Kunja Thakur & Sons
If you are a local from Guwahati, you must have definitely heard of Kunja Thakur and Sons. I have grown up hearing that anything under the sun could be found in this famous shop, at least that’s what the older generation boasted of.
Still located in one corner of the 'Phal market' (fruits-market), just opposite the GMC Market Complex in Fancy Bazar, the store catered to almost all the necessities of the locals. It was established in 1880 and was originally named ' Kunja Bihari Banerjee and Sons', but was famously known as Kunja Thakuror Dukan.
Kunja Bihari Banerjee, the proprietor of the shop was originally from Bangladesh. He first came to Assam in 1870 in search of his maternal uncle who had a small shop near the Brahmaputra River. On his arrival, Banerjee's uncle asked him to run the shop and himself returned to his native place. As his uncle never returned, Kunja Bihari was compelled to take over the business. Later, he settled down in Kamakhya.
Did you know Kunja Thakur got the first official tender to sell ‘Kani’ (opium) in Guwahati? When the district administration floated the tender for selling opium, he was the first to grab the opportunity. He got permission for retail sale of opium and later became a stockist of the medicinal drug.
As people got addicted to the drug, many even sold their properties to him to buy the same. This along with his other businesses made him a rich businessman and Kunja Bihari acquired a lot of land and property in Guwahati.
Apart from opium, the store sold all kinds of groceries, puja essentials and any other possible necessities. The store had a 'Lal khata' (red credit book) to keep the monthly accounts of customers. It had names like Gopinath Bordoloi, Tarun Ram Phukan, Kalisaran Sen, Guruprasad Baruah, etc.
Other shop owners stood up to respectfully greet him, every time Banerjee’s Phaeton car numbered ASK 129 arrived in Fancy Bazaar.
The shop had survived many calamities, and still owns a specials status amongst the locals. In 1941, Kunja Bihari Banerjee returned to Dhaka, and his later generations continue to run the store.