The Sunday bazaar at Daryaganj offers a variety of books for book lovers all over Delhi, and that too at cheaper rates than regular bookstores. The books sold in Sunday bazaar are mostly second hand but that does not affect the quality of the books.
Today after so many centuries, Daryaganj is still a market but now, an over populated busy and congested one. Now, it has the office of some of the most well known distributors, publication houses and organisations of the country, apart from the good Indian restaurants and shops selling different kinds of books. Near Daryaganj’s Golcha cinema, the bazaar is the only source of income for many of its 200 pavement booksellers. The books sold in this bazaar are mostly second hand. However, that does not affect the quality of the reading material available. You have everything from fiction to medical sciences, architecture to cookery books, comics to atlases, fiction to computers, classics to magazines, management to hobbies. You name it and this place has it. It is hard to classify the books here in a specific order, but a patient search will certainly yield in what you are looking for. Whether it is a book on cooking, computer engineering or a book by Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, Premchand and Sharad Chand, Ravindra Nath Tagore, they have it all at cheap rates.
The customers are of all ages and sizes, with college students comprising the majority. A student preparing for his MCA entrance comes all the way from south Delhi to buy books. A group of architecture students look for journals and magazines on design and planning, which are very expensive at regular bookstores. “I am a literature student and must read a lot. However, I cannot afford to buy brand new books all the time. So I regularly come here or visit the corner book shop at Mithas,” confided a young customer.
Suresh, the shop owner, sells all kinds of books. “I generally buy books from the publishing companies itself, and at times from distributors. The source is not important, as long as the books are good” said Suresh. “I also collect books by exchange. Many foreigners buy books here, which they read and do not necessarily want to carry back. If we like their books, we take two of their books and give them one book of their choice in return.
Many book-lovers, who throng the weekly market at Daryaganj were recently surprised to see books once presented to prime ministers by their authors, being sold on the pavements. Though a majority of them are those presented to Atal Bihari Vajpayee
, one can also find books given to VP Singh, Chandra Shekhar
, Rajiv Gandhi
, PV Narasimha Rao and Deve Gowda
. “You can also find historical and rare books in this market. The other day, I sold a book which was presented to the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru
,” said another bookseller.
According to Subhash Chand Agrawal, President, Sunday book bazaar Patri Welfare Association, the market has been a Sunday feature in the area for the past three decades. Not all books sold out here are second-hand. The sellers acquire books from different places. Many publishers, who are not able to sell the old editions of books, sell them to these pavement booksellers at cheaper prices. Also, loads of books remain unclaimed during transportation through trains and buses, which are then auctioned by Railway and other transportation authorities. However, according to one bookseller, Ram Nath, “Books also come from distributors on Ansari Road. “ Often, customers with old books lying at home come to sell them to these sellers. The sellers also sell in bulk, acting as distributors themselves. Traders dealing in used books come from as far away as Hyderabad, to buy their stock here.
What do these book-dealers do during the rest of the week? Some of them have small bookshops, while others spend the week preparing for the following Sunday. According to Gupta, “Buying books at good prices from different sources is a time-consuming task, which requires business
acumen and networking skills.” During the week, they also deliver books to various individuals or other sellers within their business network.
As always, authorisation of the market is a messy question. On the one hand, the market is quite established and its struggle for existence and recognition seems to be long over, but on the other, each hawker still pays Rs 200 per month to the police for “protection”. This is an unofficial arrangement, confided Anjaan, which keeps both the sides satisfied.
Kumar is categorical about not dealing in pirated books: “I sell an original version for Rs 150, after buying it for Rs 100; the pirated version of the same would cost me Rs 20 and I would sell it for Rs 50. The profit I make remains the same. So, why should I sell pirated stuff and run the risk of getting into trouble.”
Why would someone buy books from here? Obviously, they are cheaper. “Equally importantly,” said Gupta, “some books, which are difficult to find in usual bookstores are easily available here because they are taken off the shelves by publishers due to little demand.” While the cost of the books depends on one’s bargaining capacity, many can be purchased for as low a price as Rs 10. Is not just books in English, you will find Urdu, Arabic, and Hindi by the cartload. Plus, all those foreign language books discarded by tourists also find their way here.