Friday, June 3, 2011

Sunday Book Market - Kitab Bazaar - Daryaganj

Are you a bibliophile who likes to munch one novel right after another? Do you veer towards the novels section in retail stores every single time just to satiate your hunger of looking at new titles? Is your idea of taking some time off that with a novel in one hand and two on the rack? Then the Sunday Book market, more famously the “Kitab Bazaar” in Daryaganj is just the right place for you.

This once-a-week book-lovers’ paradise is something that you can’t afford to miss. The now familiar scene of Chetan Bhagat-wannabe college romances (do their editors know grammar?) vying for your attention with their siblings, the pirated versions of self-help books, is definitely not the USP of this market. About 1.5 kilometres of footpaths/sidewalks laden with a plethora of books, it offers an eclectic assortment that is a one-size-fits-all solution. Bestsellers, Adventure, Romance, Travel, Humour, Crime, Autobiographies, Classics; you name a genre, you won’t be disappointed.

Some neatly arranged, many stacked, others strewn, it exemplifies that variety is the spice of life. Most of them are well-thumbed, while some are “off-the-truck” new copies. Work starts at 9 am, and you can go on searching till 6. Don’t be surprised when the book-wallah stomps many tomes in order to fetch the one you wanted. For you its knowledge and fun, for him its binness ;)

Rowan Atkinson’s (aka Mr.Bean) biography, out-of-print (censored?) Ji Mantriji volumes, Issac Asimov’s brilliant short stories, photo-essay on the life near Siachen glacier, collectors editions of comics, author-signed copies gifted to near and dear ones, and even a PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves story with the note saying “stolen from Mr.Bachoo Lal, 15-8-1978”, the choice is truly flabbergasting. It’s up to you to be able to rummage through the collection and pick out something out-of-the-blue that can set your literary heart racing.

The pricing is spread out across a broad spectrum – you have the “Chaanton novel bees rupay” pile, “alag alag rate hai saab” bargain-friendly stock, and the refined sellers who will not budge on the rates of their treasures. Some stalls give a refund when you return the book after a couple of weeks, working like a library.

Apart from the dirt-cheap prices on some steals (almost pristine John Grisham hardcovers for Rs.50!), your day can be made by the utter serendipity of the search. Would you have ever picked up a book featuring a cat as a detective and then enjoyed it? Or one describing the inherent connectivity behind various myths from China to South America? Obscure authors writing stuff that you like, out-of-print titles, old editions, you can be overwhelmed by the entirety of the place. There are even books in Russian and French, possibly disposed off by some expat family spending their time in the capital.

Though I’ve gone there for the novels, almost 40% of the book market comprises “shops” trading in second-hand tech-books. Some are specialists in Management, Computers, Medicine, while others offer a motley mix. You can get a good bargain on most of them, and even new editions come with a nice discount. So there’s respite for the studious ones among you :)

While the search is on, you’re sure to get hungry. Try out the street-food comprising crunchy Samosas, Kachoris and Bread Pakoras, and quench your thirst at the fruit juice stall. Or if your taste-buds are too polished for that, McD, KFC and Haldiram’s in the adjacent Chandni Chowk will help.

A word of caution: Only a small minority of the sellers have a good idea of what exactly they are dealing in. So try to spot the books yourself, because many of the sellers are illiterate. Yes, the irony ;)

Getting there: Take a Rickshaw (Rs.20) from the Chawri Bazaar Metro Station.

Upsides: Tremendous potential for you to increase your horizon through diverse genres, and break-through your acquainted literary taste. Not going with a fixed “wantlist” is advisable. The satisfaction of discovering a likable read through an unlikely treasure hunt - Priceless!

Downsides: Dusty environment and jostling in the initial stretch of the market, though the latter part (around Delhi Gate) is not so crowded.

Happy Hunting!