Darya Ganj was to Delhi what Fort was to Mumbai – book heaven. Having spent enough time at both places, I’d say that the differences were evident: The vendors at Mumbai knew their books. They knew the authors and could often find books for you from their stacks. In most cases, books were stacked on top of each other, few had enough space on the pavement to display them (at least, wherever I went). But they were there, day after day. Delhi’s much more disorganised when you look at it. Nobody knows names of authors or books. They’re there on the pavement. Look for what you want, and then haggle. At Fort, haggling wasn’t easy cause they knew the price they wanted, and sometimes- which books were more expensive, and which were cheap. In Delhi, you had people who couldnt read English flipping through the books, reading a few sentences and then turning to you, learnedly, and quoting a price of 20 bucks. Fort was always more expensive. Unfortunately, Fort, I’m told, is no more. The pavement shops have been moved.
While driving past Darya Ganj last Sunday, on my way home, I found something amiss. The pavements in front of Chor Bizarre (the restaurant) and Thugs (the pub), on Asaf Ali Road were empty. And clean. But, empty. Over the past couple of years, I’ve picked up most of my collection from here; the last time I had shopped, I’d noticed a marked change in quality of books available (more here). So this week, it was time to investigate.
By the time Harneet reached the multi level parking outside darya ganj, I had already investigated a litte. I’d learnt that only the shops on Asaf Ali Road had been barred. There were a *few* people still selling inside Darya Ganj. Essentially, that’s the bad news – Asaf Ali Road has been emptied and the best of the lot is missing. That’s the one where books were almost entirely fiction, as well as cheaper and in better condition. What’s left is the lot of people that sell stuff that isn’t as good, and at much higher prices. They don’t bargain much either.
The good news is – there’s still something there.
Lateral Thinking by Edward De Bono, Stories of Ray Bradbury 2, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, William’s Crowded Hours by Richmal Crompton, Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins (based on the screenplay, not the original novel), Interview with the Vampire by Ann Rice, Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, A Happy Death by Albert Camus and Solzhenitsyn – a collection of critical essays.
It took much too long in the heat to get these. Tired.