Life & Style

This pet-friendly children’s bookstore in Delhi brings back memories and old patrons

Eureka! at its current location, at the GK 2 M-block market   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“It wasn’t just a bookstore; it was so much more. It brought together reading, author visits, a walk in a forest, poster making — a whole cultural movement that was a family experience,” says Vibha Chawla, a mother to Abhyuday, who is now 16 years old. She speaks of Eureka! the children’s bookstore in Alaknanda that shut down in 2014. Escalating rents, the emerging online space that promised discounts, and the last straw — a flood that left many books wet and damaged — pushed the store into closure.

Now reopened in the GK2 M-block market, Swati Roy and M Venkatesh, are still at the helm, bustling amongst the books, giving recommendations on what to buy, and leaving you to browse and decide on a selection, sans the smooth talk of Delhi businesses. It’s the reason Kapil Kapoor, managing director at Roli Books and CMYK, to whom the space belongs, invited them to set up a children’s section.

“Our idea of a bookstore has a lot to do with the experience,” he says. It’s what sets small bookstores apart from retail chains. Kapoor thought it a good idea to collaborate with people who both know their customer through the relationships they build and have knowledge about books, leading people to discover new titles or genres. Roy and Venkatesh had been in the space since 2003, when they opened Eureka! in a house in CR Park.

Abhyuday, 10 in the photograph, now 16, a patron of the earlier Eureka!

Abhyuday, 10 in the photograph, now 16, a patron of the earlier Eureka!   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

For them, the new space has helped them breathe in more ways than one. “It’s a 750 square foot space, almost four times the old shop,” says Venkatesh. He adds that they are looking forward to a time when authors will be able to come in for book readings, publishers launch books here, and the space can be used for small events during their yearly Bookaroo children’s book festival that sees participation from writers, illustrators and everyone related to the children’s publishing industry in India and abroad.

The plan was to open Eureka! as a part of the larger CMYK bookstore in April, but when the lockdown hit, Roy and Venkatesh were not sure what the future held. Kapoor did not charge them rent for a couple of months, preferring to take “a long-term view” because “we must have bookstores in a civilized society”.

The CMYK team felt the need for a children’s bookstore primarily because of the location. “When we had the store in Meherchand market until about a year and a half ago, it had the exact same atmosphere, but the customer profile was interesting. We were close to Khan market and Jorbagh, where there are a lot of prominent bookstores, so people were coming for art and design books,” he says. In GK 2, with no bookstores around, people would come in and request for children’s books.

What has changed over the years is the quality of Indian books that are better illustrated and produced now, says the duo. What has not, is the price point: “Publishers still price children’s books at ₹250 to ₹300, and young adult books between ₹350 and ₹450,” says Roy.

Eureka! at Alaknanda: an event with author Ranjit Lal

Eureka! at Alaknanda: an event with author Ranjit Lal   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

On their first outing to deliver books in the vicinity, Venkatesh says he went because there wasn’t anyone else then, and the lady who had ordered recognised them, inviting them in for chai. Meanwhile, their first shipment was sent to Kolkata for Rakshabandhan. Book buyers — from baby to teen and young adult — can now accumulate points as a part of a loyalty programme.

It’s been a month since the store has opened, and on the bulletin board are experiences of people saying the first time they stepped out was to go to Eureka! a safe space they remembered from their own childhood.

Neha Dasgupta, who is close to 30 now, still remembers how “Swati Aunty” would somehow get across to her the latest Harry Potter book first thing in the morning, when it hit stores. She says it has shaped her life and path. “What Eureka! has given me is the mad excitement of Harry Potter and the wonderful world of Rick Riordan and even the entire Horrible Histories series that led me to do an undergrad and post grad in History and eventually to my current job at a literature festival.”

Eureka! is open seven days a week, 11 am – 6 pm; order online at Eurekabookstore.com


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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 5:00:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/childrens-bookstore-eureka-reopens-in-delhi/article32498910.ece

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