– The Booklifter’s guide to the El-dorado of (relatively) cheap second-hand books.
I am talking about the same book market which has been branded as ASIA’S SECOND LARGEST SECOND-HAND BOOK MARKET (I don’t know which is the FIRST-HAND one and I am not even bothered. If you are, ask Google na). I know that you know what kind of books you can get from this market, I know that you have got enough money to buy the whole market (and if you are into Micheal Crichton or Shobha De, kindly click on the X button, at the top-right corner of the page which turns red the moment you move your cursor over it), but my blog is for those thirsty/hungry-for-good-literature-poverty-stricken-readers who cannot afford (or who don’t want to spend money because they don’t get enough from their guardians or day/night jobs OR are simply High-principled and think, like me, that books are not getting the ‘right’ treatment in the Sunday-book-market and books get slave-like treatment so one should act as their savior and, with all due respect, ‘Lift‘ them)
We will talk about the questions related to the immorality of ‘lifting’ books and all that (Charlie Parker) jazz, later, when we have all the books by the Prousts & the Fitzgeralds or every penguin edition Manto book (only English, unfortunately) stacked up in our small rooms. So BOOKLIFTERS, buckle up and make a list of whatever has been missing in your small dilapidated so-called library. Let us start our imaginary walking tour from the (Now Non-existent) Iron Foot-over Bridge a.k.a. ‘Lohay Ka Pull’ (people still call that spot by the same name) and via ‘Golcha’ cinema and ‘Sablok Sex-Clinic’, we will take a right from ‘Mother Dairy’ and walk towards ‘Delite’ Cinema. Let me tell you that there are three kinds of book sellers in this market – the first is he who knows the content of his shit (the worth of his books), he won’t budge. She/he won’t even bargain with you at any cost (Lifting Level – Tough or Lucky). The second, those sellers who just know the names of the best sellers (Slap-on-our-collective-faces – Chetan Bhagat’s marvelously ridiculous shit and that ‘Twilight’ or ‘Alchemist’ kind of bestselling shit but they also know about Rushdie and Dickens and the real worth of Fat books with attractive covers) but the good news is that one can bargain with them (Lifting Level – Medium, only if you are two people). Last and almost like a feast, those sellers who don’t know anything about any book and if you are a good BARGAINER, you will end up getting 80 percent off on the price that they quote (Lifting Level – Easy & if you are a real ‘Booklifter’, just take the book in your hands and start walking)
Let’s start walking…
Around Lohay Ka Pull, on the right hand side, there is a small Mandir with a small idol of some Hindu God(des). On its right, there is this guy who is very lax and sometimes (unexpectedly) you can get poetry books (once I’d lifted Auden and Yeats, from here) and you can get ‘On the Road’ or Chacha Nehru’s, that History or Letters Book (whatever that’s called), depending on your luck. The guy who sits here is cute with the lifters and the chances are you might come back and pay him out of mixed feelings of gratitude and respect.
Lifting Level – Easy to medium, depending on how many guys are available at the time
(Treasure collected from here – The Shining, selected poetry by Yeats, short poems by Auden, selected works of Oscar Wilde, Camus’s Exile and the Kindom (torn from the front), Tagore’s Gora, & my all-time favourite Portnoy’s Complaint (Old looking black cover but lovely lovely lovely))
Let’s walk towards Golcha now, just after the KACHODI WALA guy, there is one Old Uncle. This uncle knows his shit and you won’t find much here but, yeah, one can always try and look. Before the small hidden fruit market and the music instrument shops, there is this guy who looks like a worn-out desi boxer. He must be 5’ 10” and sturdily built. Last time I had a chat with him as a fake documentary film maker and he opened up to me. He told me that he’s in love with some girl from his neighborhood and he’s planning to marry her. An optimistic romantic, he has started keeping music and film magazines as well but if you have punched a bad guy in the last week and earned some good karma, you might catch a glimpse of Italo Calvino or Kunzru or Naipaul (a friend of mine lifted ‘A bend in the river’ from here). I, personally, have lifted Rabbit, Run from here once but that was in 2006. He is ‘medium-level’, previously he was not much concerned about the Booklifters but now he seems like he is always on the lookout for one and if he catches you, you are going to get your share of misshapen noses and broken jaws but the boxer is open for a ‘healthy’ bargain.
Lifting Level – now, Tough
(Treasure collected – If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler (a little soiled by rain), One Hundred Years of Solitude (spine-cracked), Romantics (Mishra ji, fine condition), A general Introduction to Psychoanalysis-Freud, Between Thoughts and Expression – Lou Reed, A long way down – Hornby, Red Earth and Pouring Rain, etc,)
Next stoppage point is the guy who wears Red Jackets in winters and some grey or black T-shirt in Summers. He sits with his Old man. Old man looks after the Magazines and coffee table books and the boy/man looks after the literature books. He used to look (a little bit) like Johnny Depp from ‘What’s eating Gilbert Grape’ when he was relatively young & when he had long locks. These days, he just looks like another fair 25 year old Indian. He seems 5’5” and (some may say) handsome. He looks innocent for his own good and he believes that bargaining is the key to survive and protect his stuff from the Booklifters. He keeps his books scattered in three sections – one is with the old man with all the coffee table books, other one is on the road where all the books are neatly placed where you can look at the book covers and a smaller section in the narrow small street which goes inside the residential area, this is where you get the best books. The Indian-Depp boy/man looked like an old friend from my high school, the day I planned to walk off with the (old looking) hard-back of The Captive (Proust, if you don’t know) but I came back and bargained and paid him 40 rupees. You can get Theroux or Henry James or Plato or D. H. Lawrence or Hunter S Thompson from here.
Lifting Level – Medium, but every book here is worth bargaining.
(Treasure collected – Farewell to Arms (Hardback), Eugiene O’ Neill – Nine Plays (Hardback), Arthur Miller – Collected Plays (Hardback), Hocus Pocus – Vonnegut, Generation of Swine – Hunter, The Discovery of Drama, An Actor Prepares, etc,)
Before the newly made (out of place) Cafe Coffee Day (yuckiee), you might come across many book-stands/stalls where, in your lucky days, there is a strong possibility of seeing Dostoevsky’s Idiot or Crime & Punishment, hopelessly lying with the guy who sells Old Penthouse and Playboy/girl glossy magazines for our lonely times and once I met Mr. M. F. Hussain’s Book of sketches but the guy was charging too much. You can get anything from Norman Mailer to Evelyn Waugh to Cormac McCarthy to Erica Jong (just show a little faith) here. You’ll come across a slew of characters on the way, for instance, this guy who has recently turned religious. Earlier, he had a spiky hairdo and I always saw him in some funky t-shirt with ripped denims but now he always wears his religious cap and he has a big beard. To me, he looks too young to take refuge in any religion. He sits right next to some ATM before Golcha. I bought my first Murakami (Norwegian Wood) from here in Rs 100 Only (It was original & new). He used to smile a lot in those days but now he sits with a plain face. From Golcha to Mr. President’s stand (I’ll tell you in a while), there are bookstands with IIT, Engineering, GMAT & CAT shit and they draw most of the crowd. There is this shrewd tall guy with specs (he has three or four guys working for him now) who can surprise you with some great books. He bargains but he knows his shit, he knows which book is for how much.
Lifting Level – Medium (if you are with a girl) – Tough (if you are alone)
(Treasure collected – Castle (Kafka), Junky (Burroughs) – South of the Border West of the Sun (Murakami), David Copperfield, Slaughter House Five (Vonnegut), High Fidelity (Hornby), Autograph Man (Zadie Smith), Afternoon Raag (Amit Chaudhari), English August (Upamanyu, my fav), the Buddha of Suburbia & the body (Hanief Kureshi, another fav), Gravity’s Rainbow & Crying lot of 49 (Pynchon), Moor’s Last Sigh (Rushdie cheechee), etc,)
Mr. President (of the Union of Daryaganj Bookmarket People) sits with his wife (aunty, always in Mehroon Saari with specs) a few meters after the ‘Changezi Chicken’. Mr President has a squeaky voice but he looks like some supporting character from Dickensian world. I don’t know why but these days he is getting rid of all of his books in Rs 30 and Rs 50. I bought The Match (Gunsekra) and Don Quixote in total of Rs 60 last week. There is no need to bargain as the prices are cheap and Mr. President is always ready to talk about the history of the book market and how it survived the tests of the time and all that.
Lifting Level – Medium to Tough, Beware – Aunty with specs is a champion in catching hold of Booklifters.
You may find Panchtantra or Mahabharata or Ramayana in English here (Penguin Edition), Updike and Philip Roth are also available sometimes.
Nanda Brothers. As the legend goes, they are in the business from the past 40 years. Nanda bros have two stands – one before the ‘Big’ Beer and Wine shop and the other one comes much later, right next to the ‘Small’ Beer and Wine shop (this Nanda brother here wears spectacles). Earlier, their father used to sit here before them, now they have expanded their business. You will find good quality books here (recent shit as well). Once I lifted ‘The Complete works of Shakespeare Vol.2’ from the stand where Non-specs-y brother sits, and it was a close call. They are rigid when it comes to bargaining, but they have good books.
Lifting Level – Tough, Dragon Level
(Treasure collected – The Trial (Kafka), Amsterdam (McEwan), Dance Dance Dance(Murakami), Paddy Clarke Hahaha, The Remains of the Day (Ishiguro), Trainspotting, Hell’s Angels, Something to Tell you (Hanief Kureshi). Books by Barnes, Martin & Kingsley Amis, Naipul, Virginia Woolf, Erik Hobsbawm, Sarnath Bannerjee’s Graphic Novels, Garcia Marquez, etc, can be found in great condition and enigmatic quality)
After walking for 250 meters, you will come across a fat uncle. He sits after the motorbike helmet shops. He has all the books published by RUPA in the last decade (supposedly) and you can get nice shit if you are into Indian political discussions or Caste or Up-lift-ment of the society and all that bullshizz. I’d once bought Raymond Chandlers Omnibus (Picador) from here in good shape and Eugene Ionesco’s plays, too. Uncle is always angry out of no reason (if you ask me he looks like the Indian version of Italian Middle Aged Gangster, without the tux).
Lifting and Bargaining level – Tough, too tough, very tough
Just near the Sablok Sex-clinic, there is this guy who has started selling old Hindi movie posters. He’ll bargain if you buy more than one poster. Walk a little and take a right from Mother Dairy (milk shop). I know you must be thinking that why aren’t we going to the ‘Masterji’s corner’ which is on the left hand of the Mother Dairy. Yeah, I know, but I kind of dislike him coz he is a bourgeois. He never bargains and he has got over-priced, good books but I don’t like him that much, you can go and see yourself if you want.
Lifting level – Medium Medium
On this small lane, which starts from Mother Dairy and ends at the famous ‘Bread-Pakora’ corner, you can get The Illiad, Teach yourself – French, Spanish, German, Books by Jack London, Zadie Smith, Rushdie, Nietzche, Ondaatze, Koetzee, Anthony Bourdain, Ginsberg’s poems, Kerouc, E. L. Doctrow, Hemmingway, Maupassant, Chekhov, etc. On the left hand, just before the fruit selling hawkers, there is an old ‘Miah’ Uncle, you can call him ‘cha-cha’. He keeps rare books in Urdu and you can get loads of old rare hard-back shit. I don’t remember what I saw last week but I got ‘Collected works of Mahatma Gandhi’ once (hard back with old-orgasmic-book smell), Miah ji is worth checking out.
After taking a left from the ‘Bread-Pakoray-wala’, opposite the telephone exchange, there is Mr. Javed (with a perpetual sad face), who gave me my first copy of Crime and Punishment and on his right there is this guy who gave me my first copy of Tropic of Cancer (Two books that changed the way I think). Last week, I got this big fat collection of short stories by Jack London (great quality hard-back) in Rs 30. You can get anything from Rohinton Mistry to Pamuk to Fitzerald to Conan Doyle to Peter Carey to Bertolt Brecht here.
Lifiting Level – Medium, but he bargains handsomely if you are buying more than two books
Now, from here till Hotel Broadway, you will come across many book stands, where you will find random books. I can only tell you what I could find – Justine (Sade), Londonstani (Malkani), Call of the Wild & White Fang (Jack London), Age of Reason (Sartre), Outsider (Camus), Difficult Loves (Italo Calvino), Out of Africa (Dinesen), Color Purple (Walker), To know a Woman (Amos Oz), The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes & Lewis Carroll, Cloud Atlas (David Mitchel), Will To Knowledge (Foccoult), Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy, etc,. Few Meters away from Hotel Broadway, there is this guy who has all the classics of English. If you are not much into the conventional shit then this is THE place for you. These days, he is also giving away some glossy-cover books in Rs 50 only. I once bought ‘Chronicles – Bob Dylan’ from him and my friend lifted ‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas’ at the same time. And just before him, there is this other Punjabi uncle who is also capable of giving you a shock with Don Delilo’s hardbacks or Anthony Keidis’s Scar Tissue or with books by Barnes or Amitav Ghosh
Lifting Level in this alley – Medium, bargaining works
From here till Delite Cinema, if you still have enough stamina to focus, you can get anything by James Joyce or Graham Greene or Nabokov or Roddy Doyle or Saul Bellow or Salinger or Ibsen’s Plays or Van Gogh’s Letters book or Brando’s – Songs my mother taught me, or Kazan’s – A life or Secret World of Harvey Oswold or Woody Allen’s – Without Feathers or Jim Morrison’s – No one here gets out alive or Zadie Smith’s – White Teeth or Adiga’s – White Tiger or Dali’s Paintings or book on Talking Heads or you can also get National Geographic books on weird animals like Raccoons with their pictures in intimate and intimidating poses (I got all of them).
I can’t walk anymore. Hope you have collected enough books for a month/lifetime. Let me listen to Ella Fitzerald’s AND HER TEARS FLOWED LIKE WINE..and her tears flowed like wine.