City Home - Bookseller Manish Kapoor's House, Rohini West

City Home – Bookseller Manish Kapoor’s House, Rohini West

City Home - Bookseller Manish Kapoor's House, Rohini West

The unseen side of Sunday Book Bazar.

[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Sunday tends to be most special for Delhi’s booklovers. They head to the Sunday Book Bazar, which every week gets crammed with thousands of random books. The booklovers fish out their favourites and go back home. Some return to a non-reading household, its members already resentful about too many books hijacking too much of the limited space in the house.

What of a Book Bazar bookseller? How is his home like? What does his family feel about the books?

Step inside bookseller Manish Kapoor’s first-floor home, in north-west Delhi’s Rohini West. Bulky book towers claim half of the drawing room. They are almost touching the ceiling. The room has a bed and a long bench. Underneath both, the floor is piled up with books, as well as with the old issues of Time magazine (one cover is on the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s). There are old newspapers with historic headlines—a yellowing April 4, 1984 copy of The Hindustan Times is headlined “Our man soars into space.”

Many of the books here are extremely valuable. Manish specialises in first editions. Every day he drives around Delhi and its surrounding towns, hunting for prized catches. In his late 40s, he has been in the business since 1996, and inherited it from his father, late Balram Das, a Sunday Book Bazar pioneer. It all started one Sunday during the mid-1960s, Manish says, when eight hawkers first sat down on a Daryaganj pave with used books. The roadside market eventually extended into a mile-long line from Delite Cinema to Lohe Wala Pul, adding about 150 booksellers over the decades. A few years ago, the authorities moved the bazar to Mahila Haat plaza, close to the aforementioned cinema.

Manish’s wife have never been to the Book Bazar. Gazing at the massive stacks, she says everyone at home lends a hand to care for the books, including her two children. She inserts neem leaves inside the pages of the “antique” editions—“to keep the silverfish out.” (A neem tree’s branches lean into the drawing room balcony.)

After a round of namkeen and ice-cold Rooh Afza sherbet, the bookseller and family pose for a portrait. See photo: Manish Kapoor with wife Rashmi, daughter Nandini, a school student; while son Lokansh, an engineering student, is out on an errand.