City Obituary – The Death of Prince Book Stall, Paharganj
The passing of a bookshop.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Sad news. Prince Book Stall has become history. One of the only two surviving secondhand bookshops in the backpackers’ district of Paharganj, it was opposite Khanna Cinema (which shut down more than a decade ago).
Prince closed down without a fuss. The Delhi Walla discovered its demise last week on discovering a gleaming new travel agency office in its place. It came as a shock. I was so used to seeing the heap of secondhand Lonely Planet guidebooks put up so precariously on the bookstore’s counter.
“I vacated the shop on August 4,” owner Manoj Kumar Arora, aka Bittu, told me on phone. He had opened Prince in 1994.
“People were just not buying books.”
Mr Arora’s stall used to be filled with paperbacks from across the world, thanks to foreign tourists. Prince Book Stall had a great collection of Hebrew novels that Israeli travellers would leave behind. Those much-thumped books bearing stamps of Jerusalem and Haifa bookshops would lie in stacks from floor to roof.
Perhaps Prince’s closure was waiting to happen
Paharganj is littered with the memories of dead bookstores. Most notable among them was Vijay Kumar’s pavement stall near Imperial Cinema. It used to have a great selection of German books. Mr Arora’s great rival, however, was Raja Book Stall just across the road—it shut down five years ago.
Now the only bookstore left in the area is Jackson’s Books. We featured it on these pages just last month. Its owner has promised us that he has no plans to shut shop —“for now.”.
A bookstore, now history
1. (Prince Book Stall)