Estd. Since 1905

ROBIN MONDAL

No Comments

I can’t remember the exact date now. But just after passing the Matriculation exams in 1947, when I was preparing to join art school, I became eager to get myself some materials to start painting. I had no clear idea as to exactly where I would have to go to get various things like paper, pencils, colours, brushes etc. Earlier I had collected the materials for painting from other people, but this time round my research revealed that the famous G.C. Laha at Dharamtalla was a shop just for artists and I would get all the material I required under that one roof.

Before I came to know of G.C. Laha, the only other such shop known to me was Competitive Stores, a big stationery shop at Howrah Maidan that mostly served the needs of the indigenous and foreign residents of the railways’ Colvin Court. I bought my first box of Winsor & Newton water colours from here with a few rupees given to me by my father. At that time this box was like a treasure trove for me. When I would stay home due to an illness, this box of colours became my constant companion. But when I recovered my health and craved to join art school, G.C. Laha became the chief target of my explorations. I still remember the first time I stood in front of this shop, it was revealed to me in a new light, giving it a unique and distinct appearance in my eyes.

The shop decorations — such as the railings above the shop counter — and the people I saw there were presented to my eyes as if they possessed an extra dimension. I couldn’t find any similarity with any of the shops I had seen before in the city. The brass railings meant something more than just what they really were. After all, no shops I had seen earlier had anything like them.

Pashupatida at the counter was a handsome young man, while I was at the end of my adolescence. At the counter on the right side sat Nandada, though I got to know their names much later. I remember, when I entered the shop I had to think a while about whom I could approach and discuss my requirements with. The walls were covered with advertisements and Winsor & Newton posters. In spite of my initial hesitation, I gradually became familiar with Pashupatida and Nandada.

At times even Pashupatida’s brother would sit at the counter. But I never got the scope to speak to him much. Much later Pashupatida’s youngest brother (Loknath Laha) would also sit at the counter. Pashupatida would converse with everybody very easily and he was fully aware of the world of arts and artists of Kolkata. He also knew who the really talented artists were. I personally feel that if Pashupatida were to write on this topic it might actually reveal unique facets of these artists and give the reader an insight into their beings. There was not a single well-known artist who was not acquainted with the people at G.C. Laha.

In other shops the relationship with the customer is confined only to buying and selling, whereas at G.C. Laha the bonds with the artists were much more intimate —something which the artist remembers fondly even after years have passed.

Whenever we have sought their help regarding any matter pertaining to the art world of Kolkata, we have always received the best help possible. I remember when we held the Calcutta Art Fair close to New Market at the Corporation ground in 1970, Pashu-patida came ahead to help us. Even in other matters, their help is unforgettable.

But the experience which has never stopped impressing itself upon me is seeing the brass railings in the shop facade. They stand out like the vestige from a shop a bygone England.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *