Indira Gandhi’s Kolkata Visits Have Another Side To It !

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India’s third Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Kolkata for important political reasons. But are you aware about another personal reason for the lady to visit the City Of Joy ?

Paan and Kolkata have a unique relation. The experience of having a paan in Kolkata at popular paan shops can never be replicated.

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Kalpataru Bhandar is a paan shop which has not left a single soul unheard about. Located exactly behind College Square, this 77 year old paan shop has been graced by celebrities and commoners alike.2

The price range here stretches from Rs.5 to Rs.1001. This is the only place in the city where special suparis are used for the paans. The speciality of the paan prepared here is that it is not too sweet since it does not have gulkand (sweet mixture made out of rose petals) and Katha or Khayer.

Often considered to be the best paan shop in the city, Kalpataru Bhandar has gained this reputation through constant innovation & improvisation.

Starting from the special chuna (lime) procured from snail shell dust to a large variety of supari namely Nehrupatiy, Chips, Keshrani, Milky, Icy and the atar (perfume) – every ingredient is unique.

This paan shop has a nice history:

Two brothers, Radhabinod Dutta, Sanatan Dutta, residents of Bangladesh, came to Kolkata to open their paan shop. They opened Kalpataru paan shop at College Street in 1947. Radhabinod Dutta, Sanatan Dutta’s nephew’s son , presently looks after this paan business.

The two brothers had left their paan business in Bangladesh to start afresh the business in India. They have been successful in establishing it. Why are we saying so? Because, eminent personalities like Indira Gandhi, Dr. Sarbapalli Radhakrishnan, Zakir Hussain, Padma Naidu have been its ardent ‘paan-lovers’. Apart from them, Manna Dey, Bhanu Bandhopadhyay, V. Balsara has not only enjoyed their delicious paan, but has also appreciated it largely.3

Kalpataru is a government registered shop. If you do visit it, you would see several certificates bound in frames. The shop’s personal signboard bears ‘ঢাকার সুপ্রসিদ্ধ ও বিখ্যাত এবং বহু প্রশংসাযুক্ত সার্টিফিকেট প্রাপ্ত নানা প্রকার মশল্লাপূর্ণ খিলি পান বিক্রেতা।’ নীচে লেখা, দয়া করে একটু দাঁড়ান৷!ভাল পান পাবেন৷

The present owner of the shop has several things to say if any question is raised on the price of the paan. Shyamal Babu says, “The masala for our paan comes from Chennai, Kanpur and Benaras. The Supari is obtained from Allahabad while the leaf is taken from Bhubaneshwar. We have atleast 40 different types of masala. The speciality of our paan is that it does not emit any fluid after chewing it, it doesn’t turn our tongues red after having it, nor does it have any bad effects.”4

But the sales have reduced invariably. It is still alive on the basis of the paan orders they get for weddings.5

Shyamal Babu was a student of Electronics Engineering. He also had a job which paid well. But after his father and uncle’s death, he took over his family business. He believes in the shop’s future. His only daughter is now married, hence leaving no one after him to look over the business.

Reporting By Debjani Sarkar

Photography Shashi Ghosh

Edited By Saheli Dey

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