City Hangout – Bihar News Agency, Lakshmi Nagar
The world of Hindi books.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Sad but true. This is a ‘kadva satya’. Our Hindi-speaking metropolis is a wasteland for book lovers reading in Hindi. You’ll be searching high and low for the rare bookshop that has an ample supply of Hindi writers.
One happy exception is the Bihar News Agency, which is probably the only such outlet in east Delhi. Customers flock from near and far to this back-lane operation in Laxmi Nagar, owned by Narender Kumar Singh.
He founded the shop in 1979, hoping that a daily perusal of newspapers would increase his own chances of cracking the civil service exam (he could not crack it).
Nowadays, the lively store packs giants of Hindi literature such as Rahul Sankrityayan and Phanishwar Nath Renu, along with lesser-known writers. Also spotted: new authors Sunita Jain, Udai Narayan Rai and Piyush Sharma.
The oddly named “Bihar News Agency” is a nod to Mr Singh’s origins. “Back in the 1920s, my great-grandfather moved to Delhi from Chapra in Bihar.” Another unique aspect is the stocking of books on Hinduism not easy to find in general bookstores, like the various volumes of the Puranas (also on the shelves: Hindi translations of the Quran and the Guru Granth Sahib).
Over the years the shop has become something of a neighbourhood mecca. Elderly folk living nearby often drop in, settle down on plastic chairs and chat with Mr Singh.
But… “There’s not much income in Hindi books, and my children have other aspirations,” says Mr Singh, 58, adding, “the bookshop will end with me.”
Bihar News Agency is open daily from 5am to 9pm but is shuttered every afternoon from 2 to 5.
Not just another bookshop