City Hangout – Hyperlocal Notepads, Daryaganj
Being elegantly pretentious.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Spending the afternoon in a cool cafe and being seen with a sleek laptop, or better still, with one of those elegant writing pads, is certainly the most sophisticated kind of show-off. Indeed, all hipsters (and aspiring writers) are occasionally spotted jotting on imported notebooks that cost a bomb.
But a truly hip human is one who believes in sourcing hyperlocally. That’s why you have to try out these writing pads sold in a handful of used bookstores of central Delhi’s Daryaganj. The shopkeepers say that the notebooks are made in tiny printing workshops, buried deep within the Walled City’s neighbourhoods, especially in the cramped lanes around the Turkman Gate.
Irrespective of their origins, these writing pads are so beautiful that the inner writer in you might immediately want to start penning down your magnum opus in them. This evening, one of the unnamed stores teems with shoppers. The variety of notebooks is breath-taking. Some are as big as an A4 size. Some are bigger than that—the ideal drawing material for a dreamy architect. Some pads have the dimensions of an average pulp fiction paperback. Some pads are bound like a hardback. Some are sewn—“silai wali” in the shop lingo. Many are, as the shopkeeper calls it, “spiral bound.” Some have gilded pages. Some have red covers; some others, blue or black, and even green. And then some have pages that have a delicate yellowing shade, as if they had once belonged to one’s great-grandmother when she was a young diarist.
The pages are either lined or plain, and display none of those overdone illustrations that you might find in more artsy notebooks, to distract you from their true purpose.
Now let’s face it, there is also a chance to stumble into a flawed notebook that lacks a fine finish, with something looking amateurish about its production. But the imperfections make the notepad more endearing, letting one imagine the person who made it partly with his own hands (the workshops use machines too, confirm the shopkeeper).
And one of the nicest things about these diaries is that they are super-cheap. In fact, they are sold on the kilogram basis. Just the thing for our struggling hipsters. The shops open from 10 am to 7 pm, and are across the road from the Daryaganj police station.
For the inner hipster in you