delhi’s sunday book market

You pass the hospitals and cricket stadiums and tree-lined lanes until you reach Delhi Gate: the old stone arch that, fenced off and surrounded by traffic, marks the high-water point of the colonial government’s urban renewal. Hemmed in beyond this point are the alleys and shouts and cows and puddles of Old Delhi. And on any other day, you’d plunge headlong into the narrowest alley you could find, wondering what sights (monkey fight! dismembered goat legs! monk on a cell phone!) you’d see this time.

Except today is Sunday. Book market day.

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The book market stretches westward from this point along Jawaharlal Nehru Marg (the southern border of Old Delhi) and northward on Bahadur Shah Jafar Road (which bisects Old Delhi from Darya Ganj, an open-air exhibition of Indian art deco architecture that we’ve only recently begun to explore). The booksellers line the sidewalk every Sunday, only on Sunday, spreading their wares before them — some in neat rows, some in crazy piles, some in towering stacks.

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The selection ranges from the sublime (The Phantom Tollbooth!) to the bizarre (Bob Uecker wrote a book?); from the obsolete (Windows 3.1 guides) to the obscure (indigenous water management technique in Gujarat). Some are new, some are old, almost all are tread upon by barefoot salespeople shouting dasrupeesdasrupeesdasrupees as they stride from sale to sale.

The smell of old books overwhelms everything else. It’s wonderful.

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You wouldn’t have expected the paperback novelization of The Empire Strikes Back to make it to India. Nor would you have thought there was such demand for torn-up romance novels on the subcontinent. And seriously, Bob Uecker???

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Within the chaos, patterns emerge. One guy only has hardcover Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Harry Potter, all of them missing their dust jackets. Yet another has collected seventies spy novels featuring every James Bond wannabee you’ve never heard of (Johnny Fedora? Harry Palmer? Paul Christopher? Duff?). And good news for students of programming languages nobody uses any more: you’ll find more crumbling manuals than you can shake a SPARCstation keyboard at.

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On this trip, one of the elderly booksellers on Jawaharlal Nehru Marg overheard my rudimentary Hindi. He was standing over a strewn pile of thin nonfiction paperbacks. “You know Hindi?” He asked me. “Main Hindi sihkraha hai,” I agreed, my accent and subject/verb agreement as bad as my spelling. “Then I have something for you,” he said. He walked across his pile and began rummaging, tossing volumes left and right as he burrowed deeper, carving a path this way and that, turning left and right to toss books he’d already tossed in case they’d landed on the one he wanted.

After a few minutes, during which I stood and waited and wondered what he’d come up with, he finally picked up a book of Urdu-English translations. He skimmed through it, muttered, scowled, and tossed it on the pile. “Sorry,” he said. “Can’t find it.”

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27 responses to “delhi’s sunday book market

  1. Love ur snaps… time and gain in each of ur posts. I hear there is a threat in Delhi now.. Stay Safe!

  2. Pingback: Eiriks forfatterblogg :: Søndagsbokmarkedet i New Delhi

  3. As for the trackback above: it’s from my Norwegian writer’s website. 🙂

  4. Lovely set of pics! I am sure you know that many books were pirated.

  5. I love that the dark skinned arms in the first photo were holding “The Rules” I have no fewer than three copies of this floating around my apartment. If you want to get a man in 1950 suburbia, this is the resource to look for.

  6. This is one of my favourite place in Delhi, every metropolis in India has a book market, but nothing can match the Sunday market of Delhi, specially if ur a student and have limited budget to spent on fiction.

  7. This market is a jewel..a veritable paradise for book lovers. Great pics btw!

  8. I love Phantom Tollbooth one of my favorite books as a child. I bought it again as an adult but I think I sold it a few years ago.

  9. Pingback: Mercat de llibre vell a l’Índia * Diari d’un llibre vell

  10. In the winter of 98 I travelled each Sunday to the Daryaganj area to take part in a Suncday special coaching for the India’s Medical School enterance exams. I do not quite recall what I studied in those classes and I never qualified those exams!! But my best memories are spending the couple of hours lunch break we used to get rummaging through these very book stalls.

    Reading your post brings back so many memories. I am glad that you discovered this little gem and hope you spend time exploring it.

  11. “I can’t find it ”
    Have looked through the amazing pictures,; no wonder he couldn’t find it.

    liv

    Nylig lest
    “dyrets folk”. Anbefales!
    Hva skjedde i India i 1984?

  12. Pingback: Through another’s eyes – “Our Delhi Struggle” « India Unfinished

  13. Hi! been there a long time back. Picked up some real good books . But my husband refuses to go to the maddening rush now. I dont mind taking a bus. u get beautiful collection of you name it what. lovely experience.

  14. Hi there. I was looking for information about “the Daryaganj Sunday book market” and stumbled upon ur blog; and i am glad i did. truly enjoyed the sassy, wise and practical approach. Liked ur inputs on the sunday book market. I am an ardent book lover and a voracious reader. I want to know more about the famous Sunday book market in Daryanganj. Does the market still exists and is it as good as it’s name? Would appreciate inputs, advices and any piece of information on the same. Thanks & regards.

    P.S. Will come back for more of this crazy, sassy stuff with ample time in hand 🙂 Good luck to u.

  15. Pingback: how to enjoy Delhi during the Commonwealth Games (despite what the media says) | Our Delhi Struggle

  16. greetings

  17. its nice

  18. i like it for the trinklets other than books old stams coins and there rare 1st edition s

  19. plz sent me linguistics book list

  20. Excellent Website, Keep up the excellent work. Thank you!

  21. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts
    and I am waiting for your further write ups thank you once again.

  22. Hello, just wanted to tell you, I liked this article.
    It was inspiring. Keep on posting!

  23. You should take part in a contest for one of the highest quality blogs on the web.
    I am going to recommend this blog!

  24. Est-il possible de piquer deux ou trois phrases sur mon site personnel ?

  25. This website really has all of the information and facts
    I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  26. i want to sell old books of
    1 Electronics & telecom for BE
    2text books of science for class 10, 11 and 12 .

  27. Brijmohan Chaudhary

    I want book for my child 2 to 5 year.

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