“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” —Erasmus
Every book lover’s dream would be to visit these streets where they can browse for hours digging through the piles of old books and then unearth a hidden treasure. The dollops of dopamine secretion that takes place when one’s wishes are granted (bargaining for 10-15 mins is a norm though) is so engaging that there are a lot of bibliophiles who visit these places whenever they get a chance. These streets are like treasure chests full of precious gems, which should be relished, time and again.
Daryaganj Book Market & Nai Sarak—Delhi:
Situated near Chandni Chowk/ Chawri Bazar metro stations, this street a must for avid book lovers.One of Khushwant Singh’s favorite places, it is because of his contribution that this book market still exists. While the market was supposed to shut down as it hinders traffic flow, Mr. Singh wrote to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi opposing this move. It is only open on Sundays (and is popularly known as Daryaganj Sunday book market) and one should reach there before 9:30 am to get the best out of one’s visit.
However, the Nai Sadak market is open on all days, except Sunday. Nai Sarak is known for its large wholesale and retail market of mainly school and college textbooks. A visit to that street will leave any bibliophile’s pulse racing.
College Street- Kolkata:
College street or Boi Para as it is endearingly called, is India’s largest book market, spanning almost a million square feet and is also the second-largest book market in the world. Kolkata, being the cultural capital, has its own legacy in regards to the book market.
Situated right in the heart of the city, along the footpaths by the main universities, this street boasts of nearly every genre that one can get their hands on. First editions, pamphlets, paperbacks, hardbacks, flexi backs, you name it, they have it here. One can buy books at throw-away prices, and that too, even rare ones. And once you are done, please visit Indian Coffee House to savour the moments of joy.
In the foliage around the towering buildings of the red-brick colleges like Presidency, Scottish Church, Calcutta University as well as the Calcutta Medical College, the ambience is serene and full of lustre. Thus, this area of literary relevance across generations preserves the smell of old books, the smell of cha, the banter, recitations and even quarrels of the Indian Coffee House. Great names like Satyajit Ray, Soumitro Chatterjee, Sunil Gangopadhyay and Shakti Chattopadhaya, were once frequent occupiers of the same tables and chairs of the famous coffee house.
Earlier known as Doddapete, Avenue Road is one of the biggest and busiest shopping areas of Bangalore. Located in Chickpet, this area houses more than 300 book shops—mainly selling guides and academic books. It’s a haven for bibliophiles, as one can browse through the stacks of books ranging from medicine and spirituality to the latest Dan Brown novels. Other than books, this road, which is perpetually a one-way street, is also known for its traditional trade in garments and textiles, jewellery and pawn broking.
Appa Balwant Chowk—Pune:
Also known as A.B.C, this place is at a popular intersection in the Budhwar Peth area. This street is extremely famous among Pune students, who flock to this place for new releases as well as academic bestsellers. Since the place is located near the New Poona Bakery, one can also gorge on its famed cream rolls and pastries, after a bout of book shopping.
Author Siddharth Dasgupta shares his views on visiting Appa Balwant Chowk as “A popular crossroads in the Budhwar Peth neighborhood of Pune, Appa Balwant Chowk is a crammed, noisy, and invigorating mélange of book shops, book sellers, and roadside magazine peddlers. ‘ABC Lane’ has been in existence since the British era, and at times, it feels as though some of the occupants within its cornucopia of humanity have emerged from the same timeframe”.
Located at the southern end of the historic Dadabhai Naoroji Road, also known as Mile Long Road, this structure depicts the Roman goddess Flora. Built in 1964, the total expenditure incurred was Rs.47,000 which was a very large sum in those days. Right after where the churchgate subway ends, piles of books come under the gaze of passersby. Ranging from coffee table to latest fiction this street is a heaven for avid book readers.
Located near the Central railway station, Moore Market is a hotspot for the bibliophiles. Originally this place was built to accommodate the hawkers in the Broadway area of Madras. But, with time this place has turned into a flea market where people can buy various rare and secondhand items. Visiting this place for the first time one would be amazed at the sheer collection of books that this place has to offer. Fiction, non-fiction, biographies, comics, magazines—you name it, they have it here.
Image Courtesy: Appa Balwant Chowk (Indian Express)
Flora Fountain( Benjamuna’s blog)
Moore Market ( The Fifth Estate)