In a small Kolkata street named after the Jewish David Ezra, Aziz-mian deftly worked the manual flatbed machine printing the Diwali ‘ank’ of a Gujarati weekly owned and edited by a Parsi, Eduljee Kanga, who had chosen this Hindu festival over his own new year for the bumper annual. The typesetters were Bihari. Eduljee had to teach their migrant fathers the Gujarati script and then the skills of handsetting when he founded the Navroz in the fervour of 1917.
The bundles of printed sheets would be taken deeper into the city’s gut, where Khalique-mian would be awaiting the Parsi’s Diwali deity with his own votive glue and thread. His part of the ritual done, the portly binder would lead the procession of handcarts trundling through the pre-dawn lanes to deliver the final product to Navroz Printing Works in time for Dhanteras. Then, on the muhurat hour, Eduljee in formal dagla and pheta would ceremoniously hand over the first issues of the ‘Diwali ank’ to his oldest patrons. His son Navel and daughter-in-law Jaloo would continue this ritual for 72 years till the Navroz closed with their passing. The glossy annual would be distributed to subscribers by the UP-brahmin durwan, Mishra-ji. He’d be aided part-time by Saifuddin, the family’s much-valued cook. He too had come as a callow lad from Bihar’s village Karanja as ‘Burra-sah’b’s chhokra’, was promoted as ‘house-boy’, and then upped to ‘bawarchi-khana’.
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