The love for old books, rare posters and maps made Sushil Kumar Jetly shift from a thriving automobiles business to selling memorabilia

Though he likes to describe himself as a karbariwala, the truth is Sushil Kumar Jetly is an avid collector of rare books, film posters and sculptures which occupied pride of place at the recently concluded New Delhi World Book Fair.

Four decades ago, on the advice of a friend, Sushil discontinued a thriving business of automobile batteries at Vardhman in West Bengal. He became a seller of unusual books, maps and posters on films of the black and white era at Khanpur in Delhi.

His eagerness to collect old books of renowned authors was ignited when he took a trip with his father to Sarnath. "I was studying in Class VII then and this trip familiarised me with Gautam Buddha. While exploring the place, my dad discovered a rare pictorial book of Buddha which he gifted to me."

Since Sushil was then a child of impressionable mind, the book created interest in him about art and historical personalities. And from then, it became a hobby which continues till this day. "After a gap of a couple of years, I travelled with my father to the historical cities of Delhi, Lucknow and Agra. At these places I would scout for art books. We also visited museums and monuments. All the art works I saw have remained entrenched in my mind."

After passing out from school, Sushil took admission in a commerce college in Calcutta but after a year switched to humanities. "After passing out, I ran an automobile business in Vardhman. After a decade, my close friend suggested that since I was spending a great deal of my hard earned money on purchasing art books, I should switch my business to a seller of rare books."

Therefore, Sushil migrated to Delhi in 1970 and is in the business of selling books. Unlike other book sellers, he does not own a shop. "I run from my premises at Khanpur. Through words of mouth publicity bookworms come to my home. Only those who have an extraordinary interest in art, films and explorers buy my books."

At the exhibition, Sushil had displayed three black and white posters of Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer "Chori Chori". "Each poster was priced at Rs.4,000. These are not mere posters but are part of my life. I still remember that heart rending scene of one of Raj Kapoor’s film in which he expresses his desire to eat but does not have a single penny in his pocket."

Sushil, who is in the autumn of his life, says he has watched every film of Raj Kapoor-Nargis two dozen times. "I am a film addict and have watched all films of evergreen romantic Dev Anand, tragedy king Dilip Kumar and Ashok Kumar a number of times."

Another book which Sushil considers precious is a four-volume series of books of landscape artist William Daniell and his uncle Thomas Daniell who travelled to India.

"Each book costs Rs.30,000," says Sushil.

After showing the book which has an old jacket, he keeps it hurriedly in a trunk. "Nowadays, thieves pretending to be book lovers steal pricey works."