Have you ever wondered where Kolkattans buy the national flag from on Republic Day and Independence Day? No, we’re not talking about your regular stationery shop selling these flags on the holidays, but the original flag shops of Kolkata! With Republic Day drawing closer, we decided to go on a quest to find the first flag shop in Kolkata and the story behind it.
Through the hustle and bustle of the busy lanes of China Bazaar we went searching, there was one unanimous answer from whoever we asked, Nepal Stores.- the first flag shop in Kolkata The shop was located near the lanes of the Armenian Church tucked away in a corner. We caught up with the owner there to find out the story behind the shop.
It has been almost 80 years that Nepal Chandra Sahana, a man from Howrah, ran a stationary shop in the pre-independent India. He realized there might be better business for flags and decided to start selling a couple along with his stationary goods. As business started booming he ditched the stationary business and went all out to sell flags exclusively at his flag shop in Kolkata.
He quickly became the most popular place in Kolkata to get flags. Even though other shops would open around him, he had his loyal customers. His son, Subroto Konar eventually worked alongside his father and finally took over the family business after his passing.
The flags come from multiple places – Delhi, Bombay and even Sealdah in Kolkata. Selling flags, according to him, is just a seasonal affair. When the occasion arrives, flags fly out by the hundreds. We were a little surprised to find out that he doesn’t sell party flags like all the other shops in the area. The truth, all party flags are sold by him but only on bulk order. When a rally or any other political event is about to take place, he is the one who receives the huge orders.
On days nearing Independence or Republic Day, he sells at least 50,000 flags a day.
His greatest was however a huge order for more than 1 lac flags, for a certain rally, he humorously shares with us.
The sad truth, however, is that Subroto is the last of the Nepal Stores. As his children are already in school, he does not want them to join the headache of the family business. According to him, it’s just too much hard work. He shall continue to work his job until the foreseeable future to sustain his family and then finally call it a day.
On Republic Day, his shop stays closed as he celebrates by distributing flags to the poor children in his area. Bringing them this little joy is all the happiness he wishes for as India celebrates its 69th Republic Day.