Daryaganj’s weekly book bazaar in winter continues to beckon book lovers

Denizens of the city may have gone there a thousand times, but come winter and the weekly book bazaar at Daryaganj is always worth another visit. And what makes the place a book lover’s delight are the prices at which these books come for.

“How much will this be?” says a portly middle-aged man, who is clutching at least 10 graphic novels.

“Rs.300 only,” replies the book vendor.

“How come? I bought the same thing last time for Rs.200.”

The vendor shrugs and turns a deaf ear to the man’s entreaties of how faithful a customer he is, but concedes about Rs.50 once the man starts to walk away.

“You see, everybody says the same thing, people usually come here again and again,” says the vendor. He sets up shop somewhere in Jahangirpuri during the week, but has been coming to the book bazaar every Sunday for the past five years.

There are different tricks that well-heeled customers will use to get the best bargain.

“You say the book looks really old or that it is not even a best-seller, and if that does not work, you start to walk away. If the vendor wants to give you the book, he will call you back,” says Sandesh, a regular for the past 20 years or so who has come armed with a basket usually associates with groceries.

“I come here every time I am in the city. The vendors usually do not know the real worth of books that are not in the current bestseller list and you can usually get them for a bargain,” he adds.

“It is the bestsellers that do really well — you know Dan Brown, Jeffery Archer and Sidney Sheldon. I have never read a book, but I am very sharp at fixing prizes,” said a teenage book vendor, who adds that he never learned how to read.

The stall nearby sells mostly classics. “The Diary of Anne Frank is always a seller, the Brontë books also do well,” says book vendor Kamal, adding that his stall, which deals in reprints and abridged versions, is a big hit with the children. “We don’t do second-hand books.”

“Nowadays, short stories sell quickly in the fiction section, so I have stocked more of them,” says Kapil, a college student who sells books for extra money. “My stall does better because I usually know the books that students are reading these days,” he claims.

Almost one-fourth of the street is dedicated to textbooks with fresh prints jostling for space with the old.

“I have been coming here 30 years,” said Mahesh, who sells second-hand textbooks at throwaway prizes.

Management student Andrew has sourced almost all his textbooks from here. “Sometimes, I have gotten first editions here. You have to be careful though, sometimes there are pages missing or you end up buying an old edition.”

He is proved correct. There are old classics with missing pages and bestsellers with pages jumbled up. However, apart from the usual bestsellers and classics, there is something for every book lover if you have the patience to look.

“I found this book The Reluctant Fundamentalist and bought it immediately. I have been wanting to buy it for so long, but it was too expensive and I did not feel like paying that much for a slim volume,” says Razzaq, adding he also bought coffee table books that he usually finished reading in stores so he did not have to buy them and some other “slim” volumes that he would never dream of buying otherwise.

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