City Hangout – Secondhand Bookshelf, Quill And Canvas, South Point Mall
Books with a background.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It is true. The neighbour’s drawing room shelves do reveal a glimpse of their private life.
That’s why it’s so tantalising to browse about the secondhand books stacked at Quill And Canvas. The shop in Gurgaon’s South Point mall in the Greater Delhi Region blends an art gallery with a bookstore. The solo shelf containing secondhand books stands at the back of the showroom whose bookstore portion primarily consists of firsthand books. This afternoon the sunshine is falling on the used books rack through a glass window, lighting it up into a kind of halo.
Shop owner Shobha Sengupta is a polite woman, but extremely guarded about her secondhand section and is reluctant to disclose from where she sources these tatty paperbacks. “I’d rather not say,” says the lady who founded her establishment in 2002 in the city’s Galleria Market, and moved it to the present location some five years ago.
The fact is, you could dig out far more precious secondhand treasures in Delhi’s Daryaganj Sunday Book Bazaar, which sadly shut down last month following a court order. Ms Sengupta’s curated shelf, however, is filled with homely charm. It has the essence of a family library that is obliged to accommodate tastes of all the members, from the Luddite grandma to the geeky grandson. So there’s a torn Archie comic, a Jeffrey Archer novel, a treatise on Vedic mathematics, a super-fat Microsoft “Bible”, along with a smattering of Dan Browns and Vikram Seths. And there’s a paperback titled On a Clear Day You Can see General Motors.
There are books in Bengali, too.
The most moving item in the collection is a copy of the poetry anthology Palgarve’s Golden Treasury. The long handwritten inscription in blue ink on the last page says: I wish for you my darling daughter
A world of life &
A world of laughter…
A life of friendship…
… Shine on dear…
This is just an excerpt; the lines in their entirety are so heart-touching, so indicative of the lives of two people unknown to us, that merely the act of running fingers over the sentences gives the browser as much content as reading an emotionally charged Alice Munro short story.
Of course, there is a far superior variety of such books in markets such as the aforementioned Daryaganj Sunday Book Bazaar, which might soon reopen in a new address. But one cannot savour the pleasure of slow sweat-free rummaging through deliciously eclectic titles in a crowded pavement market. Here, you quietly lounge in AC luxury and—whether you buy a book or not—you allow yourself the indulgence of literally touching upon the lives and times of so many strangers, through their discarded books.
The shop is open daily from 10.45am to 9pm. Closed on Tuesday.
Pleasures of used books