City Landmark – Anil Book Corner, Connaught Place
The friend around the corner.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Volga river is in Russia. Connaught Place (CP) too had its Volga, the restaurant. A denim showroom exists on the site. Also a part of CP’s history: Gaylord restaurant, Galgotia & Sons bookstore, Madras Hotel… these and many other landmarks in CP have been replaced by new landmarks, which in turn have been replaced by newer landmarks. The churning-manthan is keeping the colonial-era arcade invigorated and youthful.
Some long-standing CP landmarks however are still standing, like the Kwality restaurant, the Amrit Book Company, the Wenger’s cake shop, the Ram Chander & Sons toy shop… these places have entrenched themselves into CP’s soul. Each looks stately and venerable. Except for one.
Attached like a makeshift limpet to a cinema building, Anil Book Corner looks as if it had been hastily rustled out just this morning. It is literally a corner around the Middle Circle’s H block, essentially a road-facing wall of second-hand books. The stacks go up a bit too high; you fear the books might topple any moment (sometimes they do). Even so, this wobbly tenuous place have been a part of CP since 1972, not as old as the aforementioned cake shop or the toy shop but elderly nevertheless in the context of our furiously transforming megapolis. It has outlasted scores of iconic establishments. It even survived the 2017 death of Anil Kumar, its founder (his wife, Meena, drops by occasionally from her home in Inderpuri). It even outlived the next-door legend, the Bookworm, from 1977 to 2008.
The stall is made of thousands of books and three staffers—the elderly Timmy (real name: Paritosh), Vinod Kumar and Ram Kumar. This evening, Vinod and Ram play a game possible only in CP. They try naming the “hifi” showrooms and restaurants that were housed in the adjoining buildings, and now no longer exist: Trekking Point, Filmy Bar, Raheja Photography, Mirchi, Music World, Radio Gramophone House, Kapoor Jewellers, and so on.
To be sure, many of us not into serious reading might see no point in visiting the bookstall. But the principal point of this tiny furniture-less corner is its status as a god of small things; it is an address that has stayed surprisingly durable, surviving a series of rough times, including the Covid lockdowns. When so much has changed in good old CP, this friendly sight of roadside book stacks has remained alive, continuing to make memories for a new generation of Delhiites. Like this band of young browsers, see photo.