City Hangout – Spell & Bound, SDA Market
Kafka with kebabs.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Those who love their mutton rolls and masala milk may like Spell & Bound at the SDA Market in south Delhi. Opened in May 2011, the bookshop and café has 17,000 books — it also has kathi kebabs and flavoured milkshakes. The ground level has subtle lighting, floor-to-ceiling shelves, a rotating bookcase, a wall covered with framed photos of authors like Anton Chekhov, Salman Rushdie, Virginia Woolf, Arundhati Roy, Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri … and a spiral staircase that goes up to a café and down to a basement with more books.
Enter, and it’s like being transported to a quaint book store where the lady at the counter obviously wouldn’t have the Doris Lessing I’m looking for but with whom I could discuss love, life and Levi Strauss. Downstairs, however, it’s like supermarket. The light is bright yellow, the assistants are uniformed, the foreign magazine stand has Men’s Health, not The New Yorker.
The book collection is mind-bogglingly extensive. The categories include classics, history, biographies, philosophy, crime, poetry, art, health, business, management, teen fiction, young fiction and romance. There are the poems of Raymond Carver, the verses of Mirza Ghalib and the novels of Premchand. Granta books here, Katha Prize stories there. A corner shelf has movie DVDs. The basement’s centrepiece is a toy steam engine stacked with books and games for children, who have a separate section with a yellow plastic table and four chairs in yellow, red, blue and green.
The café at the top level is different. It doesn’t have the usual fare of croissants, cakes and sandwiches. There are kebabs from The Kathi’s, a Saket-based chain, and drinks from Depaul’s, a Connaught Place landmark. At Rs 130, Kashmiri Kathi Mutton is the most expensive; and a single egg roll the cheapest at Rs 35. The most expensive milkshake is priced at Rs 30. This set of 11 covers must be the only place in Delhi where chicken tikka is eaten under the watchful eyes of Homer. The portrait of the ancient Greek poet faces the tables, the wall opposite has drawings of Delhi’s signature monuments, and the sole window opens out on SDA Market.
The bazaar would have been a sleepy place if the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) was not across the road. The IIT students play the guitar in Barista and chess in Café Qahwa. To pull in this crowd, Spell & Bound hopes to to regularly host the meetings of IIT’s English Debating and Literature Club.
Where C11, Shop No. 2, SDA Market Nearest Metro station Hauz Khas Time Open daily from 9.30am to 9.30pm, a 10% discount is offered on books Tel 011-41027728.
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Kafka with kebabs