City Hangouts – The Secret Attic & Other Corners, Fact & Fiction Booksellers
The last days of a beloved bookstore.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The wooden floor is making creaking sounds. It is very dark. The Delhi Walla is in the attic of Fact & Fiction Booksellers in Basant Lok Market. This mezzanine floor is forbidden to customers but the store’s owner, Ajit Vikram Singh, has granted me a rare viewing.
“Is this true?”
I hear a woman’s hesitant voice coming from downstairs.
“Are you really closing?”
Another voice says, “I saw (sic) it in The Times of India this morning!”
Just the day before Mr Singh had announced on a news website that he could no longer afford to run the shop. Opened in 1984, Fact & Fiction Booksellers is to shut down in two months.
The shop, however, is still stocked with hundreds of books as always. But some shelves are bare. The history section looks orphaned. The shelf on philosophy looks like a man with no teeth. The poetry section is full; so are the shelves on mythologies.
And this attic is another world altogether. The dusty mezzanine floor feels secretive, like a novelist’s closely-guarded manuscript. One wall is lined with bare shelves. The other wall has a good number of antique-looking hardbound volumes. There is another room–it has a large table with a desktop computer, and dozens of red-spined receipt books.
The wooden staircase that leads down to the shop too is submerged in darkness. But the door below is ajar. Bright light is gleaming in from the shop. Somebody is asking Mr Singh for Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel.
We’ll come again
1. (Ajit Vikram Singh)