Would you believe it—we’re at the halfway point of the year! Well, a little past, really, since I’m late in posting this (mostly because the heat and humidity were driving me nuts and now that the rains have come, I feel human again).
So now that it’s cool(er) outside and the thought of traipsing out just for the heck of it isn’t a hilarious and insane proposition, I’ve been taken by an irresistible urge to visit a bookstore. My to-read pile is alarmingly small. It got me thinking about bookshops and my favourite ones.
Midland, Aurobindo Place Market, Delhi
There was a time when Midland was THE bookstore for many serious readers, and not just because you got 20 per cent off the cover price across the board. Despited the cramped space, complete with a ricket wooden staircase going up to the mezzanine, Midland used to have a fantastic collection. What’s more, the Baig family who ran/runs the shop were more than just shopkeepers—they could be depended upon to recommend and comment and discuss. Unfortunately, Midland’s collection has fallen off a bit lately. A recent visit was slightly disappointing, but it still wins points for nostalgic value.
Crossword, Residency Road, Bangalore
This bookshop no longer exists, and while I detest all the Crossword stores on principle (need a reason? simple answer: the staff!), this was a regular haunt because of their sprawling space and the fact that they were equipped to let you sit around and read. I haven’t bought much stuff from there, but I spend a lot of time there, pulling out books and sampling them.
New Book Land, Janpath, Delhi
This quirky little circular bookstore on Janpath, a popular tourist shopping destination in central Delhi, is the perfect example of how much difference a friendly face and a knowledgable bookseller makes. Related to the owners of the Midland stores, New Book Land looks tiny, but size… pfft!… it’s obviously bigger on the inside. I’ve never asked for a book that wasn’t pointed out or handed over. What’s more, the owner Mirza Salim Baig is never too busy for a chat, and he magically seems to remember the kind of books you like and is always ready with recommendations. Again, a 20 per cent discount is the norm.
Blossom Book Store, Church Street, Bangalore
Blossom specializes in used books, so you have a good chance of snagging almost-new copies at a fraction of the price. No wonder it’s my favourite bibliophilic haunt in Bangalore. They have a huge collection—spanning multiple floors—of books and comics (and also an entire floor of textbooks), though they can be a tad disorganized. That said, the mess is part of the charm, and in any case, the staff is very helpful. Blossom also sells new books (at 20 per cent off) and will buy back your books in exchange for a voucher.
These days we can buy books without even needing to get out of bed. While I love the convenience of Flipkart (and latterly Amazon), I do miss the whole bookshop experience every so often. That pulling out random tomes that I’ve never heard of, reading a few pages, buying something I didn’t come there to buy in the first place…