City Secret – Anjali Book World, Lajpat Nagar

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Here you get classic first editions for cheap.

[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Delhi is a city of surprises. Who could believe that great bibliophilic booty is lying right in the heart of Lajpat Nagar Central Market, of all places? This Alibaba’s cave, innocuously called Anjali Book World, is unknown to many. Its patrons, some from as far as Chandigarh, are so protective about it that they wish it to remain a secret forever.

“If too many people know about this place, the wonderful books here will be sold out sooner and I’ll be the loser,” said a customer who comes here all the way from Dwarka.

More than 50,000 books are spread across more than 2,000 square feet — on the shelves, ceilings, and floor (sorry, no shelves on the roof) — and more than double that is claimed to be gathering dust in warehouses. “I have rare, out-of-print books,” says owner Mr Ramesh Madaan.

A passion for books led him to fold his clothes trade in 1996 and open this bookshop. He named it after his daughter. In the beginning, Mr Madaan’s book-loving friends assisted him in building the stock.

But it was his networking with collectors, importers and distributors, in addition to explorations in the Sunday Daryaganj Book Bazaar, which really sexed up the store.

The collection is maddening. From Julia Child’s recipes to Mozart’s letters, from Princess Diana’s extra-marital flings to Monika Lewinski’s scandal. A lucky day could get you the first edition of a William Styron or a Salman Rushdie.

Hindi is not ignored. I got my copy of Arundhati Roy’s Mamooli Cheezon ka Devta (aka The God of Small Things) from here.

Bargain-basement prices are another incentive. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago is available in paperback in ‘first-hand’ bookshops for Rs 700. Here, the handsomer, seemingly untouched hardbound copy of the same book cost
Rs 100, after bargaining, of course. That copy is in my library now!

Mills & Boon lovers needn’t be disappointed. The bookshop owner is no snob. Jane Austen lies next to Danielle Steele and your regular M&Bs. “We all have different tastes,” Mr Madaan says. Quiet, we’re reading.

Where II-J-10, Central Market, Lajpat Nagar Ph 46572729