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What makes Kolkata a great city in the words of its prolific chronicler

  P Thankappan Nair is an 86-year-old chronicler of Kolkata, who is leaving the eastern metropolis after a 63-year-long association. His legacy includes 62 books that he penned on the city and the 2,000 he purchased over the years and which he has donated to the Town Hall library.

Kolkata still remains a “great city” that hasn’t lost its heart of culture and among whose people there is “some kind of discipline”, says P Thankappan Nair, its 86-year-old barefoot chronicler, who has left the eastern metropolis after a 63-year-long association with the city. His legacy will be the 62 books he penned on the city and the 2,000 he purchased over the years and which he has donated to the Town Hall library.

Nair has gone back to his roots — Chendamangalam, a small town in Kerala’s Ernakulam district — as his children and grandchildren did not want him and his wife to stay on alone in Kolkata at their age. “The heart of the city has not changed. Although the city has lost its importance as many companies shifted their operations, but the city has not lost its culture. It still remains a great city,” said Nair, while recalling his memories of the city.

“Somehow I like the city. It has got some kind of discipline among its people,” added Nair, who still prefers to call it “Calcutta” though the name was changed to Kolkata in 2001. “I am already 86 and my two children and three grandchildren do not want me to stay here at this age, though my wife is also staying with me for the last 10 years,” he said, while his wife was busy with last-minute packing.

His latest book, Gandhiji in Kolkata, would be released at next year’s Kolkata Book Fair and he was not sure whether he would present at the event. Explaining his style of work, he said he would gather information from government records, newspaper clippings and listening to the local people as this was “very important” to know about a city and its culture, he said at his rented accommodation at Kansari Para Road, about 10 minutes walking distance from the National Library — his primary source of research.
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