Kolkata’s Tarak Biswas says lockdown did not hit his business of making, repairing string instruments
Tarak Biswas is one of those few people who actually make music, in the sense that he not only plays the guitar but also manufactures the instrument and repairs it; and music, he says, saw many troubled souls through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many other businesses suffered, but I can’t say mine did. I kept making and selling and repairing instruments throughout the lockdown,” says Mr. Biswas, 56, who runs his family business of manufacturing string instruments in a workshop attached to his home in Tollygunge.
According to him, his father, Hrishikesh ‘Khokha’ Biswas, also a trained musician, was among the first in Kolkata to start manufacturing guitars locally. The son too learned to play the violin, guitar and the mandolin from accomplished teachers in the city even as he observed his father chisel out string instruments before formally taking over the shop once the father, now over 85, chose to retire from the business.
“Over the years I have made many customised instruments — things you won’t find anywhere else in the world, such as a combination of the guitar and the banjo. During the lockdown, I created a double-top Indian classical lap guitar, complete with 22 strings, on the request of a Bengali musician from Mumbai who asked me to give him something unique. I also made three-top mandolin, something I can call my own creation,” says Mr. Biswas, a lover of jazz and a huge fan of B.B. King and — among Indian classical musicians — of Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and Debashish Bhattacharya.
“The fact I remained busy throughout the pandemic shows that music helped people through the lockdown. I am sure more people were teaching and learning music. I have had people coming in the midst of the lockdown — mostly young musicians on their bikes — asking me to fix their guitars,” says Mr. Biswas, who employs three persons at the workshop.
“I could tell that the guitar was keeping them sane in such difficult times. Some of them would tell me that since they had no income [due to the lockdown], they would pay me later. I had no problem with that because a true musician will never lie or cheat. Sure enough, they did pay me later,” he says.