Economic slump affecting Christmas festivities in Kolkata

Revelers in Christmas mood at Park Street in Kolkata.

Revelers in Christmas mood at Park Street in Kolkata.   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt


Vendors find difficulty in running business.

"Business has been slow this year but no one can help it, only option is to continue with the business as usual,” says Borun Bakul, a 54-year-old shop keeper when asked about his business. His store stands out from multitude of cake stalls that have flooded New Market in central Kolkata, the hub of Christmas retailing activity. Like each year, the place, about a furlong or two from the key tourist attractions, is filled with people but they all are buyers or sellers.

“Unlike, previous years, most of them came to see the product but not to buy,” said Mr. Bakul, who dedicated one shelf of his stall stocking the Christmas cakes. He actually sells milk products throughout the year, but stocks cakes in late December to cash on the Christmas craze. But despite trying his best to earn as much possible, Mr. Bakul still falls short.

“I work from 5 a.m. till 10 p.m. at night and increasingly findit difficult to run the business. The supply has become expensive, while demand shrank, fewer people came to my shop compared to earlier years,” he says as the orange light from the dimly lit shop throws shadows on the bags under his eyes. Situation is not much different for Rafique Mir, a 40 year old Kashmiri, who spends the months of “chillai kalan” or time of extreme cold in Kashmir, in Kolkata.

“Because, this is a good time to do business as we witness a massive movement of tourists, particularly from Bangladesh,” Mr. Sheikh said, while echoing to what Mr. Bakul said. Mr. Mir supplies dry fruits to clients “fixed over generations” in various markets of Kolkata. “We bring some stuff with ourselves but bulk of supplies are booked months ahead of Christmas and New Year in Srinagar. We could not do the booking online this year as internet was down and our employees came to collect the order physically,” Mr. Mir said. The other problem was “the slump in economy.”

“Many of Kolkata customers reduced size of order. When the economy is in such a state, there is no money in the market. If people do not have money they would naturally be reluctant to book in bulk,” he said. Kolkata – which is also considered a major hub of old furniture and books – is also experiencing a slump and Subrata Parui gave an apparently inconceivable reason.

“Old houses are not getting demolished,” he argued. Mr Parui, who buys and sells old furniture, explained that Kolkata has umpteen number of old houses with “furniture made of Burma Teak”, unavailable in first hand furniture stores.

“Old furniture sale peaks in December when people come from far and abroad to buy old Kolkata furniture which is not available anymore in open market. Due to recession the real estate market has nose-dived and people are not selling their ancestral houses to promoters and thus old furniture stopped coming out of those ancient houses this Christmas,” he explained, walking along Park Street. Park Street, however, was chock-a-block on the night of Christmas, all cafes, pubs and restaurants were filled with nattily dressed women and men. Looking at them through the glass windows, Mr Parui, who lives in the southern suburbs, took a deep breath as he said to himself “these people never run out of cash” and disappeared in the crowd.

(The writer is an intern with Kolkata Bureau)

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 3:31:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/economic-slump-affecting-christmas-festivities-in-kolkata/article30398895.ece

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