They make up the Great Indian Book Bazaar, often described as the world’s biggest weekly book market. Every Sunday, from 9am to 8pm, Daryaganj, a hectically busy commercial street in the shadow of the Red Fort, is lined by literally a mile of books, mostly secondhand and in English.The article also mentions some more upmarket bookshops, those of:
If you want a copy of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Tale (slightly scuffed) for about 20p, or Increase Your Height – Well Tried Methods for Wonderful Results (80p), or a clutch of Danielle Steels at 65p each, this is the place to come. There are tales of first editions of A Passage to India changing hands for 60p.
Mr Dass, aged 67, delves into a pile of Mills and Boons and “hot-cakes” (bestsellers) and pulls out the Woman’s Journal Home Cookery manual. With its colonial recipes for stuffed sheep’s heart, sardine sandwiches and Nell Gwynne pudding, it’s the sort of book left behind by British memsahibs when they went home to Pinner or Oxted. “Very good copy,” Mr Dass says. “150 rupees only.” That’s less than £2.
He and his son Manish have a pitch halfway along Daryaganj, the street where all the wonders of the Orient are sold, plus air-conditioning systems.
These shops open during the week, but on Sundays the shutters are pulled down and the bookstalls set up in front of them. The dealers sit crosslegged behind their stock, wads of rupee notes stuffed in their shirt pockets, cannily observing the passing crowds. If it’s raining, they shelter under plastic sheets.
For Mr Dass, the bazaar, which lures customers and dealers from all over India, is his only source of income. Like three quarters of his colleagues, he has no shop, and spends the week scouring Delhi for stock.
Some books come from private libraries; others are left on trains and buses and auctioned by the transport authorities; others still are bought from radhi-wallahs, who cycle around middle-class enclaves collecting wastepaper for recycling.
On a good Sunday, with successful haggling, Mr Dass may take £35; on a bad Sunday, perhaps as little as £10. “It is hard to predict,” he says. “Nothing has a fixed price. People are looking for value, not price.” So what has his best sale been? “ Encyclopaedia of Ports and Cities, 1928 edition,” he intones reverently. “Sold for 1,200 rupees.” At about £14, we are not talking mega-books.
Khan Market and Jor Bagh Market (twin haunts of expats), the glitzy new western-style Oxford Bookstore at Connaught Place, the city’s commercial hub, and the air-conditioned showrooms of upmarket South Delhi dealers.and here's a list of New Delhi bookshops!
I am always envious of Malaysian friends who head to India to do their book-buying, especially as they always gloat about the choice and the price. (But isn't Mumbai more the centre of the bookselling world?)
If you have had a chance to check out Indian's bookshops please leave a note as to which you recommend. And maybe one day I'll pop over with an empty shopping bag.