Bibliophile’s paradise in Daryaganj closed for fourth Sunday in a row

By Nivedita Singh

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) It was an unprecedented fourth Sunday in a row when Delhi’s famous Daryaganj weekly book market was not allowed to function, causing huge losses to booksellers and robbing book lovers and students in Delhi of their low-cost one-stop solution spot.

Though the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) orders the closure of the makeshift market every year on a Sunday before Republic Day (Jan 26) and Independence Day (Aug 15), this year the market was closed a month before in the name of preparing for an ASEAN summit to be held on January 23, 24 and 25. The last time the market opened was on December 31.

Book vendors IANS spoke with said this year they received no notice nor do they have any idea when they would be allowed to set up the market next, fearing that it may be curtains for the book lovers’ weekly paradise to buy any book, literally, at throwaway prices.

But Deputy Commissioner Ruchika Katyal allayed the fears, saying the market will be allowed on the Sunday after January 26 — but only that portion which is legal.

“We are not disturbing the legal market. It is allowed from our end. We are only closing the (portion of the) Sunday market which is illegal and causes congestion on Netaji Subhash Marg,” Katyal told IANS.

The market was first set up in 1964 and has since been hailed as a one-stop-solution for those seeking to buy second hand books at lower rates. The area was named Daryaganj — a combination of ‘Darya’ meaning river and ‘Ganj’ meaning market place — as it was a business hub once when it was a part of the walled city of Shahjahanabad and the river Yamuna streamed right next to it. (Over time, the river has receded and today flows about a kilometre away as the crow flies.)

Even in this age of Kindles and ebooks, the market along the dusty pavement from Daryaganj-Faiz Bazar crossing to Delite Cinema on Netaji Subhash Marg turns into a “darya” of books, with something for everyone — novels to textbooks, journals, newspapers, magazines, rare book titles, first editions of classics — available at affordable prices.

The vendors complained that the timing of the closure for four consecutive weeks was critical because students usually start preparing for exams in January.

That is why the market is more crowded on Sundays in January, they said.

But this January, they said, it rained losses and students are also clueless about where to go.

“We earn maximum profit at this time of the year. Students need books and the weather is also conducive to roaming around the street. The footfall would increase during this time, so too our earnings,” Qamar Saeed, President, Daryaganj Patri Sunday Book Bazar Welfare Association, told IANS.

“No one wants to roam around streets in summer. They prefer malls and other air-conditioned spaces. We are at a high loss due to this closure.

“We provide books costing Rs 1,000 at as low as Rs 20. The government wants to educate all but seems not concerned about a book market which caters to a large audience and is helping poor kids in their education,” Saeed said.

Nandlalji, 70, who has been setting up his shop here since he was 20, said vendors were running out of money. “Throughout the week, we collect books and on Sunday we sell them. We have already invested the money in books and we don’t know for how long we have to continue like this,” he said.

For regulars to the market, the closure for four Sundays is like missing out on a beloved routine.

“I try to visit the market at least twice a month. It has been four weeks and the market is not there. I am missing something big in (my) life,” Delhi University student Astha told IANS

(Nivedita Singh can be contacted atnivedita.singh@ians.in)

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