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Kolkata teenager creates Tasher Shohor - City of Cards

Arnav Daga of Sri Sri Academy is a card stacker vying for Guinness World Records

Jaismita Alexander | Published 12.02.23, 07:31 PM
Arnav’s creation of the four Kolkata landmarks

Arnav’s creation of the four Kolkata landmarks

Arijit Sen/My Kolkata

What is common to Iowa State Capitol, Qutab Minar and St. Paul’s Cathedral? They are among the many iconic structures that Kolkata boy Arnav Daga has recreated by stacking playing cards.

The Kolkata skyline with landmarks such as Salt Lake stadium, Writers’ Buildings, Shahid Minar and St Paul’s Cathedral made by the 15-year-old is now on display at an old warehouse in north Kolkata’s Chaltabagan.

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This has been built by the young prodigy stacker Arnav Daga who is a 15 year old student of class IX at Sri Sri Academy.

Arnav took about 40 days to complete the landmarks of Kolkata

Arnav took about 40 days to complete the landmarks of Kolkata

Arijit Sen

Four landmarks, 1,50,000 playing cards

Arnav has built national and international monuments from Buckingham Palace to Sanchi Stupa but when it came to competing for the Guinness World Records for the largest playing card structure, he knew it would have to be connected to his city.

Thus was born the idea of creating the Kolkata skyline with cards. “I wanted to do something challenging and varied this time. Then the idea of Kolkata’s landmarks came to my mind. I want the world to know about the landmarks that resonate with me,” the Class IX student of Sri Sri Academy said.

Tasher Shohor (City of Cards) is a 40.5ft long, 16.5ft broad and 11.6ft tall city landscape consisting of iconic structures like Salt Lake stadium, Writers’ Buildings, Shahid Minar and St Paul’s Cathedral.

It took Arnav 40 days to complete the entire structure for which he used around 1,50,000 cards without folding them or using any glue.

The skyline stands solely on balance and its display space had to be air-tight. “The warehouse had 24 windows, which we had to secure to make sure the breeze didn’t enter. We have made a bamboo and black cloth pandal-like structure for the walls so that the white card structures are more prominent in the dark background,” said Neeraj Daga, father of the boy.

For this project, Ajanta Print Arts, a print and packaging company, sponsored all the cards Arnav has used. “They were kind enough to come forward and encourage my son’s talent,” Neeraj said.

About 1,50,000 playing cards have been used to make the landmarks

About 1,50,000 playing cards have been used to make the landmarks

Arijit Sen

How it all began

Arnav was only seven years old when he made his first card tower. He was playing UNO cards when he randomly stacked them to write his name. Thus began his journey of building small castles with cards as shown in the cartoons.

“I would balance the cards to make a castle that I once saw in a cartoon. Slowly, I moved on to bigger structures after I started watching videos of stacker Bryan Berg on YouTube,” Arnav said.

Stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, Arnav started building bigger structures. “Everyone was spending time on gadgets, playing video games or binge-watching on OTT platforms. But I had restricted screen time at home, so I spent most of the time building card structures. During this time, I built the Iowa State Capitol, Titanic, Sanchi Stupa, Buckingham Palace, London Bridge and many more structures,” said Arnav.

Wonder boy at school

Arnav had always built his card towers at home, but when he picked Qutab Minar he realised that the 16ft structure would not fit in his home. The Sri Sri Academy student then requested his principal for some space in his school auditorium.

“All my teachers and principal support me a lot. So when I asked for space in my school, the principal gave me the auditorium. It took me about 10 days to make the Qutab Minar,” Arnav said.

He would attend school and work on his structure for seven to eight hours after classes without any fan or air-conditioner. As the structure gained height, Arnav started stacking desks to reach the top. In the final days, his parents or other family members would join him to hold the desks lest he fall.

Arnav brought down the structure himself after everyone from his school had taken a look. “I always take them down myself. There’s no bad feeling about it because if I don’t destroy them, how will I create new ones?” the boy said.

Last year on Teachers’ Day, he had built a playing card structure of his school building. Everyone appreciated his masterpiece.

Suvina Shunglu, the principal of Sri Sri Academy, visited the warehouse at Chaltabagan to take a look at Arnav’s work for the Guinness World Records. She posted pictures of the structure on Facebook saying, “Simply Stunning. What l see is the tenacious diligence of days and weeks, his patience in waiting for an idea to emerge and take shape, and the untiring loving support of his family. Attending school and continuing the whole evening for months with his passion is no mean achievement.”

Suvina Shunglu, the principal of Sri Sri Academy with Arnav Daga

Suvina Shunglu, the principal of Sri Sri Academy with Arnav Daga

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Balancing cards to balancing academics

The 15-year-old boy has mastered the art of balancing his passion for card stacking with his studies. In fact, he says that stacking has improved his concentration power and taught him patience. “I have learnt to work harder and with patience. This has also helped me in my studies. I cannot compromise with my academics at all. So when I am working on a card structure, I make sure I have enough time to study or attend my classes as well,” Arnav said.

Arnav has won many awards, the most recent one being The Telegraph Edugraph 18 Under 18 Awards. In 2021, he won The Balrampur Chini Mills Award for Outstanding Talent at the The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence.

He also created a record in the Asia Book of Records for building the tallest card structure of the Empire State Building (10.7ft) at the age 13 in December 2020.

No folded cards have been used to build the structures

No folded cards have been used to build the structures

Arijit Sen

Stacker dreams

Arnav is looking forward to making a place in the Guinness World Records. The procedure of submission has been completed and he is waiting to hear from them. The young stacker wishes to experiment with more structures and making life-size structures is on his wishlist“I wish to make a life-size building with cards where people can enter and explore it. This will require a lot of planning and technicalities.”

Arnav’s parents and family members support him in all his endeavours. Neeraj hopes his son creates more masterpieces and makes a name for himself. “We all are very proud of him and we know he is capable of creating history. At first, we did not understand what he was doing and if this card stacking meant anything at all. But slowly we have come to know that this is a worldwide recognised art. We are always there to support him.”

Last updated on 12.02.23, 07:31 PM
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