When people thronged Nihar Ranjan Majumdar’s Paradise sherbet shop near College Square in central Kolkata when it opened in 1918 to taste the famous ‘dub sherbet’ — a refreshing concoction made of tender coconut water, a secret syrup and the pulp of the tender coconut — little did they know that the shop was a cover-up for a hideout for freedom fighters.
Majumdar was successful at his endeavour; while his secret room remained hidden, his sherbet became a huge hit. Soon after India gained independence in 1947, the shop became a full-fledged sherbet and juice bar and changed its name to Paramount.
Currently being run by Majumdar’s daughter and grandchildren, Paramount has become an icon in the city and the go-to place for the parched citizens of the city.
Located in a strategic place — near Calcutta University, Presidency University and College Street — Paramount is a favourite haunt of college students.
“Our business is like a seasonal bird. Business is very good in the summer. Clientele is thin during monsoon and winter, although customers do come in occasionally. Thanks to the ongoing heat wave, our business has been going pretty strong,” Partha Pratim Majumdar, one of the managers of the shop, told The Hindu .
The recipe for dub sherbet, brewed by renowned scientist Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, is a closely guarded secret, said Mr. Majumdar. Great care is taken to maintain the quality of the drinks, he said. “For the dub sherbet, we only use tender coconuts from Basirhat, as they have the sweetest water and a thin layer of pulp. The ice that we use has been sourced from the same cold storage and ice suppliers ever since our grandfather started the business. We don’t use any synthetic material in our drinks, all the ingredients are derived from fruit extracts,” Mr. Majumdar said.
The small shop, exuding old world charm, bears a framed list of its star customers. The tall benches, used as tables, are topped with Italian marble. Relying on word-of-mouth advertising over the decades, the owners have never felt the need for publicity.