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The Original Anokhi Turns 50  

For everyone who’s anyone in Kolkata, Russell Street Anokhi, the big little shop that celebrates its golden milestone this month, will always be the only place for furnishing fabrics.
 

Published: 15th May 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th May 2022 12:15 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

First, a small personal account. When I came to Kolkata in 1991 as a newly-wed about to set up her first home, I knew nothing about the city, even less about where to get what. But within a week or so, as we drove into Russel Street to go eat puchkas, I spotted a small but striking shop at the corner, painted a beautiful shade of blue with the name, Anokhi, emblazoned in bold, cursive lettering. The gorgeous window display intrigued me, inviting me to enter and explore. 

Anokhi owner Pria Lall

The moment the doors opened, I was engulfed into an Alibaba’s cave of handprinted curtain and sofa fabric unlike anything I had ever seen, all arranged according to colour. From chintz to chinoiserie, ethnic blockprints to elegant geometrics, you name it, Anokhi had it. Needless to add, puchkas were forgotten and I returned with loads of prints and patterns instead. Red for the living room, yellow for the dining room and a soothing blue for the bedroom. We had no furniture yet, but our furnishings were fully sorted. 

In the intervening years, when we were posted in various parts of the country, I could never find anything quite like this Kolkata store. Anokhi had spoilt me for life. But then, when some 27 years later, we returned for another stint, guess where I headed to get the new furnishings for our new house?
So, when the owner, Pria Lall, told me this delightful store was turning 50 this month, how could I not be a part of this milestone birthday by featuring it on these pages? Therefore, enough of my story, over to Lall for hers.

Anokhi, as she recounts, was the brainchild of her mother, Amita Basu, a reputed interior designer well known for her outstanding work at the Bengal Club, among others. But while working on her projects, she could never get fabrics that matched her aesthetics. That’s when she decided to open her own printing unit and shop to be able to have control over colours and patterns. 

“That way, we could take orders to satisfy the requirements of any customer with a seven-day turnaround. 
The concept was bespoke and unique, hence the name, Anokhi. Incidentally, that’s her handwriting that you see on the shop front,” recalls Lall. It was a runaway success with everyone who was anyone in Kolkata social circles, flocking to it–– Russi Mody, Bibi Ray, Aparna Sen, Rituparna Ghosh, to name a few. 

However, Basu passed away in her early 50s, leaving the store in her daughter’s capable hands. Lall has been running Anokhi for 35 years now. “l remember how overwhelmed I was at 30 to take over,” she recalls adding, “My mother was very meticulous and had wonderful ideas and colour sense. I was worried I would not be able to cope, but as time went on I gathered confidence, and now, am hoping my mother will approve of where we have reached today.”

How could she not approve? For Anokhi has not only survived, but thrived, by constantly experimenting with designs and colour combinations, all the while retaining its bespoke USP. By doing so, it has not only retained its loyal clientele over the years, but even added their kids and grandkids to the list. “We have customers from three generations of the same family. Children who live abroad often come back to buy Anokhi curtains as that is what they grew up with,” she says.

Lall has also brought Anokhi into the modern-day world of online shopping by tying up with Srila Chatterjee of Baro Market, who also helps her with her Instagram account. So now, wherever you are, you can click on the Baro website and find Lall’s fabrics under the name, Russell Street Anokhi. “This has been done to avoid the confusion with Jaipur-based clothing brand, Anokhi, with branches across the country. We on the other hand are a standalone store with no connection to them except having chosen the name before them some 50 years ago,” she signs off.

Anokhi was the brainchild of reputed interior designer Amita Basu. Following her death, the brand was taken over by her daughter Pria Lall. 



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