Call it a hobby or an inspiration, but Narendra Shrimali is the proud owner of over 7000 gramophone records, some of them as old as 1902. And, surprisingly, he bought most of them from the kabari bazaars of Baroda. Satyen Mohapatra hasmore about the man and his ‘mission’.

Twentyeight-year-old Narendra Shrimali’Kamal’ of Baroda has a priceless collection of old historical gramophone records, including one of 1902 which he claims is the oldest record available in the country. He has another prized possession, a gramophone record of 1910, bearing the Proclamation of King George V.

A lecturer in Civil Engineering in M.S.University, Baroda, Kamal claims that ninety percent of the over 7,000 gramophone records that he has collected over the last 13 yearswere bought by him after rummaging through all kinds of junk at Baroda’s Friday bazars. And the Archives of Music and Discographic Research Centre, which he has set up at Baroda, is a testimony to his unflinching interest in collecting such rare records. He was recently in the Capital to deliver a lecture demonstration on theatre music of early 20 th century (1900-1920s) organised by Natrang Pratisthan at the Sahitya Akademi.

Kamal is modest enough to claim that his collection may not be as large as that of V. A. K. Ranga Rao, former editor of screen, who has over 30,000 gramophone records and figures in the Guinness Book. But, at the same time, he claims that his is "definitely oldest in the world."

Gramophone records were produced some time in 1894 and they became available in India eight years later. "I have the oldest record of 1902 which I bought from the kabadi bazar of Baroda just two years ago."

This record, manufactured by The Gramophone and Typewriter Limited and Sister Companies, features a Hindustani song from the play Zu’zulla sung by Bhag, an actor in Parsi ‘Corinthian’ theatre of Calcutta.

Shrimali has a large collection of records from the early era of gramophones which includes music, speeches, sound effects, drama, instrumental music, folk, classical, semi-classical, popular film and theatre music in as many as 13 languages including Marathi, Pushto, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, Sanskrit and Urdu.

Some of the gems of his collection include the three minute proclamation of King George Vth on 9 th May 1910, the first record of the Hindi film song in Madhuri in 1932 (singer- Vinayakrao Patwardhan), the rare first record of 1902 of Thumri queen Gauharjaan of Calcutta, first record of Gujarati film Sansar Leela in 1934 (singer- Rajkumari), record in voices of Master Mohan, Sorabjeet Dhondi and P.M.Mistry, all doyens of Parsi theatre, during the period of 1902-1920.