17 Jan 2007

Booklane: Remembered, revisited

The roads are narrow and the mass of fellow humans overwhelming. Jostling one’s way through this intractable crowd is a skill only acquired with repeated visits to the place. I didn’t do so badly, considering it was my second trip. Revisiting the pavement book bazaar in Daryaganj, situated in Old Delhi or the other face of the city I call home, brought back snapshots of a winter morning tucked away in the memory files. Nearly a decade ago, I had visited the place for the first time with a co-worker friend. I had been instantly besotted with Booklane.

On that sunny January morning (or was it December?), my friend had gifted me a trip to this booklover’s promised land. I remember my sense of wonder on seeing this never-ending strip of book stalls, the 200-odd sellers displaying their collections neatly on the pavement and producing your requested book in a jiffy. We spent hours and hours scouring through the books, a lot of them secondhand. One is free to read, not just browse through books in this leisurely atmosphere.

The sun had warmed our feet, the books our hands and hearts, the prices our pockets. The Sunday book bazaar is popular because of the availability of good, even rare books at cheap prices. The memory has faded a bit, but I do remember returning home with a Seamus Heaney anthology and a book of plays, biographies and other interesting details, put together by the National School of Drama or NSD. Both prized possessions to this day. Without a doubt, that winter’s day happened to be one of the brightest in my life.

My visit to Booklane last Sunday wasn’t as merry, though. It appeared the area for the book bazaar has shrunk a bit, and this time, it was really a battle to make one's way through the crowd. Even when my feet landed at a spot that would let me look at the books, the view was anything but happy. For most of the stalls were packed with textbooks of all sorts. Students thronged the place, picking up fat books at cheap prices. The fiction lover was virtually non-existent. Coin lovers weren’t, though, because this is also a great venue to buy old coins dating back to the era of the British Raj.

Although the trip to Booklane wasn’t all that satisfying, the jaunt to Old Delhi was immensely fulfilling. For here is a world sheltering a culture and a history that has almost ebbed out of the modern city life I witness every day. And amid all the crowd and congestion lies a charm that keeps calling you to the place again and again. Yes, more trips planned to the walled city.

Special thanks to Bhupinder for making me Booklane bound.


Bernita said...

The exact word - and the exact way I feel anywhere near booksellers!

abhay k said...

I wrote this poem inspired by your post on Old Delhi Booklane-

In that long and straight booklane
Many Sundays have been spent
Walking, picking, walking
The pearls and diamonds
Those lie scattered on the pavements
Amidst the heat, dust and sweat
Every time one returns enriched
With the precious treasures
For a few paisa and rupees
The booklovers of the world
You must go if you have not already been
To the old Delhi booklane
To the city ancient
To the city of yore
To see the vignettes of the past; and
To gather the priceless treasures
Those remain hidden in its heart!

Many thanks for inspiring!

Nienke Hinton said...

Sounds like fun - even if you didn't find a lot of fiction...
Just popped by to say hello and wish you a Happy New Year!

alicia said...

Such beautiful description. I'm sorry your second visit wasn't as pleasing as the first. I'd love to have something like that to go to!

bhupinder said...

Its been years since I have been there, your post made me take a nostalgic, even if virtual trip!
Thanks too for the pictures.

>The fiction lover was virtually non-existent.

That's a pity, last time I was there, one of my most treasured finds was an aging copy of 'Arts and Ideas' that Alok Bhalla used to bring out, the theme of this particular one was the fictions of Garcia Marquez.

Nothingman said...

ah, been there done that..almost at the same time last year :) I searched and searched and I couldn't find any good foreign music magazine there...though I did buy Stephen King's four past midnight from there.
Premchand, i remember reading few stories when i was a kid. too intense and too good.

Bhaswati said...

Bernita, thanks for being a fellow book lover. :)

Abhay, what an inspired piece of poetry that is. Many, many thanks for sharing it here. :)

Nienke, I did have loads of fun on that trip; plus I found a couple of good books, so not complaining!

Alicia, thanks for the kind words. On a leisurely winter's day, our book bazaar is among the must-visit places in Delhi.

Bhupinder, thank you for the idea! Arts and Ideas...ahh. On my last trip I had bought a few issues of that wonderful journal. Didn't see any this time round, though.

Nothingman, welcome to my blog. Yes, Premchand is intensely good. :)

Anthony J. Rapino said...

You always have the best posts. This reminds me of the library book sales I go to, and the fela markets I have gone to.

Too bad about the textbooks though.

Frank Baron said...

Thanks for letting us come with you. :)

Bhaswati said...

Hey, Oni, so good to see you! I would love to see what a flea market looks like; I have read so much about them.

Frank, thanks for coming along. :)

Shameless said...

You didn't buy the mad magazine? :)

Bhaswati said...

Not this time around, Shameless. :)

Hollydolly said...

Just found your blog, such good stuff to read. I loved your pictures of the book market, how I would love to stroll through. The atmosphere must be incredible. So much nicer than a store with the dreadful "Piped in music".
Going to stay here a while longer and read some more of your posts.


Susan Abraham said...

You've captured the quaint charm of your book-shopping experience so well, Bhas!
One can almost sense the atmospheric feel to Booklane, just through the pictures.

with love

Bhaswati said...

Hollydolly, welcome to my blog. Glad you enjoyed strolling through Booklane. Yes, "piped in music" doesn't do it for me, either. LOL.

I hope to visit your blog often. :-)

Susan, Booklane is what I call the Daryaganj book bazaar (it isn't actually called that). It is nothing if not atmospheric; you are so right. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Love to hear from you as always. :-)

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