I am not one of the avid readers, neither am I a well-read person. I am one of those who spend money on books just to decorate their own little library. I like to sit between books, with a cup of warm coffee, in a comfortable arm chair, swinging as the air swiftly touches my face. Cliched enough?
I stepped out of my house today to figure out my life, this is what I texted my friend on Whatsapp. I decided not to attend my college that day but explore something; didn’t know what that “something” was until I stepped out of the Moolchand metro station, strode a bit, entered Lajpat Bhawan and got allured to this board.
Book shop, it said.
It looked like an old shop. I wondered if anyone had visited that place since the last decade. It was summer silent there. I was standing under the scorching sun, in front of this shop, convincing myself to give this shop a visit once.
For a Cause, I read. I could notice the capital C in the word ’cause’ calligraphed on the wall. This gave me a reason to go inside the shop and find out what this place is in real. I stepped on the first stair which said, welcome, and then on the second stair which said, Books.
Just when I put my first step in the shop, I heard a voice of a lady speaking to someone. I couldn’t concentrate on what she was talking since I lost my focus in the bundles of books of various genre kept one over the other in a chaos. Gazing at the jillion books, I walked little steps further inside the shop and saw a grey-haired lady talking to a middle-aged man about the prices of the books. My footsteps distracted her from the argument and she took a gander at me.
Yes? She asked.
I want some books, I said stammeringly.
Tell me the names?
I showed her a newspaper cutting where names of few books were mentioned.
You can browse here. The books are starting at Rs. 10, followed by Rs. 30 and Rs. 50, and the rest of the books are priced depending on their condition with maximum price being 50% of their original price, she pointed towards the shelves.
I was taken aback, apparently, when I saw Khaled Hosseini’s ‘And the mountains echoed‘ being sold for half the original price.
I started looking for good books. Half an hour later, the old woman left the place and then came a beautiful young lady in place of her. She looked like a bachelorette. I lack the vocabulary to describe how loquacious and vivacious woman she seemed to me. I selected the books of my choice and asked her to add up the amount. During the total, I was dumbfounded because it was fraction of the cost of the book.
I’ll buy them the next time I would come here, I said keeping away “The winner stands alone” by Paulo Coelho because I was short on money.
I guess she sensed the despair on my face and reserved the books for me that I could visit her again to buy the books. I did as she told me to do.
As I was leaving she asked me to stay a little longer. I wasn’t in a rush, so I decided to stay. She had a lot to talk about; from being a foodie to being a mother of a young guy, she told me everything in those two hours. I couldn’t believe that she is a mother, seems like she uses Santoor soap.
There were so many questions lingering in my mind regarding the Book shop which I asked her one after the other and she answered all of them enthusiastically.
It was back in the year 2000 when “Book Shop” was unofficially started by Late Ms. Satyanand along with a group of ladies under their organisation, S.O.P.S. – Sisters-of-the-People-Society, which was established back in 1981. Since there was no space to keep huge bundles of books so they kept the books in their garage and sold them from there. But what was the need to run this shop? I asked.
She smiled and said, it’s for a cause, S.O.P.S. has established 18 balwadis supporting thousands of children between the age group of 3 to 5. The funds we raise from here are all used for their adequate education, meal, and vaccination. Approximately, 3 to 4 lacs are spent on each balwadi per annum.
The eagerness inside me pushed me to ask about the overflowing books in shelves there, to which she told me, are all donated by people.
People donate books here on regular basis. We sell them at cheap rates and make money for the children in slum. I have been working as a management professor for the last 25 years and have been a volunteer here for almost 10 years now, she kept speaking whilst I was making notes in my mind.
I couldn’t have been more surprised and elated. I was glad and thankful for visiting. After so many decisions that I have been repenting, this finally satisfied me. I bought my favourite ten books for a song.
It was time for the shop to be closed. Whilst she locked the shop I clicked the picture posted below. We hugged each other and said goodbyes.
For all those who wish to visit this shop, here’s the way –
Exit from Moolchand metro station and walk straight for 2-3 minutes. You would see a board of “Lajpat Bhawan” (Gate no.2). Enter there and you would get to see this banner of BOOK SHOP.
Congratulations! You’re there.
B.A English Honours, Jamia Millia Islamia