Treasure trove between pages

BOOKWORM

As the glance moves above a line of smartly designed women’s footwear, the board ‘Anjali Books’ appears a little out of place.

In Lajpat Nagar’s Central Market that thrives on streetwear, it is not usual to climb up a narrow staircase and enter a haven dominated by books as far as one can see!

The owner and passionate bibliophile, Ramesh Madaan while accompanying Metrolife to the first floor talks about love for the written word. “Thirty five years ago when we used to get ration in bags made out of newspaper or magazine, I used to open their creases to read. Something drew me to reading which later developed into a keen desire to collect books and thus, I started collecting them at the age of 14,” says the 49-year-old  who is today a proud owner of around one lakh titles!

Though his tiny shop ‘Anjali Books’ named after his daughter came into existence as late as 2001, his passion to collect old and rare books was not enough to earn him a living, so he too joined the popular footwear business of the market. “I have changed many businesses but my books have always been with me,” he says while showing the Complete Works of Shakespeare. “This is a 1964 edition and likewise there are many books which were never reprinted. I have many of them here and in my three godowns,” he confides when persistently asked about his USP. 

Soon he reveals that it is not just books but even old long-playing records (LPs), coins (from pre-independence era) and sundry other things that form a part of his collection. “Today youngsters like to read comics, but I think they should read literature and biographical books,” he says while pulling out a collection of nine symphonies of Beethovan neatly packed in a box-shaped book cover. It is things like these and even his collection of comics that attracts people from as far as Bangalore, Mumbai and even Germany and UK, to his retail outlet.

“Indians like to read fiction, fashion, art and comics, but westeners look for books on topics such as yoga, ayurveda and meditation,” he says showing Metrolife pictorial books of works of Raja Ravi Varma, Raghu Rai (on Taj Mahal), SH Raza, Akbar Padamsee and many others kept alongside the boxes of footwear. “These books are priced between Rs 5,000-10,000,” he informs while gently placing them back in the carton and opening another. Each carton contains a treasure that is priceless, such as old Indrajal comics which Ramesh says have regained popularity. 

“Lekh Tandon, the legendary Bollywood filmmaker (who also acted as Aamir Khan’s grandfather in Rang De Basanti) makes it a point to come atleast two-three times in a year to collect books on short stories which he later compiles for his serials and films,” informs Ramesh who is used to seeing advocates and judges browse books in his shop. Few sound directors from the film industry have also visited his shop to source books on sound.  

Even though he could not complete his graduation in Political Science, he knows about most of the subjects thanks to his voracious appetite for reading. What is challenging for him is to find space to showcase his collection and, support of people who are also passionate about books. “I don’t like a salesman’s commercial approach towards books,” he sums up.

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