The definitive directory of famous Delhiites.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
My disdain for Mills & Boon (MB) novellas cannot prevent the admission that Kuldip Chander, the seller of MBs, is a great product that has come out of that trash factory. Year after year, this quiet and unassuming man is seen seated on the same spot outside his little shack in Hargyan Singh Arya Marg, a rutty lane in South Extension-I market. I rarely see customers at ‘Kuldeep Book Shop’, but since Chander is in business for more than four decades, he must be making money. One of the three signboards outside his stall advertises: “Return the books and take half the money back.”
Chander was six and already motherless when his father Sardari Lal (d. 1970) had to leave the hometown Gujranwala, now in Pakistan, in 1947. They flee to India as Partition refugees. The family, which included Chander’s sister Avinash Kaur (d. 1958), lived in various towns in North India – Ambala, Bhatinda, Panipat – before settling in Delhi in 1958. Four years later, Chandar married Sharda Rani (d. 2007) from whom he has two daughters, Renubala and Sunita. They live in Ambedkar Nagar, south Delhi.
After graduating from a government high school in Lodhi Road, Chander opened a second hand bookshop in Defence Colony Market in 1965. In the beginning he chiefly stocked thriller novelists such as James Hadley Chase, Nick Carter and Alistair MacLean. He would get them from the discards of private libraries and also, of course, from second-hand book dealers in Daryagnaj’s Sunday Book bazaar. The customers were, and still are, mostly college students, especially girls, looking for bargains in crap literature. With the advent of TV and videocassettes, the business dimmed. Chander closed the Defence Colony establishment and opened a stall of MBs in South Extension in 1985. There he has become as much of a landmark as Bengali Sweet House across the street. Commuting in DTC bus route 222, he reaches his stall at 11 am and leaves for home at 10 pm. He does not read books.