Meet the electrical engineer who runs a famous paan shop
• You are an electrical engineer, but you run a paan shop that is a name by itself, a shop as old and prestigious as Kolkata’s history. Why did you choose to make paans instead of taking up engineering?
There are too many engineers these days, even becoming an engineer is no big deal. But Kolpotoru Paan Shop is more than 82 years old and I wanted to stick to the legacy and tales that this paan shop carries, handed down to me by my father. My shop is exclusive, and no one can make a carbon copy of this shop.
• Your paan shop has signatures of various famous people on the wall, those who had paans at this shop including Indira Gandhi, Radhakrishnan, Bhanu Bandopadhyay etc. Can you share some funny tales about them?
My father used to sit at the shop when Bhanu Bandyopadhyay used to come with his wife and jokingly said:‘Amar maal ta ke nie eshechia ajke.’ He used to come to that area for programs. Both my father and Bhanu Bandopadhyay were from Bangladesh and they connected well.
• What special ingredients do you use in your paans?
We use masalas that come from various parts of the country. Supari comes mainly from North Eastern states and Chennai. Different kinds of Mouri and Saunf come from Kanpur. Other masalas come from Asansol.
• How much do your paans cost? Why do you think your customers do not even think twice before buying a paan for Rs 500 from your shop?
Our paans range from Rs5 – Rs501. The 501 paan is costly as we use expensive masalas for it and these masalas have to be stored in special containers for preservation. We also use silver foil which is costly. We do get customers who do not mind shelling out money for our expensive paans. For them having different kinds of paans is a kind of hobby, just like for me watching a movie is. If I do not get a movie ticket for a lower price, I shall settle for a higher priced one. Similarly, these customers to savour a delicious and different paan do not shy from shelling out money!
• Do you believe your paan shop will survive the test of time? Will your next generation also join?
My next generation does not want to come into this business. I will run the shop till I am alive. I do not know what will happen after that. Workers will just do their duty for 8-10hours and not want to give any extra effort. It’s all a give and take business these days. Which is why I prefer to run the shop myself and believe in making other branches of the shop.
• What kind of customers do you get?
We have a wide range of customers, both new and fixed customers. I do not put up stalls at events or weddings, because I cannot leave my shop and others won’t be able to make paans the way I do. I make them myself.