City Neighbourhood – BP Road, near Ajmeri Gate
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[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Tucked next to Ajmeri Gate, BP Road attracts Delhi’s booklovers starving for intellectual conversations with the opposite sex and willing to pay for it.
On the face of it, BP Road looks no different from Khan Market’s front lane. Parking is a mess; the lane has a familiar-looking row of groceries selling imported sauerkraut. But you just look for bookstores. While you see pirated pulp thrillers stacked everywhere, everyone knows that these stores are just a front for the ‘trade’. Book-ies would escort you behind the bookshelves, to the winding staircase that lead to the first-floor cells. These are the dens where many a young men from the Capital’s best families ruined their lives and finished their fortunes.
I recently went to the area’s most popular – no. 9-3/4. Inside was a covered veranda lined with shelves containing Penguin classics. The ladies of the house were sitting on red velvet sofas, chatting, reading, and waiting for customers. Their asking price depended on the authors they specialized in. The lowest (Rs 50) was for those who analysed, compared, critiqued and evaluated the popular appeal of Chetan Bhagat novels in a ten-minute long session (much in demand, I’m told.) A little pricier were the sittings with the English Honours grads (Ist div.), said to be good in yamming pseudointellectual trash on Susan Sontag and Edward Said. Next were the sit-ons with bimbos especially trained to read out the Greek classics – provocatively!
In fact, each cell in BP Road has its specialty – fiction, poetry, history, current affairs, and blah-blah. There are also region specific hotspots – vernie lit, Central Asian travelogues, Japanese haikus and blah-blah.
No. 9-3/4, by the way, have more choices for the rich.
For Rs 10,000, you get a lady to recite the entire Milton and Mirza Ghalib from memory. For Rs 25,000, bookohlic brunettes lend you their rare editions for a day; for Rs 50,000, you have a PhD scholar explain Amartya Sen in two hours flat; for Rs 75,000, a William Dalrymple expert promises to get you into an all-scream quarrel over ‘That white man’s colonization of Delhi’s history’; for Rs 1,00,000, you are sold a dinner date with that sexy Tina Brown look-alike who got her poem published in The New Yorker‘s Oct. 13, 1997 issue. And if your dad owns a mall in Ghaziabad, you can get the usually unavailable brain-babe combo to come over to your Gulmohar Park bungalow and discuss any subject – waterboarding, Arundhati Roy, or Barack Obama.
Caution: BP Road is a dangerous place and there have been instances of book-ies snatching the precious first editions that unsuspecting first-timers were flaunting in their arms. Ask Woody Allen!