At Hathims, scrambling for old books

At Hathims, scrambling for old books

As the incense smoke curled and danced, and prayers spiralled upwards, time stood still inside the Baba-jan Dargah. Opposite the dargah was another slice of heaven in the form of a charming old bookshop called Hathims.

Hathims is a second hand book shop filled with books that are salvaged from its sister concern Mustafa Scrap Shop. Mohammed, an effervescent 85-year-old, mans the bookshop.
Hanging out with its more admirable neighbours comprising cloth shops and jewellery stores Hathims is easily miss able except for one distinctive feature.  Its cobalt blue wooden shutters, which stands in stark contrast to the surrounding cityscape.

Located in one of the numerous back lanes that dot Pune, Hathims is frequented by office goers stopping by to pick up an old issue of ‘Readers Digest’ or ‘Time’ magazine, school children browsing through Tinkle comics or knots of college girls giggling over a sizzling Mills and Boons book.

Every conceivable inch of the shop (which includes the floors) is crammed with books. On long white wooden shelves, which hug the walls, are arranged the novels. The hardbacks find pride of place in a small glass topped counter. An ante room adjoining the main shop is filled with magazines.

A rusted rickety chair, that doubles up as a footstool helps one to browse through the upper shelves. Although requiring the balance of a tight rope walker, you often came across a gem as you dangerously swayed on the chair.

All the while, like an absent minded professor, Mohammed flits around his shop, stopping only to give the books a quick dusting. Bent with age he is always willing to dazzle you with his friendly gap toothed smile, which makes a trip to this humble bookshop all the more worthwhile.

Hathims is among the last few stalwarts of old Pune which soldier on, as the burgeoning city stamps out all things of its glorious past and reinvents itself as a glitzy new metropolis.