Delhiwale: A book haven in Batla House

ThroughMayank Austen SoofiNew Delhi

The tiny basement room is crammed with just too many writers. A perfect place for bookworms to dig into the delicious smells of musty, worn pages.

The Book Hub is the only oasis in a bookless desert. Because this is a pin code with no other bookshop – Batla House in South Delhi. Hidden in the bowels of the drab, dusty Chowdhury complex, every inch of the store is crammed with towers of used paperbacks. There is no method in the layout of genres – there is no layout! Everything can be discovered anywhere. The unpredictability of the titles sends the mind on a dizzying jaunt. Take a look in any direction and your biased gaze will reveal a number of classics/trash/holes.

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Look at the stacks this afternoon: a slim paperback titled There Was No One at the Bus Stop by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyaya lies next to a nice Arden edition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which sits just below Volumes IV-V by Adam Smiths “Prosperity of Nations” which removes a few paperbacks from The Complete Operas of Mozart, forming a sharp right angle with the stack topped with Jiddu Krishnamurti’s The Book of Life; that’s next to Tilism-e-Hoshruba, that’s… oh, there’s a multi-story hardcover of Harry Potter – all are the Deathly Hollows (the last volume 7!). And just above the Oxford Advanced Learner’s is a red Salman Rushdie hardcover.

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And somewhere in all these books you might spot a bit of Muhammed Anas, a camera-shy young man who, after a long hesitation, agrees to be photographed. He started the shop three years ago; his father had a book shop in the Kitab market of Nai Sadak in distant Old Delhi. “Dad sometimes sits here in the mornings.” Anas moved the shop to this address “because there was no bookstore here, apart from a few shops that sold textbooks.” The place also has textbooks – from economics and psychology to thick ones Tomes of the medical school. Being so close to Jamia Millia University, “I also meet a lot of students who come here to get novels.”

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The books come from a variety of places including libraries and private homes when they donate their collections. “We also deliver books to libraries … in places like Kashmir and Ladakh.”

A girl enters and asks for an unimaginative title – 101 Essays. Anas pulls out the book from an unseen place, as casually as a magician flicking a rabbit out of his hat.

The store is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Opposite the JD Kurti store.

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