It is not unusual to see school/college students early morning moving around with bags full of books, despite the December chill & foggy conditions. But if you see the same on a Sunday morning, rest assured you have reached the right place for book shopping – The Daryaganj Sunday Book Bazaar. No, the bazaar does not have this grand name, it is just an assortment of traders from many different places in Delhi, getting together on the footpaths of Daryaganj every Sunday, to showcase their wares – predominantly books, but also stamps, coins, amulets, cheap clothes, mechanical & kitchen accessories & stationery. Why were we there, for the books of course.
|I want a throne like that!!|
Every Sunday the mile-long footpath gets covered with books – thousands of them, millions of them, there are so many books that many a times not getting the space to walk, people walk over them, which is actually quite a pity. & then there are the traders themselves who sit on top of the book piles, handing the customer what s/he needs by picking it out & replacing at the right place.
|But not a floor like this!!|
There are all types of books available – novels (Chetan Bhagat, Arundhati Roy, J.K. Rowling, V.S. Naipaul, Dostoyevsky, Tagore, Premchand, William Dalrymple - you name it, you get it), memoirs, biographies, quiz books, coffee table books, encyclopaedias, magazines, school & college course books & even entrance exam preparation material – be it IIT, AIEEE, CA, UPSC, Bank or any other of the numerous exams. There are possibilities of one finding books that may not be available in regular book stalls due to them being difficult to order or find.
Since not many people read books these days, & not even half of them know about the market, we, i.e me & my school friend Piyush, were pretty pleased with ourselves for going there one fine Sunday morning. Since it was our first time to the market we decided to reach there by 8am (it opens from 6am-9pm), we were in for quite a shock. The market was filled with people – men, women & children of almost all ages, thronging to the sellers, bargaining like anything. How did they reach there so early?? Shit!! We had to jostle in the crowd to move our way through. & since it was our first time there, we were not even sure how to bargain. The first book-pile we saw, we bought the same set of books – the only difference being that while I bought them for Rs 300, Piyush bought them off for Rs 200. Disappointing!! But it left us all the more cleverer as we went to the next pile. Sadly we did not get to try our newly learnt bargaining skills, since even the thickest & glossiest books were priced at Rs 20-30. Even though most of the books here are either second-hand or pirated editions or second-hand pirated editions, yet the place is a heaven for those who are tired of having to buy overly priced books. . Given the correct skills & practice, a person can bring down the price of a book to as low as 10% of its original price – I was able to buy Amish’s "Secret of the Nagas", available for Rs 300 elsewhere for Rs 20 (yes yes I helped promote piracy, so what?? They should be happy I am reading the book). Although these days most books can be downloaded free of cost from various internet sites, yet it can never match the pleasures of the printed word, & what better place to buy all the bestsellers at throwaway prices. The simple fact is the readership is not going to increase unless book prices are brought down, if piracy helps, then why not?? One does not face issues like missing pages or typographical errors in the book itself – although as it happened to me, the cover stitched to a book may not actually be its own, it may be an altogether different book on the inside – hence, don’t judge a book by its cover!! Two shops later, we had our hands full with books, so heavy that we just wanted to keep them somewhere & sit, but we did not, because the lure of more books kept pulling us to the next pile. Also we had to buy some study material too, you can get college books at dirt cheap prices, though you might have to put in some extra effort to find the latest editions & the correct authors among the bulk of books available. I even bought some stamps off a dealer selling whole stamp books & stamps from countries like the US, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Canada, Brazil, Nepal, China, Nigeria etc. I was not sure how many of those were real, but since each individual stamp was only Rs 1-2, & a whole book was for Rs 50/100, it seemed a sell-out.
Coin sellers too peddle their ware here, so do several cloth-traders & traders of a number of paraphernalia, like screwdrivers, hammers, knives, pans, amulets & even photo albums. The mass of humanity swelled as the day got longer, & at 11 am we had to step down from the footpaths in order to avoid the milling crowds.
|Or would you like some coins??|
There are more than 150 book sellers here who sell their books on the pavement. They have their fixed spot and they can be seen here every Sunday outside the closed shutter of the shops. You can not only buy second hand books here but can also sell them to the vendors or get them exchanged for other books. Some of the book sellers sell specialized books while many others can be found selling all types of books. The traders, even though they had their hands full, were helpful & guided you to the right shop if you asked or tried to help you find the right book, no matter how long it took. Well, at least most of them, a guy selling IAS study material from Vajiram-Ravi, was quarrelsome with almost all the customers, I still don’t know what got into him. Moreover most of the people involved in this big Indian bazaar – from the customers & traders to the tea-seller manning the corner shop – would pose for you at a single request, which definitely made my day.
|Does he know how to read??|
Finishing our quota of shopping, we headed to the nearest bus stop, just down the road, right next to the Delhi Gate, one of the surviving gates of the erstwhile Shahjanabad (refer Pixelated Memories - Delhi Gate). It was difficult to pull oneself away from all those books & move on, more so because one knows that so many of those hold the keys to strange worlds & distant lands, a welcome relief from the monotony at the end of the day (or at the beginning or the middle if you are just like me). A date with books on another Sunday then..
Location: Near Delhi Gate of Old Delhi
Nearest Metro Station: Chandni Chowk
How to reach: Once you deboard at Chandni Chowk Metro Station, ask for the Red Fort, you would be guided to a narrow lane that opens straight to Chandni Chowk Road, take a rickshaw to Delhi Gate & walk from there on. (Don’t ask the rickshaw-wallahs to take you to the book market because they would drop you off at a place called Nai Sarak, where permanent book shops are located)
Timings: 6am – 9pm
Photography/Video Charges: Nil
Precautions: It gets pretty crowded so take care of your belongings, Beware of thieves & pickpockets.
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