City Landmark – Jackson’s Books, Paharganj
Delhi’s most charming second-hand bookshop.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Jackson’s bookstore in central Delhi’s Paharganj sells novels and guidebooks at discount prices. This cramped shop has books in more than 10 languages, including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean and Finnish.
Founded in 1996 in Main Bazaar, the store is tucked between a serpentine alley and a tiled mosque. It is patronized by Paharganj’s foreign backpackers, which explains the abundance of Lonely Planet guides.
The owner, Deepak Kumar Dilani, also buys used books from his customers. In this way he has built a collection so extensive that here you find imprints from across the world.
The Delhi Walla is a devoted Jacksonite. My last purchase included Lonely Planet India’s first edition, Daniyal Mueenuddin’s In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (the cover has the sticker of New York City’s Strand Book Store) and Amos Elon’s Jerusalem: City of Mirrors. The last was stamped with the following:
Old Book Bank
Opp. Kareger Furniture
Shop No. 4, Green Super Market
Kashmir Road Saddar Rawalpindi
One could spend hours flipping through yellow-paged books, and stopping at passages underlined by earlier readers. Sometimes a novel might be inscribed by its previous owners. These handwritten notes, annotated with dates and place-names, help trace the book’s intercontinental journey.
You might also like to sit on the shop’s only chair and watch the pedestrians outside. There is a small TV beside a stack of books.
The framed portrait of Mr Dilani’s late father, Jai Kishen, adds character to the shelves. He migrated from his home-town Karachi after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. The shop was named after him. The foreigners altered Jai Kishen to Jackson.
If he is not busy with customers, request the owner to take you to his warehouse in the adjacent alley. The collection is more varied there.
Since this is a second-hand store, you might be tempted to bargain. But Mr Dilani is a dignified man who has come a long way from selling books on a pavement in Chuna Mandi. Please don’t haggle with him.
Where 5106, Main Bazaar, Paharganj Time 11 am to 10 pm Nearest Metro Station Ramakrishna Ashram Marg
Books of the world