Hill lamp trade in dying flicker


Kalimpong, Jan. 24: Viewers of Chinese kung fu movies must have seen these lamps a hundred times.

Usually made of wood and cloth or paper, this is the only place in India where these Chinese lamps are manufactured. The craft is, however, dying a slow death with traditional shades facing stiff competition from their plastic cousins.

Shen & Sons, the first firm to start manufacturing these lamps here, is on the verge of closure. The 58-year-old proprietor, Michael Shen, said: “My father started making lamps about 80 years ago after he came from China and settled here and I have carried on the trade after him.”

“Till 1985, we were the only ones making this type of lamps in the whole country. Later, the demand for these lamps prompted some of our employees to start individual units. A few years after that, sales started dropping with lamps of the same design but made out of plastic flooding the market,” he added.

The price of these lamps depends on the wood used and the size. Most of them cost between Rs 350 and Rs 5,000.

According to Shen, during the heyday of the trade orders came not only from across the district and Sikkim but also from Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

“During those days we had 16 employees working round the year. Now we have eight employees who work only during the tourist season, but even that is not commercially viable,” he said.

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