In Delhi’s May Day Bookstore, volunteers chip in to celebrate Labour Day

This Shadipur bookstore, honours workers’ struggles along with a celebration of literature and the arts

May 01, 2019 01:02 pm | Updated 05:17 pm IST

The room is overcrowded with volunteers arranging hundreds of new and used books, some quite rare. “These are to go on sale on the 1st of May,” says Sadika Syed, a student from Delhi University, who’s helping out at May Day Bookstore in Shadipur.

The store, in tandem with Studio Safdar next door, is left-leaning in its ideology. They’ve celebrated May Day every year since their inception on May 1st, 2012. “It’s the day when workers all around the world reaffirm their commitment to the struggle for workers’ rights,” says Sudhanva Deshpande, the Managing Editor of city-based publishing house LeftWord Books, which started the space. Deshpande is also an actor and director at the Jana Natya Manch, a political street theatre group.

“A number of things we take for granted today have been won for us by workers. Take for instance the idea of the eight-hour working day,” he says, while emphasising that workers’ struggles don’t remain sectional — society stands to benefit by the rights won by them.

Deshpande also talks of the struggle of independent book stores, saying that their existence is critical to any city. “They bring diversity in the cultural and intellectual ecosystem,” he says even as May Day Bookstore’s struggle is further intensified by the fact that Shadipur doesn’t see even accidental walk-ins. The store is open to people who come in just to read.

But on May Day, the store turns book café and performance space. This year, they’ll have Rahul Ram, bass guitarist and vocalist from the Indian Ocean; Sanjay Rajoura, a stand-up artist; Aishwarya and Shromona, who tackle social hierarchies through performances; and Sumangala Damodaran, who sings for change. There are several other performances including Dastaan Live that tells stories incorporating music and performance. Keith Goyden, teacher, geographer, and baker, who lives in Uttarakhand, will bring the bread.

“We work very hard to make this day both for us and our customers,” says Deshpande, adding that people who walk in are seen as book lovers first, never consumers.

For Syed, this celebration is part of her personal journey: “Volunteering here makes me realise the amount of labour that goes into making things happen. And when a 100 people enter the book store in the first hour, it’s lovely to see that the people are here to celebrate books, Labour Day, literature, and art,” she says.

Take a cycle rickshaw from the Shadipur metro stop on the blue line to ‘biyaasi number’, to reach May Day; 1 p.m. onwards

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