There are two types of people who live in the city of Delhi, those who have been to the Sunday book bazaar and those who have not. The later group is missing a wonderful experience that they will never get anywhere else.
As a teenager I often tagged along with my dad to the famous book lane of Daryaganj, Delhi and watched with awe the piles and piles of old books neatly stacked on the pavement.
We browsed through hundreds of books ranging from comics to travelogues, autobiographies, poetry anthology and a lot of other stuff.
Once the book fever took charge the sun, the heat, the cold, the rain nothing mattered.It was a feeling of being Alice in Wonderland.
Stretching nearly 1.5 km near Darya Ganj’s Golcha cinema, the bazaar is the only source of income for many of its 200 pavement booksellers.
Daryaganj is known for many old places like Carlton coffee shop, Moti Mahal restaurant, Aap ki Pasand tea parlor etc but this book bazzar is the most interesting part of this old Delhi area.
The market has been a Sunday feature in the area for the past three decades. Not all books here are second-hand. The sellers acquire books from different places. unclaimed books, old editions which the publishers can not sell, and even hot best sellers can be found at very low prices here. Many a times I have come across books which are not in print now and a treasure to have. These books come from owners who have moved abroad or just sold them due to some reason.
For those who love to read this book bazaar is the ultimate place to be.
Tens of thousands of old yellowing books ( and some glossy new ones too) on every subject like Technology, Medicine, Philosophy, Education, Cookery, Sports are heaped upon the pavement from Delhi Gate onwards all the way until one gets to the market in front of the Red Fort.
Some books are so old they crumble when you touch them; some have silverfish feasting on them, some are dogeared and marked or autographed at times. One can also find books presented to famous people like the prime ministers etc which are either first editions or sample editions. Historical and rare books can also be found in the heart of this book bazaar.
I used to freak out on the variety of books and we normally chose one area to explore at one time. The aroma of great food from the food stalls such as mouth watering delicious kebabs, biryani and other mutton and chicken dishes. and the musty smell of the old books is the perfect combo for a Sunday treat. Hundreds of stalls, with around 3000 books each can be dizzy.
Ships come from Mumbai and Gujarat with large book containers from the US and Canada, dealers buy there in bulk and the book stall owners get them from the dealers. So the network is great and provides a good amount of material for the bookworms.
You will be surprised to find leather bound editions of complete works of authors you could never dream to buy and those new hot series that you left in the swanky bookshop just because they did not fit in your budget.
Carry the bags with you and fill them with the choicest collection for your home library. You will see anyone from students to old people deeply engrossed in some book at some book stall or even small kids rummaging through the heaps searching for their comics and Hardy Boys series.
I was surprised to find autobiographies of musicians, world leaders, famous people, and actors at such low rate that it is just unbelievable.
When I thought of writing this post I had decided to go there and take some pictures too but maybe they can come later.
The place is a gold mine and the moment you sit your eyes on those books all the pain of traveling so far and the crowd and congestion, the heat and dust all vanishes in thin air.
Life begins at 7am every Sunday in this bazaar which is a paradise for book lovers all over Delhi and beyond.
Prices start from Rs. 50 and go up to 600- 700. A friend got Harry Potter series in just 300 bucks and all in good condition.
The book bazaar is the pride of Delhi and everyone who comes to the city must go there once. There have been talks of it’s shutting down due to security problems and what a loss it would be to all the book lovers.
I am glad that my parents made it possible for me to explore the magic of the old city including this fantastic haven for book lovers like me.