Wandering around Connaught Place (C.P), we encountered a tiny narrow toy shop overlaid by Croma store that could easily be missed by people passing through but one thing that one couldn’t miss was it’s banner which says “RAM CHANDER & SONS. INDIA’S OLDEST TOY STORE, SINCE 1890”
This iconic tiny store has a narrow entrance. One enters the Shop with gazing at the toys displayed outside. The vibe of the shop awakens the child inside of oneself. As we entered, there at the reception that was covered with toy telescopes, miniature cars, Barbie’s, Avengers, Lego, airplanes and stuff every kids want to have is the owner Mr. Satish Sundra who has a tilak on his forehead that showed he was quite religious and cultured. We conducted a keen and curious interview about the origin and shop’s existence.
The toy business was setup by his great grandfather Mr. Chunnilal a Marwadi based in Rajasthan, in 1890s when all the marwaris were shifting to Calcutta (capital of India at that time) Mr. Chunnilal chose Ambala(biggest cantonment at that time) for some reason. In the 1980s he opened his first store there that later his son and after his grandson took over the business generation by generation. This particular shop in C.P was opened in 1935 when C.P was the most elite trading sector of that time. Chandni Chowk were there for trading as well but C.P was picked up as the cremè of Indian society.
Tales of CP’s Elite Past and Inclusive Present
According to Mr. Sundra in the 1940s, 50s and 60s C.P was a shoppers stop for the rich. Royal families, civil servants and industrialists were regular visitors. His eyes glittered while telling about the visits of Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur. She was, according to him, the most culturally sophisticated yet down to earth woman who would pick up toys from the stacks on her own rather than taking help of the servants. Though nostalgic of those times when his shop was visited by the royals Mr. Sundra was happy that now, in present times, children of the subaltern can also own toys which they could not in the pre-liberalization period. “Child of a rich man is no different from the child of his servant.” Every child has the same desires and should get the opportunity to enjoy his childhood.
After we finished talking to Mr. Sundra a Muslim Kashmiri family walked inside the shop carrying a baby girl in their arms. Mr. Sundra took the baby from her parents and started playing with her showing his affection and love towards kids
And us? We were still gazing at toys and hoping to own them all.
“ADULTS ARE JUST OUTDATED CHILDREN” – DR. SEUSS
(Views are personal)