One kochuri costs 50 paisa, students get it for half the price. Each telebhaja costs Re 1. The prices in this Kolkata shop have remained unchanged for the last 29 years. The shop selling kochuris and telebhajas in Maniktala’s Muraripukur is managed by Lokkhinarayan Ghosh, a man in his mid-50s popular locally as Mangal or Mongla.
In 1990, in a discarded room with a meter box, he started this shop for kochuris. That was when Jyoti’s Basu’s “Government of the poor” was in power. Trinamool Congress was not yet formed and Mamata Bannerjee was a leader of the Indian Youth Congress… most had never heard of Narendra Modi.
According to the market then, each kochuri was priced at 50 paisa. Quite a number of schools existed in the locality. Students crowded his shop during recess hours or after school hours. Mangalbabu halved his price for them. On coming to the shop in a school uniform, you would be charged 25 paisa. In the evening, fritters such as peyaji, alur chop, mochar chop, dhokar chop, and beguni, were prepared. These telebhajas were priced at a rupee by Mangalbabu according to market prices then.
Almost three decades have passed but his price list remains the same though the shop is Mangalbabu’s only means of livelihood.
How does he run his household with such prices at the shop? He says, “We do have a few issues. But I manage my household somehow. When I opened the shop, potatoes were available at 50 paisa per kilo, now each kilo costs Rs 15-20. If I have managed without increasing my prices till now, I will never increase the prices.”
Why? Mangalbabu replies, “The shop is in a neighbourhood, everyone is eating here for very long. The students crowd in too, it gives me great satisfaction. If I increase the prices after all this time, many would be disappointed. I have slightly decreased the size of the kochuris. The telebhajas have remained as before.”
Neighbours are quite amazed at Mangal’s shop. In the words of Arnab Sarkar, a local resident, “It’s been so many years, everything has changed, we have grown up, but Mangalkaku’s shop still sells kochuris at the same price. Such an astonishing man!”