3, Robinson Street: Kolkata’s House of Skeletons and Delusions
The De residence at 3, Robinson Street, in South Calcutta wears an inscrutable look. The gates are now firmly closed. Hordes of intruders and people flock there for a glimpse of what is being called ‘Hitchcock House’, bringing alive memories of the famous thriller Psycho.
Robinson Street, a quiet, leafy residential lane was once well known for the small but meticulously run New Union Nursing Home. Today, those unfamiliar with this sleepy lane walk in looking for ‘Kankal Bari’ or the ‘House of Skeletons’.
It was the suicide of Arabindo De, 77, that exposed the macabre state of affairs in his house. When the police found his burnt body in the bathtub after breaking down the bathroom door, they interrogated his 44-year-old son Partha De. He had left behind a suicide note and there was little doubt that he had taken his own life. But what stunned the police was Partha’s revelation. Breaking down during questioning, he told the police that his sister too was dead at home.
Six months have lapsed since the death of 46-year-old Debjani, a former music teacher. Yet her corpse, which had been reduced to a skeleton, occupied a bed next to Partha’s in the same bedroom. The skeletal remains of two Labradors were also found in the room.
Partha, who is now admitted at the Calcutta Pavlov Hospital for the mentally ill, claimed to love his sister and could not bear parting with her. He fed the maggot-infested corpse each day. Debjani, it is believed, fast herself to death in her quest for spirituality. As Kolkata reeled with these horrific revelations in an upmarket locality, several interpretations began doing the rounds.
Why did Arabindo De burn himself to death? What prompted him to opt for a hugely painful way rather than hanging or poisoning himself? Was there an urgent need to ensure that his death was detected as soon as possible? Burning would ensure that smoke would wisp out of the windows and draw the attention of neighbours.
What Spawned De’s Trauma?
Devastated by the death of his daughter which, it is believed, he discovered only a couple of months ago, Arabinda De was for some reason totally helpless. Perhaps the fact that he could not give his deceased daughter a decent burial added to his trauma? His death would ensure that there would be investigation and traffic into the house.
Arabinda’s wife died of cancer in 2005. Friends believe that after her demise, the De family became dysfunctional. The cracks may have been there as the family did not share a good relationship with the paternal grandmother who passed away last year. Partho’s family did not attend her funeral.
Arabindo and his brother Arun, who occupies one of the two houses on the premises, jointly owned the property valued at Rs 50 crores. Promoters had shown an interest and discussions had been going on. Relations between the brothers was not amicable. Did the property deal play a role?