City Hangout – Closing Hour Melancholy, Sunday Book Bazaar, Daryaganj
Twilight in Delhi.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is a cold Sunday evening and the pavement book bazaar in Daryaganj is wrapping up. Being a weekly market, it will hopefully re-open next Sunday.
Most people come to the book bazaar in the morning to fish for the best catches. You ought to arrive in the evening, and not just for the utilitarian reason of getting the best bargains. Be here to experience the market’s true poetic essence. This is the hour when the bazaar is washed in gentle melancholy. The desirable titles are sold, and the sellers are packing the remains of the day into gunny sacks and cartons. The scene stirs a similar kind of sentiment as evoked by farmers returning with their cows to their village after a long hard day of ploughing in the dusty fields.
It’s 5.30 pm at the moment and the shopping crowd has thinned. The winter sky is rapidly turning dark. The exhausted sellers and their assistants are wordlessly piling up their unsold books. Near Golcha cinema building, a boy hauls huge stacks of John Le Carré novels into a rickshaw, his bare arms wet with sweat despite the very chill air. While, on the pavement at Hotel Broadway, a chap is flipping through a guidebook about Czechoslovakia—a country that no longer exists. And also contemplating bundles of books piled around him.
Indeed, the evening closure of the famous book bazaar is always steeped with unspoken anxieties. The stall owners are never certain if their “patri market” will be back next Sunday or not. Last year, it had to remain closed for a series of weeks because of a “beautification drive”:the plan was to clear chaos and congestion in the area.
As of now, these thousands of unsold books on the pavement waiting to be dispatched back to their warehouses are looking as hauntingly poignant as any abandoned Lodhi-era ruin in Delhi after sunset. This memorable sight is a kind of informal Beating Retreat ceremony for book-lovers and makes for a necessary Delhi experience.
The remains of the day