Lining the pavement along the busy intersection at Flora Fountain is a treasure trove that draws bibliophiles from all over. Here, books can be bought sold, or borrowed from booksellers, who even offer recommendations to readers in the genre they prefer. Everything from classics to contemporary bestsellers, from academic books to comics such as Archie and Tinkle and from management books to anthologies of poetry are available here. “Every reader has interest in a particular genre, I ask them about their interest and then suggest books they can read,” says Dilip Mahindkar, a 49-year-old bookseller who has been in the business for 20 years.
Most of the booksellers say they started working right after they completed Class XII. “I finished Class XII from a Marathi-medium school and then got into the business of selling books. Over the years, I have developed a reading habit and I particularly enjoy reading biographies and spiritual books,” says Mahindkar. “I have been a regular at Dilip’s. One of the main attractions is that he has over 2,000 books to offer at one tiny spot on the pavement. Dilip goes out of his way to recommend books to you. He introduced me to the writings of Robert Jordan and I am hooked to it now. I recently bought the eighth book from his series called The Wheel of Time,” says Nitish Kulkarni, a 22-year-old who recently started working at an office near Flora Fountain.
Easy on the pocket, buying books, which are usually second-hand, from these booksellers has its own charm, feel readers. “I absolutely love the little bits of notes or underlined portions and all the love filled in the margins. I can spend hours here, browsing through the stacks and bargaining for a cheaper deal,” says Shubhannita Das, a 21-year-old old Literature student from Kolkata, who makes frequent visits to Mumbai.
“My favourite part is being invited into this cramped space where books are stacked on top of each other only to discover books you might not have come across otherwise,” she adds. These bookstalls also function as a large-scale lending library. “We lend books by charging a deposit amount equal to the full price of the books and then refund seventy five percent of the amount once the books are returned,” explains Nilesh Trivedi, who inherited this business from his father.
“I wanted to buy books that helped me understand Indian culture and the vendors around Flora Fountain handed me Maximum City by Suketu Mehta, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and books by Amartya Sen and Shashi Tharoor. I bought seven books at a really cheap price,” says Angelin Tresy, who visited Mumbai on a student exchange programme from Belgium.