Born in 1889 A.D., the eldest son Girindra Coomar Laha was commissioned immediately after his passing the Entrance Examination of the Calcutta University to actively join his father’s business of paints styled after the latter’s own name, Messers Aukhoy Coomar Laha.
Right from the first day of his joining, Girindra took up business in right earnest to be the one mission of his life, and all through the seventy-three years that he was in business his interest and enthusiasm did never lag even for one day. While his father’s trade was in domestic and industrial paints, Girindra envisaged the great possibilities of expanding the business to cover artists’ colors as well. Accordingly, in 1905 A.D. when he was barely sixteen, he started a second firm after his own name, which subsequently came to be universally known as Messers G.C. Laha Private Ltd., principally to trade in all artists’ Materials’ most items of which had then to be imported from overseas.
Emboldened by his devotion to his cause, Girindra lost no time to independently write to the famous makers of artists’ materials abroad tor, become their sales agents in Calcutta. There must have been an unerring seriousness in his approach as a result of which a traveling representative of Winsor & Newton, distinguished artists’ material makers of England, took all the trouble of scouring the entire stretch of Dharumtolla Street thrice before being able to spot the niche of the Indian correspondent. The Sahib watched for some time handsome and young Girindra’s masterful dealings with his customers and decided then and there to enter into a business arrangement that still stood to the satisfaction of both parties up to independence.
To build goodwill, as Messers G. C. Laha Private Ltd. now has, and to build up a clientele to include such immortal names as Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Percy Brown, Jamini Roy, Atul Bose, J. P. Ganguly, Hemen Majumder, S. G. Thakur Singh, Raja Ravi Verma, Bhowani Churn Law, the Ukil brothers – Sarada, Barada and Ranada, Deviprasad Roy Choudhury, Mukul Dey, were no easy tasks and only two qualities in Girindra’s personality could have achieved what he actually did-an innate honesty and unflinching diligence. Girindra was married to Srimati Asrumati Daw in 1907 A.D. and three sons and one daughter were born to them. Srimati Asrumati Laha met a premature death in 1928 A.D. and, as customary in those days, Girindra could have taken a second wife in no time. But a man of character as he was, he preferred to remain happy with pre-occupations at home with his growing children and at the office With his growing business in private life, Girindra was very austere in his habits, entirely unassuming and always prepared to consider the other point of view. He was soft-spoken but when he opened his mouth, his deeply convincing but plain remarks left no ground for argument or discontent. His sweet but strong personality made it impossible for anyone to pat his back and say, “Hello”, but when he wished, he could become a lovable friend either of an old man or a child. His death creates, so to say, in the paint business in this part of the country a void that will take a long time to fill.
For various reasons, 1905 is a significant year in Indian history. In this year, the then Viceroy of India Lord Curzon took the decision to partition Bengal. The ‘Banga Bhanga’ agitation was started to oppose this. Abanindranath Tagore drew his famous ‘Bharat Mata’ picture this year, inspired by nationalistic feelings. At the same time, the Bangiya Kala Sansad Was founded inspired by his call. During this tumultuous time, Girindra Coomar Laha (1889-1978), a meritorious student, passed out with flying colors in the Entrance Examination from the City Collegiate School. After a short period of time, he joined Messrs. Aukhoy Coomar Laha, an organization started in his father’s name. The business of this organization was to supply paints used in the industry and in homes. The business was started in 1870. The shop was at the crossing of Bentinck Street and Dharamtolla Street, to the west of the famous Tipu Sultan mosque. The number of the shop then was 46/11 Bentinck Street. When the new Central Avenue was laid out, all establishments here were razed down and the shop then shifted to 1, Dharamtalla Street.
Having entered his father’s business in 1905 at the tender age of 16, Girindra Coomar Laha’s foresight told him that there was a great demand for paints as well other accessories used in arts and crafts. Also, there was a promising future in this trade. With this idea in his mind, he and his only brother Bhabendra Coomar Laha (1891-1968) jointly left their father’s concern to establish G.C. Laha Private Limited. At that time, indigenous paints were not prevalent in this country. Most artists used paints manufactured by Winsor & Newton, a foreign company. Girindra Coomar Laha did not feel Satisfied buying these colors from the market. Without hesitating, he shot off a letter to the authorities of the world-famous company, asking if he could be a direct agent of their products.
A representative from the company visited Calcutta, and after striding up and down Dharamtalla street, finally managed to locate the shop face. The shop measured just three feet by five feet. But seeing the sincerity and optimism of the 16-year-old boy, the foreign gentleman was satisfied and the business agreement was prepared. From that time till the Indian Independence, the agreement was maintained with mutual respect. That famous G.C. Laha, the pride of all Bengalis and the witness of many vicissitudes down these historic years, has proudly stepped into its centenary year. It need not be repeated that the true, upright and philanthropic Girindra Coomar Laha is the driving force behind the organization,. This man, who had an inclination for the arts, shared a cordial relationship with all contemporary artists, both the famous and the lesser known. One story goes that famous painter Raja Ravi Varma wrote to Messrs G.C. Laha, asking for a particular paint that he couldn’t find anywhere in south India. As soon as he received that letter, Girindra Coomar Laha sent off the paint to Varma without even bothering about an advance payment. After this incident, Raja Ravi Varma became a devoted customer of the shop. He has even visited the establishment a few times. As a memento of their friendship, he gifted Girindra Coomar Laha one of his oil paintings. It is a matter of great pride that the list of illustrious customers of the shop includes names like Rabindranath Tagore, Abanindranath Tagore, NandalalBasu, Percy Brown, Jamini Ray, Arai Bose, Hemen Majumdar, the three Ukil brothers Sarada, Barada and Ranada, J.P. Ganguly, Bhabani Charan Laha, M.G. Thakur Singh, Debiprasad Roy Choudhury, Mukul Dey and others. With almost all these famous men, Girindra Coomar Laha progressed to a personal relationship through matters of mere business. In the footsteps of their father, all three sons of Girindra Coomar Laha — Biswanath Laha (1914-1997), Pashupatinath Laha (1922) and & Loknath Laha (1926-2001) — have expanded the scope of their business. As with their father, they developed a deep friendship with well-known artists such as Gopal Ghosh, Satyajit Ray, Chintamani Kar,
Sunil Madhav Sen, Sunil Pal, Shanu Lahiri Ganesh Pyne, Ganesh Haloi, M. Fida Hussain, Bikash Bhattacharjee, Prakash Karmakar, Suvaprasanna as well as many of the young artists of this generation. Like their philanthropic father, his descendants have silently worked for the cause of social good and help the needy. The son of Pashupati Laha,.Partho Laha (1966) and the son of the deceased Loknath Laha, Siddharth Laha (1967) have never moved away from the high ideals of their father and grandfather and have kept the giant wheels of the organization running. This has only helped them move forward with honesty and sincerity.