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Delhiwale: The mother of all secondhand bookstores

By December 6, 2018No Comments

Source : Hindustan Times

Discover the pleasures of hanging out in one of Delhi’s longest-surviving used bookstores.

Delhi has very few bookstores dedicated to secondhand books—sorry, but no disrespect to pavement stalls of Daryaganj’s Sunday Book Bazaar. The ones that come up shut down sooner rather than later. But one shop has stayed steady and it has the best collection of secondhand books–in secondhand prices!

The Jackson’s bookstore in central Delhi’s Paharganj sells novels and guidebooks at discounted rates. This cramped shop has books in more than 10 languages, including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean and Finnish.

Founded in 1996 in Main Bazaar, the store is tucked between a serpentine alley and a tiled mosque. It is mostly patronized by Paharganj’s foreign backpackers, which explains the abundance of Lonely Planet guides.

The owner, Deepak Kumar Dilani, also buys used books from his customers. In this way he has built a collection so extensive that here you find imprints from across the world. This afternoon some of the treasures include a first edition of Lonely Planet India, Daniyal Mueenuddin’s short story collection (the US-edition cover has the sticker of New York City’s Strand Book Store) and Andrew Harvey’s A Journey to Ladakh which is stamped with the seal of a secondhand bookstore in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

One could spend hours in this cute shop flipping through yellow-paged books, and stopping at passages underlined by earlier readers. Sometimes a novel might be inscribed by its previous owners. These handwritten notes, annotated with dates and place-names, help trace the book’s intercontinental journey.

You might also like to sit on the shop’s only chair and watch the pedestrians, rickshaws, and cows that make the traffic outside on the Main Market’s chaotic road.

The framed portrait of Mr Dilani’s late father, Jai Kishen, adds character to the shelves. He migrated from his home-town Karachi after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. The shop was named after him. The firangi foreigners altered Jai Kishen to Jackson.

Since this is a secondhand store, you might be tempted to bargain. But Mr Dilani is a dignified man who has come a long way from selling books on a pavement in Chuna Mandi. Please don’t haggle with him..

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