City Obituary – Uma Marwah of Khan Market’s Faqir Chand & Sons Bookshop is No More
Life of a bookstore matriarch.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
For some affluent Delhiites, posh Khan Market is like a second home. For a very, very few, Khan Market is home. Uma Marwah, who lived in house number 50 on the Market’s Middle Lane, was its eldest resident.
She died in her sleep on the morning of 22 July 2017, aged 76.
With her passing away, the city has lost one of the last remaining links to Khan Market’s early history.
Khan Market started in 1951 with 154 shops and 74 flats. The shops were on the ground floor, the flats on the first. Until the 1980s, all the flats served as homes. Commerce crept up the stairs at the turn of the century. Most families moved out after selling or renting out their homes. The drawing rooms, the bedrooms, the kitchens and the courtyards turned into cafés, restaurants, bookshops and showrooms. A key aspect of Khan Market that gave it the charm of a sleepy neighbourhood bazaar disappeared.
Ms Marwah’s home continued to remain a home, however, to this day.
Born in the town of Kashipur in 1942, she ended up being the matriarch of the landmark Faqir Chand and Sons bookstore. Faqir Chand started as the Oriental Book Shop in Peshawar Cantonment in present-day Pakistan in 1931. The owner moved to Delhi following Partition and set up the same kind of bookshop in Khan Market—but named it after himself. Ms Marwah was his daughter. Until a few years ago when a “leg problem” obliged her to stay at home, she was daily seen in the bookstore, which is managed by her daughter, Mamta, and son-in-law, Anup Kumar, both of whom live at her apartment with their two sons.
The Delhi Walla visited Ms Marwah at her home early this year. She was reading Lord Ram’s Amritvani. She seemed happy.
Uma Marwah at her home in Khan Market
Uma Marwah’s daughter and son-in-law
Uma Marwah at her bookstore with daughter and grandson