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The fascinating journey of Hindol Roy, the antique gadget collector - GetBengal story

14 October, 2023 17:29:51
The fascinating journey of Hindol Roy, the antique gadget collector - GetBengal story

Hindol Roy, the antique gadget collector

Every year, at the crack of dawn, millions in Bengal usher in Durga Puja as they switch on the radio to the sound of Mahisasuramardini, blaring from the sets. The atmosphere reverberates with devotional songs dedicated to Goddess Durga and Sanskrit shlokas recited from the Chandi in the inimitable baritone of Birendra Krishna Bhadra. This cult programme continues to be aired on the radio for 90+ years now. Although radio holds a special place in the collective historical consciousness of Bengalis, coloured with a nostalgic tinge of sentimental sociability, as families and friends are pictured gathering together to listen to the news, sports commentary, or music programmes, it is now facing massive disruption in the digital age.

Vintage electronic Valve and Murphy radios

This pains Hindol Roy, a passionate collector of antique items like radio sets, mobile transistor sets, gramophone records, tape recorders, LP and EP records, vintage television sets, watches and pens, lanterns, petromax lanterns etc. He says, “Isn’t it heartless and unfair to discard our old, familiar companions who brought us joy, helped us tide over our crises, comforted us during our sorrows and pain, and stayed with us all through in their prime? Now that we have more advanced equipment doesn’t mean we have to discard the old items. It seems almost as unkind and insensitive as deserting or dumping one’s aged parents and senior citizens.” It is this tug at the heart for curios that prompted Roy, now in his mid-fities’ to collect old scraps, repair them and make them reusable. He has been at this for a long time but it became his passion and got the better of him since the last decade. Some of his collections are centuries old, their spare parts are no longer manufactured, and many brands have closed operations and winded up for good during this period. However, Roy remains undaunted and continues to pursue his hobby with a single-minded devotion. 

A rare collection of vintage fountain and ball pens

He says he was very sharp with mechanical devices from his school days and that stood him in good stead. He painstakingly repairs those ancient sets, spending hours hunched under the table lamp, tinkering with his myriad equipment. “I am not confident about electronic gadgets and when I get into a tricky situation, I seek help from seniors and professionals and they gladly comply,” says Roy.  

A collection of vintage cameras

Roy, a resident of College Para in Siuri, Birbhum district is an extremely busy man. He is a contractor working under the Public Health Engineering Department, Government of West Bengal. His work involves extensive travelling not only within Birbhum district but also in other parts of the country and everywhere he goes, his curious eyes search for collectables, discarded and disposed of by users. He says, “I have a devoted band of junk dealers in my locality whom I have befriended over the years. I am the first one they contact when any one of them gets hold of ramshackle television or radio sets, dusty, mangled record players, disused, frayed clocks or watches or sooty damaged lanterns and I pay them more than they would get from their dealers and buy the stuff for a lark.”  

His house is full of the collectibles he has gathered over the decade, many of them have been refurbished and given a new lease of life. In fact, his house is chock-a-block with the items he has collected from different sources. They adorn the racks, squeaky clean and polished. There are a number of radio sets, gramophone records etc strewn around in various stages of repair or cleaning, and some stacked in a corner, waiting for the magician’s touch to revive them to life. It is a fascinating collection where one can spot repaired vintage sets like Murphy, Telefunken, Bush and Phillips co-existing in a row. He is adding a separate wing to his house where he intends to shift his “treasures.” He says, “I love to collect antique items and bring them home.” But, does his family support his passion? “Yes, of course. Both my wife and my daughter are supportive otherwise; I would not have been able to pursue this (hobby).  However, when I get back battered, rusty, dust-filled items home, my wife’s initial reaction is, ‘Oh no! Not another one now?’ However, she gave in very soon and assisted me in cleaning up the artifacts. My daughter, who has been observing me for long, has been captivated by my hobby and now she too, takes an interest and helps me in the restoration work. In fact, my father, Pinaki Roy, encouraged me and supported my hobby staunchly. He was himself a passionate collector of antiques. In fact, he was very fond of classical music and used to spend hours listening to LP records. I have a vast collection of records. Both my sisters were trained in classical music and our family has always been actively involved in the cultural sphere. My father was involved in theatre as well. He directed many plays and one of his plays representing Birbhum district was staged in an inter-district competition and won the first prize in the state. He was into gardening in a major way and was a champion at growing chrysanthemums of various sizes and colours. My wife got the green thumb from him. My father taught her the intricacies of gardening including the complex method of creating bonsai. She is an ardent gardener and truly made her father-in-law, now deceased, proud. She has evolved into an expert gardener over the years. People from neighbouring areas as well as distant places troop in to admire my wife’s labour of love, the flower garden. My daughter is also a trained dancer.” 

What are his plans for these invaluable ancient devices? He says, “When I become old and infirm and give up my professional life, I shall spend my superannuation tinkering with these items. I don’t want them to become obsolete. They have a right to coexist with modern equipment and my endeavour is to keep them going. I am confident that my daughter is equally passionate about this and after me, she will take care of these priceless artifacts.”

What are his plans? Does he propose to transfer the portion of the new wing of his house into a museum of sorts to preserve these items? “It is too early to say that but yes; I do have a similar plan. The present generation is not aware of the basic mechanical principles at work in this ancient and nearly extinct equipment. They do not even know about gramophones or transistors. My collection will bridge the technical gap between the past and the present.” And, as the saying goes, “A collection is more than just objects, it's a reflection of who we are.” Roy surely proves this point. 

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