Fifty-something Baidyanath Seal runs the 127-year-old Diamond Library, a repository of more than 100 jatra—or Bengali folk play—scripts. It is the last of many such libraries in north Kolkata that also used to publish jatra scripts. While other such shops have closed down or started selling other books to survive, the Seal family continues to focus on its core business of publishing and selling jatra scripts. Though sales have slowed, their shop, spread over 300 sq. ft, still manages to make a profit of around Rs15,000 a month on an average, says Baidyanath, whose grandfather had founded the Diamond Library.
Karimchacha, who sells gramophones and long playing (LP) discs on the sidewalk of Lenin Sarani in central Kolkata, realizes his business has lived its life, but refuses to give up. “I still make about Rs6,000-7,000 a month. So why should I quit?” he asks, but quickly admits there are two or three more sellers of gramophones and LP discs left in Kolkata.
Baidyanath and Karimchacha stand out for their passion for almost extinct businesses. They could have ventured into more profitable trades, but persevered to stay put in businesses they grudgingly acknowledge as dying.
Mint brings you glimpses of these little known businesses of Kolkata, which you might not get to see on your next visit to the city.