November 17, 2003

Viva cheap books and darya ganj

"The Sexual Politics of Meat"
"The Use of Light and Shade in Close Combat"
"The Tongue- a Creative Tool" (Philosophy, i swear it.)
I pray that every major city in every country has its own version of darya ganj. As far as ive seen, every major city in India ive been to does. Delhi’s darya ganj needs little description for the dedicated book lover. Something of a 3 kilometer stretch of books stocked with books of all types, falling over each other… its too brilliant for words. As brilliant an area is koti and abids in hyderabad on Sundays. A whole lot more chaotic but all the more fun because of the infinitude of exploring you have to do. Madras’s Moore market is supposed to be pretty good too, but all I’ve seen of it is a desultory four or five shops selling old text books and pirated bestsellers. Bombay’s stretch of booksellers between churchgate and fountain is really good in terms of quality books but very OUCH pricey.. well, for a second hand book junkie at least. And its not as if the only fun part is the actual acquisition of the books.. that's pretty cool, no doubt, but the really amazing bit is in the major fast paced bargaining, the back and forth duel for the best price, the (usually) jocular exchanges of famous bargaining one liners ( try mentioning the quality of the book, the fact that its so old, look, see, someone’’s scribbled all over this page). Try doing this with the equivalent knowledge of hindi as an American who’s just done with an ISKCON conference and the fur’ll really fly. The best part is the fact that these areas are usually (with exception of Mumbai) located in the “proper” areas of their respective cities, the “old towns” so to speak. Happily divorced from any semblance of a Barristas or a Pizza Hut, you can munch on bread pakoras and kachoris all over darya ganj, or have lots and lots of chai and chaat in Koti and Abids (try looking for a place called, I think, Gokul’s Chaat Bhandar, if you can find it, you’ll know it by the AMAzing bhelpuri), and in Mumbai, ok, you can have lots of peanuts in Mumbai. Unfortunately, it’s also my belief that these places are starting to… somehow, sag. 3 years ago in darya ganj, the sellers were exploding with offers, deals, buy 1 kg of books for 10 bucks, buy 2 books for 15 etc. now it seems they’ve become a whole lot more, I don’t know, professional? Here, this book costs 50, take it or leave it. No saar, fixed rate. This time’s trip was a whole lot less productive thatn the last, but I still got hold of: the wilder shores of marx, 1 michael moorcock satire collection, l ron hubbard, aldous huxley’s a brave new world revisited and a full William blake reader for only total Rs 200. ok. Im cheap. I love books. What better combination could exist for me?

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