City Hangout – The Book Hub, Batla House
Shop of used books
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The tiny basement room is crammed with just too many writers. A perfect place for bookworms to burrow into the delicious smells of musty well-thumbed pages.
The Book Hub is the only oasis in a bookless desert. For this is a pin code with no other bookstores—south Delhi’s Batla House. Hidden within the bowels of the drab, dusty Chowdhury Complex, every inch of the shop is crammed with towers of used paperbacks. There is no method in the layout of the genres—there is no layout! Anything can be spotted anywhere. The unpredictability of the titles sends the mind to a dizzying joyride. Toss a glance at any direction, and your prejudiced gaze shall spot a range of classics/trashes/bores.
Consider the stacks this afternoon: a slim paperback called There was No One at the Bus Stop by Sirshendu Mukhopadhyaya is beside a handsome Arden edition of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which is just below the Volume IV-V of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, which is a few paperbacks away from The Complete Operas of Mozart, which makes a sharp right angle with the stack topped with Jiddu Krishnamurti’s The Book of Life; which is next to Tilism-e-Hoshruba, which is… oh, there’s a multi-storey of Harry Potter hardbacks—all being the Deathly Hollows (the final volume 7!). And right above the Oxford Advanced Learner’s lies a red Salman Rushdie hardbound.
And somewhere within all these books, you might spot a bit of Muhammed Anas, a camera-shy young man who agrees to be snapped after prolonged hesitations. He set up the shop three years back; his father had a book business in the kitab market of Nai Sadak in distant Old Delhi. “Papa sometimes sits here in the morning.” Anas planted the shop at this address “because no bookstore was here, apart from a few shops selling school textbooks.” The place has textbooks too—from enonomics and psychology to fat medical college tomes. Being close to Jamia Millia University, “I also meet many students who come here to get novels.”
The books are sourced from various places, including libraries and private residences when they dispense off with their collections. “We also supply books to libraries… in places as far as Kashmir and Ladakh.”
A girl enters, enquiring after an unimaginative title— 101 Essays. Anas takes out the book from some unseen spot, as casually as a magician flicking out a rabbit from his topi.
The store opens daily from 11 am to 9 pm. Opposite JD Kurti shop.