Street-Side Sunday Surprise

(This post originally appeared here)

When Edward Spenser wrote his epic poem The Faerie Queene celebrating the Tudor Dynasty and Elizabeth I, little could he have imagined that more than 400 years later the monetary worth of his words would be tested by a weighing contraption installed in Delhi.

At 0.82 kgs, Spenser’s allegorical masterpiece exchanges hands at Rs. 180. Meanwhile, a student laments at not having located Homer in the ‘Classic Novel at Rs. 200’ pile while another is contemplating picking up Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy.

Jostling amidst book hungry crowds at the weekly market in Daryaganj is a treat every Delhi dweller and city traveller must partake in. Stretching for nearly two kilometres on Asaf Ali Road is a pavement full of the most eclectic collection of books you’d find anywhere. From a 1942 Yugoslavian edition ofTwenty Thousand Leagues to Monet’s letters, Premchand’s Complete Works or a tattered Jackie Collins paperback, this Sunday book market is certainly for everyone. Whether your vocation or interests lie in art, architecture, design, food, medicine or comics, you’ll find that strolling through the narrow pathway lining the book-display is a wonderful way to start your Sunday.

Prices differ based on discounts over printed rates, fixed weight-based calculations or simply grab-as-you-go short change (Rs. 10 for second hand P.D. James for instance). And all of these remain at the discretion of the shopkeeper. Even if you’ve spotted a nearly new hardbound copy of Victor Hugo’s Complete Works, it is unwise to display the gleam in your eyes. Bargaining would become that much more difficult. Instead it’s advisable to leisurely pick up the desired copy, turn it around, flip through its pages (even as your heart continues to flutter ever so much) and then nonchalantly ask for the best price. It may also do well to carry a bag along to fill all your goodies in. Books within reach that are not bought for seemingly avoidable reasons are what bibliophile nightmares are made of.

Having begun in the 1960s, the Daryaganj Book Bazaar has lived through decades of changes the city has witnessed. The book market has retained its charm among students, academics, collectors and travellers ever eager to dive hand-first in search of a treasure. There are those who flock here as a Sunday morning ritual and others who’re crossing it off the list of things to do in the city. Either way, the activity promises a Sunday morning well spent. And one that is likely to end in unparalleled joy at having found a gem you weren’t even searching for.

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4 thoughts on “Street-Side Sunday Surprise

  1. It was in 2005 or so, the last time I was in Daryaganj. Picked up a coverless, signed copy of ‘she’s come undone’ by Wally Lamb for Rs. 55. it was a decent read. I am sure the owner had his reasons to junk it. But as they say ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’ (or lack of it). long time back, I read on Delhiwalla’s blog that he picked up a rare edition of some book I don’t really recall for peanuts. it had an asking price of around $1600 on ebay. Now that’s a find.

    • Aren’t we glad some people rid themselves of things.

      Like this slim hardbound copy of Joseph Conrad’s ‘The Rover’ stamped ‘Mall Road, Kanpur’ and filled with pencil notes from what appears to have been an English professor.

      In other news, trust the Delhiwalla with finding gems. And not just at the book bazaar. That man is a book treasure-magnet.

  2. Glad we are. But sometimes I do wonder about the circumstances in which they had to part with their belongings…

    That’s a pretty telling description… Sounds like a ‘missed connection’ listing for books looking for their owners 🙂

    That’s is just one of his many other talents… I love his blog to bits…

    • Oh yes, the stories of book owners are often just as (if not more) interesting as the titles themselves.

      The Delhiwalla, blog and man, are a delight. Have you read his book ‘Nobody Can Love you More’? Get it now, if you haven’t. Unputdownable. On Jun 26, 2014 7:54 AM, “Eggfacemomhead” wrote:

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