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The cartoonist who sells coffee: – GetBengal story

22 May, 2024 17:31:20
The cartoonist who sells coffee: – GetBengal story

Although Kolkata is well known for being a hotspot for artistic talents, the majority of these treasures are still relatively unknown. Finding them is fascinating and enjoyable since it broadens your perspective. The City of Joy is all about finding contentment in the little things in life, not in worldly pursuits. The city's residents, who call them "old-school," find joy in the simple things, in the changing of the seasons, and in art.

One such hidden treasure can be found near the Tollygunge Metro Station gate no. 1. Shyama Prasad Dey’s coffee stall deserves all the attention and love. Visiting a tea stall might seem ordinary, but Shyam Prasad’s coffee stall is an artistic experience. Dey has no money to hire a designer. Rather, his stall is decorated with various art pieces of his own, caricatures he drew, and witty remarks. He did it all on his own, and one can also buy these caricatures. He instantly draws caricatures of his customers for a nominal fee on the coffee cups served to them. It brings joy and laughter for both customer and seller alike, as Dey’s satisfaction lies in the happiness of his customers.

His story is one of resilience and economic hardship that began in Bijoygarh, where he was born and raised. Despite being granted admission to South City College, he could not complete his studies because of financial difficulties. He had to support his father in his bookstore business, which was what kept him afloat from 1993 to 2020. The pandemic hit hard, and sales dwindled. He was forced to close down the bookstore since it was not an economically viable option anymore. He lives in a joint family of 17 members, and sustaining them was very difficult. This is when he decided to sell tea in various places to fish sellers who could not leave their stalls. He would bring tea to them. He would serve tea from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. in places such as Garia and then attend to his stall in Tollygunge.

Now he has changed his focus to coffee. People often congregate outside roadside tea stalls to gossip over cups of tea. But he has now made this choice because of practical reasons. He says, “I sell coffee, not tea, because there is more competition there and I had to keep myself afloat.” A roadside coffee shop thus makes him stand out and attracts more customers because of its uniqueness. He even has a number of witty signs that tell people not to ask for tea!

The uniqueness of his stall is further enhanced by his fun, impromptu caricature artwork.

The caricatures come along with remarkable witticisms, advice, and warnings from Dhopeshwar Maharaj, Dey’s pseudonym, which he uses for his art. He uses the pseudonym to create intrigue and mystery for his customers since he believes people are bound to listen to fictional characters rather than a coffee seller.

Inspired by his daughter, Suryasree, who is currently a backend employee at an event management company, Dey reveals that it was at her insistence that he thought of adding such a unique touch to his coffee stall. “She told me there are coffee shops that write names on cups.” So, I started drawing pictures of people to make them laugh.” He was possibly inspired by Starbucks to start customising cups for customers.

The fact that people are attracted to caricatures and comical representations reflects back on the history of comics art in Bengal. It goes to show that comics and caricatures are meant for children and adults alike, as they tackle various subjects like current events and social life. Shyama Prasad Dey’s caricatures are a mix of fiction inspired by real events. His stall shows that his love for the art of making and reading comics is still alive. He is also unwittingly keeping the tradition of cartoons alive in this era of meme-making. He is making his own memes in real life through cartoons and caricatures.

Now painting has become his second skin. His hands move swiftly whenever a customer requests a caricature, and it is instantly delivered with the utmost skill and panache. He now feels it is his obligation to paint, since people travel from far away just to see his stall. “I like painting, so it isn’t a burden for me,” he explained. “I like my life the way it is.”

There are many reels on Instagram made about him, and frankly, words and a minute on social media cannot capture the experience of something so beautiful. It can only be understood through experience.

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