About three years ago, as I walked past a musical instrument store in Maharashtra’s Amravati town, I was astonished to find “Signature” guitars, a brand from my hometown of Kolkata, hanging at the shop. I later learnt that these low-priced guitars—usually bought by beginners—had travelled far and had a long history.
The shopkeeper told me that nearly all Indian-made guitars came from Kolkata and were distributed across the country. Back home, Gautam Das, the proprietor of a music store at Bagbazar, confirmed this and suggested that I meet “the man who started it all: Mukunda Biswas.”
Crossing the Ganga, an overcrowded bus took me to Belur in the neighbouring town of Howrah. A short e-rickshaw ride and a walk down a narrow, water-logged lane later, I reached Guitar Research Enterprise, a small factory with a guitar hanging from its blue-white doors. The smell of sawdust, polish and bidi smoke greeted me as I entered the three-room factory with an open courtyard. In one room, brand new guitars hung from racks, while the other two served as workstations.