Under a hand-painted board that reads ‘N.C. Dutta and Co’, Rabindranath da—a third generation bookbinder—sits cross-legged, as he has done for the last 50 years, surrounded by stacks of books and a ladi of fevicol tubes. These books are blue bill books that are ubiquitous in kirana stores across the city. Rabindranath da is one of the last remaining bookbinders who still use needle, thread and aata (glue made out flour) to bind bill books, school projects and the red-coloured hardbound ledger or halkhata, which is ceremoniously opened during the Bengali New Year or Poila Baishakh.
I do all kinds of bookbinding. I have been binding books since 1968. Everything from registers to books—you show me the book and I will bind it for you. The book with the numbers, ‘halkhata’, that's a kind of binding I do as well,” Rabindranath da said, before continuing to outline the process of binding a book measuring 8.5 inches by 5 inches:
“Come to my shop, I'll show you.”