name in organized catering in Calcutta, employing hundreds of skilled professionals for managing its pan-India operations. All this started from a small eatery behind Bijoli Cinema around 50 years back. The man behind the show - Debu Barick.