So this time I changed cafe’s. I went to someplace called Cafe Turtle. Nice place. Interesting menu – but the best part is that its over a bookshop. So imagine this … you have a loooooooooooong corridor of books; books to the left and books to the right and books right through the middle as well. And its not a pretentious bookstore that has everything, just some interesting reads. Then the first floor has (yes of course) CDs and another section of children’s books. Sometimes I wonder if we did something wrong – where were these books when we were kids? I bought a book for my niece for Christmas and read half of it before wrapping it up and giving it to her! (I must borrow it sometime and finish it).
Then the cafe on the third floor. No marriages being planned….phew! In this city the cafe’s have tables way too close to one another so you have no choice but to listen to everyone else’s conversation and smoke passively! This time, wonder of wonders, an intelligent conversation about books and copyright and piracy and how in Bombay you can get books for Rs. 10 on the roads. (I wonder if she’d ever been on Delhi’s roads – the same books for the same price!!!)
You know what I miss? the road between Fountain and Churchgate station. Those guys were the biggest roadside library in Bombay and strategically located. “Yes ma’am, you want a book?”, “uh..by Jane Austen…”, “yes of course…we have (and they name three books)”, but I’m looking for the fourth. “No problem, one minute” — and he goes and brings the fourth from another stall; “madam she has written six books, and I have all six in one volume for Rs. 100, second hand, but very very good”. Of all the fancy bookstores I’ve ever been to, I’ve never had as enthusiastic and passionate service as I’ve had on the footpaths between Fountain and Churchgate. The best thing was that you could amble over at 8 in the evening and still find them open (most shops close at that time). They even had a phone order-in service – you call for a book, haggle over the price, they procure it and deliver it! And then one day they just disappeared…it was the BMC, I later found out. The road is just not the same.
The last bastion of the roadside library in Bombay is Matunga Circle. Follow your nose to Madras Cafe and bang opposite are scores of booksellers who sit there at various times of the day right up to 9pm when the circle beds down for the night. Here too I’ve found interesting books of different varieties and in different languages. Hope this one doesn’t disappear too!
These are not books out of copyright or books being photocopied illegally. These are books being bought, sold and resold; with each resale the cost comes down making it more accessible to the general public. As a system it is excellent; As a student, its money saving!
In Delhi, thus far for me, its non-existent. This is university town – home to the two leading universities of the country – Delhi University and JNU. Admittedly, I don’t travel everyday to JNU, but so far I’ve only seen two bookshops there and they’re official. Neither DU nor JNU seem to have anything of the sort.
I’m going a-looking, but until then grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…..