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Mission Delhi – Ashutosh Tripathi, The Bookshop

Mission Delhi - Ashutosh Tripathi, The Bookshop
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

He looks as solemn as a nuclear scientist. Ashutosh Tripathi is the new face at The Bookshop in Jor Bagh Market. The Delhi Walla meets him one quiet evening during his work hours.

Mr Tripathi, 30, sits in the bookstore daily from two in the afternoon to the closing time at half past seven. He replaced Sughandh Chaturvedi, the former shop assistant at the bookstore who was often seen seated behind the cash counter with a copy of Marcel Proust. Ms Chaturvedi left her job to prepare for the Civil Services entrance exam.

Mr Tripathi and Ms Chaturvedi are the latest in a long series of shop assistants who manned The Bookshop since its early days in the 1970s. Some of those well-loved people include Maneka Gandhi, Leela Samson, Naresh Khanna, Nasreen Qadri and Shagun.

Mr Tripathi, who, like Ms Chaturvedi, is a Civil Services aspirant, appears to be greatly fond of author Hanif Kureishi. He seems to go around the world with a well-thumped copy of Kureishi’s novel Intimacy. The book bores the sticker of New Book Depot, a bookstore in Connaught Place that closed down a few years ago. Mr Tripathi has underlined quite a few passages in the book. At one point in the evening, he actually read out aloud from the novel while his boss, the beautiful Nini KD Singh, the owner of The Bookshop, tried to help a customer find a book that “ideally should have lots of murders with a bit of history thrown into it.”

Mr Tripathi also turns out to be a great admirer of author Arundhati Roy. While he is aware that the Delhi-based novelist is a longtime loyalist of The Bookshop, he regrets that he is yet to see her step into the store.

Shortly afterwards, a customer approaches Mr Tripathi and asks him for an opinion on Orhan Pamuk’s new novel. Pamuk’s hardbound book is placed on the store’s counter. It is very thick. Mr Tripathi, who graduated in English literature from Delhi University, looks in a dilemma. He finally tells the customer, “Well, I’ll say it is too encyclopedic… But if you like that sort of thing….” The customer looks scared. He picks up a biography instead.

Just then Sugandh Chaturvedi, the ex-shop assistant, enters the store. Now just a customer, she warmly greets Nini KD Singh and Mr Tripathi, and picks up a few books to buy. Mr Tripathi, looking poker-faced, asks Ms Chaturvedi if she would like her books to be packed in a bag. Ms Chaturvedi laughs and says, “Shut up!” Mr Tripathi hands over the books to her, and still looking poker-faced, tells her, “Please visit us again.” Ms Chaturvedi laughs again and says, “Shut up.”

Mr Tripathi breaks into a smile.

After Ms Chaturvedi leaves, he picks up a biography of actor Smita Patil from the New Arrivals and starts to read.

New in town

1. (Ashutosh Tripathi)

Mission Delhi - Ashutosh Tripathi, The Bookshop
2. (with Nini KD Singh)

Mission Delhi - Ashutosh Tripathi, The Bookshop




3. (with Sugandh Chaturvedi)

Mission Delhi - Ashutosh Tripathi, The Bookshop
4. (A passage from Hanif Kureishi’s Intimacy)

Mission Delhi - Ashutosh Tripathi, The Bookshop





Mission Delhi - Ashutosh Tripathi, The Bookshop

Mission Delhi - Ashutosh Tripathi, The Bookshop