The saddest thing for a bibliophile

The saddest thing for a bibliophile

Representative image. (Getty images)

When V S Naipaul was asked, “what’s the saddest thing for a genuine book-lover?” He answered, “When bookshops, libraries and places of reading and buying books shut shop.” All bibliophiles must have felt the same pangs of acute loss, having heard that the 45-year-old Sunday Patri Kitaab Bazaar at Daryaganj in old Delhi has shut-down following a recent Delhi High Court order to the North Delhi Municipal Corporation to ensure that weekly bazaars on Sundays were not permitted on Netaji Subhash Marg.

Alack! There will be no more rare books and their devout buyers frequenting the place any longer. As a die-hard lover of old and rare books, I used to visit the place when I was in Delhi. It was an experience that cannot be described in words. I’ve been to Calcutta’s famed College Street, near Presidency College, Bombay’s Flora Fountain, Madras’ Moore Market, London’s Congdon Street, Ankara’s Zezuba Square and Karachi’s Clifton Road, among others.

Buying rare books at throw-away prices has its own charm. The beauty of these places is that you often come across surprisingly very knowledgeable book-sellers, who can educate you in terms of which book is to be read or bought. I remember, once at Sunday Patri Kitaab Bazaar, I stumbled upon the earliest edition of French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir’s celebrated magnum opus ‘The Second Sex’. The learned book-seller knew about this book and he even correctly pronounced the original French book ‘Le Deuxieme Sexe’, published in 1949!

I was stunned. He talked at length on the subject matter of the book and enlightened me, also gifting me the book which I still treasure. Even after leaving Delhi, I stayed in touch with him and have procured many rare Hindi, Urdu and Persian books.

Old books emanate a kind of a smell that’s hard to explain—a certain je ne sais quoi. I remember, I once picked up a very old book in Urdu in which I found a love letter written in cursive handwriting in Urdu.

The smell of old books wafts through the air in such places, gladdening the hearts and minds of bibliophiles. Time just glides by for a book lover in these haunts. Books simply don’t leave you. Birds of the same feather flock together is a popular adage that aptly describes the strange bonhomie among book lovers from all hues of the spectrum. I befriended many like-minded book lovers while flipping through the books on the footpath of Daryaganj. They are still my friends, and like me, they too are equally sad that such an erudite and affordable haunt in the Capital has ceased to exist. But then, all the great things finally come to an end. Au revoir, Sunday Patri Kitaab Bazaar. My visits to Delhi will not be so educative and ennobling any longer.