Carrying forward a legacy

TOY STORY

During the last 60 years, Delhi and its ‘heart’ Connaught Place (CP) have undergone a sea change.

EXPERIENCED : Satish Sundra at his toy shop. Showrooms of big brands and multiplexes have come up, taking over small shops and single screen theatres. In the midst of this transition, one shop that has stood strong with every passing year is Ram Chander & Sons’ toy shop.

The shop being run by the fourth and fifth generation of a family is the oldest toy shop in the country. Owner Satish Sundra, 75, says the reason they survived is that he doesn’t have customers, he has a family of customers. He runs the shop along with his son Amit, who like his father is also an alumnus of St Stephen’s College.

The shop, adjoining Odeon cinema, was started in 1935 by Satish’s father Raj Sunder, who grew up in Ambala Cantonment where his grandfather Seth Chunnilal had set up a toy shop in 1890.

Outlets of the shop were also opened by the family in Kasauli and Shimla. While other outlets were either closed down or got diversified from the toy selling business, this Delhi-based shop in the D-block of CP has survived and boasts of visitors like Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, nawab of Pataudi, Maharani Gaytri Devi, to name a few.

“My father died when I was 16 and my mother, despite being an illiterate woman took over the business and ran it very efficiently. She made no compromise on my studies. I took over the responsibility at 23 after coming back from the Cambridge University,” recalls the patriarch of the shop. For around two years, his family lived in the shop itself.

Satish remembers the old times when the most popular toys were train sets, models of vintage cars, dolls and cotton balls made in homes. “The toys in 30s and 40s were very durable and lasted for generations. Anglo-American toys were very good in terms of their safety and quality. Now since birth, a child is surrounded by electronic toys which do not add to his mental ability,” shares the marwari migrant from Rajasthan.

While adapting with the changing times and demands of the children, the store now sells toys like playstations, radio controlled racing cars, flying airplanes, video games, telescopes, flying planes, play ground equipment, Montessori and educational aids.

He says most parents who come along with their children to buy toys do not bargain or even question their demands for any particular toy. “Parents simply buy what their children want whether it is useful to them or not.

Children prefer playstations and other electronic games these days,” informs Satish, who imports toys for his shop from Germany, the US, China and Hong Kong. “I remember the times when children loved to share their toys with friends and siblings, today even kids have a strong sense of individuality,” he says.

Satish shares a bond with children and encourages them to buy the toys which add to their mental growth. “Why buy dolls with blonde hair? A child would not relate to such a woman. Europe and America have toys which represent their lifestyle and culture. In Holland, you would find dolls wearing wooden shoes. So why can’t we have dolls decked up in a saree?” he asks.

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