There are so many old things in this city which is difficult to see in one place. If you want to see those antique items in one place or in one room, meet Sushil Kumar Chatterjee popularly known as Noku Babu, a nonegarian residing at North Calcutta (now Kolkata) whose grand collection will easily startle you.
A science graduate from Vidyasagar College, Noku Babu is a collector of a variety of items ranging from simple lantern to musical instruments roughly from 1880 to 1960. Many of today’s generation possibly may not not have seen those antique items; but a visit to Noku Babu’s house will make your dream come true. I have been to his house a few times and, on in each occasion I had the opportunity to see these valued treasures and heard stories of yester years of Calcutta from him.
During one of my visits I came across a Petromax hazak lamp which I have seen in Bawali Rajbari. He informed me that this type of hazak lamp was used to lighten up the famous Dakshineswar Temple in the early thirties of the last century. Apart from that I found a number of lanterns of different shapes and sizes and most of them are operational. They are hanging from a stand of old bed in his room. There are also a number of signalling instruments, torches, cameras, projector machines, radio, microscope and an old gramophone player with its corresponding records. Surprisingly it is very much functional.
Noku Babu was very kind to let me hear an old song from one of his old gramophone machines. There is even a headphone in his collection which he told was used in 1945 after World War II. I asked him when did he start collecting these items. He told me that he started collecting different types of leaves, butterflies and other items when he was just 8 or 9 years old. I found the items in spick and span condition. When asked, he informed me that he himself cleaned those items. There is even an accordion possibly made in Poland in 1885. I found different types of music and film related gadgets in his collection. Apart from that there is a number of stone idols and some of which are made of touch stone. There are also old photographs. I had seen a beautiful Krishna idol which is made of kostipathar. All his prized possessions are kept in a room in the first floor of the house Ushalay at Shyam Mitra Lane in North Kolkata. He named his room as Atiter Ashray or “Shelter of the past”. I simply could not imagine how a couple of hours passed talking with this grand old gentleman and looking at his invaluable collection.
Date of Posting: 30th October, 2020.