”Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.
Charles William Eliot
Have you every visited a heritage family home? Faded plastered walls, hanging chandeliers, wooden round tables and above all… smelled the lingering musty, rich smell of books and papers?
Those were the days… without the digital screens:Television, iPads, Tabs, and Kindle.
Those were the days… when reading and reading aloud was encouraged during family meal times and on cold winter nights. Reading not only stimulates the brain, but promotes conversation.
Those were the days… when birthday and anniversary presents came in the form of books – just black and white print.
My Sunday morning turned special, as I took my helper to buy books for her new college term. We took a long ride by bus to Koti, across the Musi river in Hyderabad. ‘Aunty, please’ she reminded ”Don’t start taking photos, else the shopkeepers will stare, or may raise book price’ and I smiled.
What a visual treat stretched out on the street off the bus depot! Being a Sunday less traffic means more road space. Books, books everywhere. Universal Book Centre, RajKamal Books, NeelKamal Book Centre and Famous Book shop and others have stood the test of time here. College students come flocking to Koti at the start of the start of new term. The shops dizzying, neat vertical rows of curricular books, was indeed promising.
Kothi, in Hindi and Urdu means house. During the Nizam era the area housed concubines and other women folk attending to the royal family. Kothi has some famous buildings that house long-standing educational institutes. The splendid architectural Women’s college and nearby Osmania University caters to medical, nursing and Arts courses. Nearby the Gandhi Gyan Kendra , a good place for Yoga courses is a 40 year-long establishment. Thus the business of selling academic books in Koti has been thriving for many decades, changing to the needs of the day.
Medicine, Astrology, Science, Grammar, Spoken English books as well as guides for competitive exams such as TOEFL, CAT, EAMCET are most sought after. Ruled notebooks, account ledgers, drawing books, stationary items are also sold at competitive price. Ever bought notebooks by weight? Come here, there’s no haggling. At a fixed price of Rs. 100/ per kilo for notebooks of A4 size we bought 3 kilos plus course books for Rs. 430/ at a discounted government rate for the CEC curriculum ( Civics, Economics, Commerce). Heavy! heavy I cried.
Further on, the dirty dilapidated subway near Andhra bank is not the best place for a Sunday visual treat! Yet, deep under, on dark descending steps multitude of book sellers cater to second-hand academic books. Best buys for needy college students as they get a loan period and discounts at Rs. 150 – 300.
Such a heartwarming sight! Few college girls were deeply engrossed into comparing syllabus books at these second-hand shops. The thirst for education, the need for term books and being pocket wise was obvious.Well done!
Further under the canopy of trees, spread out on large plastic sheets fiction books,classics and children’s story books covered entire stretch of the pavement. Hemingway, Stephen King, Eliot,Tagore, Salman Rushie and new Indian authors like Chetan Bhagat, Jhumpa Lahiri. Ah! what a spread! Though a serious buyer or collector may frown upon the small print, brown pages, authenticity of editing and grammatical errors, the competitive price at Rs. 300-350 seemed like a bargain for just quick lazy reads. Take it or leave it, no haggling.
Arms heavy with carrying the buy of the day, it was time to head home. Popular street book markets are found in most cities. In my college days I often went to Flora Fountain, Mumbai to buy classics or second-hand books. Maybe, I should turn the clock and revisit.
Have you been to a street book market in your city? How was it different?
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