Braille press for Calcutta Blind School

Amit Shah



Amit is a digital entrepreneur and owner of Green Comma, a print and digital educational materials development company. He lives in Somerville, MA, with his wife, Pam, youngest son, Simon, and three cats. His oldest son, Arnav, lives in Washington, DC, and has visited the Calcutta Blind School and the Shah Braille Library.


Editor's note: The article below first appeared in "The Oriental Watchman and Herald of Health: A Magazine for Home and Happiness" February 1956, which is available at

The following commentary is provided by Amit Shah.


The article below says that India's Health Minister, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, wrote to Dr. Merle E. Frampton, the head of the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind, the oldest institution for the blind in the western world, and this led to the gift of a Braille press for the Calcutta (now Kolkata) Blind School in 1956. This is the behind-the-scenes story of how the Braille press came to this school.

Amal ShahThe Principal of the Calcutta Blind School at that time was my father, Amal Shah. He was the grandson of Lal Behari Shah, my great-grandfather, who started the school in 1894. As it happened, my father was close to Dr. Frampton, who thought of my father as his second "son". The Health Minister had visited the Calcutta Blind School at my father's invitation, and she subsequently agreed to ask Dr. Frampton for a Braille press. The Braille press was purchased with donations from the Indo-American society that my father established in New York, and then sent to India through the New York Institute.

The entry of the press into India was not easy. The press was deemed as "commercial machinery" by the Government of India customs regulations, and hence subject to the heavy import duties prevalent in India at that time.  The school could not afford to pay these duties. It took a public relations campaign in the press to get Parliament to change the law to allow for non-taxable Braille printing presses to be sent to India as gifts.

Centenary of Calcutta Blind SchoolThis was the incentive for the creation of the Shah Braille Library, which was established in 1960 and is still in use. It is shown in a postage stamp for the school's centenary celebrations. The Indian Department of Posts also issued the world's first-ever first-day cover brochure in Braille (

Both my sons, Arnav and Simon, who never did meet their grandfather, my father, have copies of the first day covers as a tangible link to their own history.


© Amit Shah 2011


Thank you for this heroic story.

Great reading,Daddy-O1 Memories ofold times for the getting old, wanting the old times not to disappear altogether. Good for you and good for us as you hand-hold us thro' these past events. Subodh has done it too!!! On bicycles- then andnow. ciao-pedos

I was very moved. I knew some of this information but had forgotten. Thank you so much for sharing and refreshing my memory with another story of spirit, will and triumph.

hi i am the grandson of lal bherai shah ,nagendra nath shah wife bijon basini shah ,lowerence shah.1/2ismail st kolkata 14.entally i still stay here.

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