City Hangout – Music Cassette Shop, Madrasa Hussain Baksh Street
The pre-CD age.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
CDs… what’s that?
The music-streaming millennials might ask.
Even so, some of them might have had a firsthand memory of those discs, dating back to the early years of their post-2000 biography.
Those magnetic tape recordings seem to have vanished into a dark void. Not as old as long play records, or LPs, to be considered precious, the cassettes aren’t taken as collectibles—neither for nostalgia’s sake nor for their cover art.
Delhi does have a few overpriced curio stores stocked with LPs, but when it comes to audio cassettes… well, there’s this little shop in the Walled City crammed with hundreds of them. Most are of Hindi movie songs from 1980s and 1990s, the golden era of the cassette age in our country, so to speak. Just looking at these cassette titles transports one to the Indian movie world of that time—-Kohram, Mast, Vote for Ghaghra, Himalayputra.
The unnamed hole-in-the-wall shop lies tucked within Madrasa Hussain Baksh Street, near Jama Masjid. It was founded a decade ago by the mild-mannered Bhai Pappe. A very polite person, he doesn’t keep a mobile. (May be that’s the reason his face is so tension-free, its tranquility so contagious.)
Bhai Pappe, 61, reveals that he became a cassette seller by accident. He was an electrician until a “bijli ka jhatka” (electric shock) incurred during a job assignment shook him so badly that he gave up his familiar profession and opened this shop.
“I started by getting cassettes from music stalls outside the Red Fort… but all those places have vanished,” he says, explaining that nobody buys cassettes these days.
Yet he keeps them.
Bhai Pappe shrugs.
His extrovert friend, tailor Mirza Ameenuddin, helpfully speaks on his behalf: “Some people collect money, our Bhai Pappe collects cassettes. It’s his shauk (passion).”
The shop manages to earn some business from the occasional sales of music CDs that Bhai Pappe stocks in lesser numbers.
Certainly, any historically minded person, curious about the vanished things of the recent past, might like to visit the shop simply to gaze wondrously at these stacks of cassettes—and they are available for sale. The shop opens only in the evening, from 5 pm to 9 pm.
Nobody killed the cassette star