Monday, 30th October 2017

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Nahoum's loses its man behind the till

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  • Published 8.03.13
David Nahoum; (top, above) the notice outside the shop announcing his death on Thursday. Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh

The famous fudge and fruit cake will be back on the shelves after a day but David Nahoum, the familiar face behind the cash till at the landmark Nahoum & Sons in New Market, won’t.

David, who was to turn 86 in April, passed away on Thursday morning at Fortis Hospitals, his last visit to the shop being in a wheelchair around a month ago.

David had been admitted to Fortis with chronic renal failure on February 9. He died of cardiac and respiratory failure resulting from his condition, a hospital official said.

“I got a call from the hospital, saying he was no more. He was a father figure to all of us at the shop. I had worked with him for around 34 years and his death is a big shock for me,” Jagadish Halder, the manager of Nahoum’s, told Metro.

Nahoum’s kept its shutters down for the day but the sense of loss wasn’t restricted to the family and those who worked for David.

Nahoum’s loyalist Dona Ganguly said: “May his soul rest in peace. The cakes are so special! In fact, yesterday we had some Nahoum’s fruit cake with tea. Sourav and I both love it. Come December, Nahoum’s cakes are a must in our house.”

Andrea Raberts of the Do-Re-Mi music store opposite Nahoum’s saw the notice announcing David’s death when she arrived at New Market at 10am.

“He was such a good-hearted man. He always helped the poor,” said Andrea. “I called him ‘Uncle’ and will really miss him a lot. Had there been no Nahoum’s, there wouldn’t be New Market today,” added store owner S. Hafiz.

David’s younger brother, 76-year-old Isaac Nahoum, performed his last rites at the Jewish cemetery in Narkeldanga in the afternoon.

“Mr Isaac had been at the hospital throughout. Other family members and members of the staff paid their last respects before the funeral,” manager Halder said.

Isaac is expected to take charge at the 111-year-old confectionery that his late brother had been running for many years.

David was not only the face of Nahoum’s but also the leader of Calcutta’s dwindling Jewish community. He headed all major Jewish organisations, including two schools, one for boys and the other for girls, two synagogues and charitable organisations. Without his hand-written notes, visitors could not enter Magen David Synagogue and Beth El Synagogue.

The caretakers of the century-old David Magen Synagogue, where David would conduct Saturday prayers, didn’t know their “Saheb” had passed away until afternoon. “Is it so? We don’t have any such information yet. I last saw Saheb here in September during the festival. I have known him since I was 12 years old… He was a very good man,” said Nrushionha Swaian.

The confectionery business, Nahoum & Sons Private Limited, was started by David’s grandfather, Nahoum Israel Mordecai, a Baghdadi Jew, in 1902 and the shop shifted to its present location in 1916. Before that, Nahoum’s used to sell baked goods and cheese door-to-door.

The shop had started small but began expanding along with the market. Nahoum’s factory, which filmmaker and actor Anjan Dutt calls a “tourist attraction like Park Street”, is at 1 Hartford Lane behind New Market in a building owned by the family.

David was born into a large family of many siblings, of whom only two brothers and a sister have survived. He went to La Martiniere and was not interested in the shop but took over the reins after the death of his brother Solomon and then Norman.

David refused to expand, diversify or give his shop a makeover, quite unlike other such landmarks in the city. Nahoum’s stuck to fish pantras, cheese samosas and walnut brownies, and continued to flourish unlike the neighbouring M.X. D’Gama’s.

The wooden cash till and the wooden-framed glass cases for the display of its goodies, including specialities such as the baklava, almond, coconut and cheese samosas, date babas, khalla bread and caca rings, have also survived the ravages of change.

Like his brothers, David was always single and cherished the simple pleasures of life. He loved the outdoors and in his youth would go hunting wild boar with his Anglo-Indian friends. But he only ate kosher food and his cooks accompanied him. He was fond of pets too, especially dogs.

Nahoum & Sons was established by Nahoum Israel Mordecai

Started off as a small outlet in 1902 in front of Hogg Market (the flower stretch); moved to
F-20, New Market, in 1916

Top treats include its Rich Fruit Cake, chocolate fudge, brownie, macaroons & jam tarts

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