Every Sunday, for the past 54 years, this Daryaganj pavement transforms into a bibliophile’s paradise. The Daryaganj Sunday book market caters to book-lovers of all kinds — be it school students, university professors, or students preparing for competitive examinations.
The Delhi Municipal Corporation orders the closure of the market on Sundays preceding Republic Day (January 26) and Independence Day (August 15) every year. But for the first time in its history, the book market was closed for five weeks in a row.
The North Delhi Municipal Corporation had stopped the book vendors in January last week from setting up their shops at the Sunday market, first in view of the Republic Day celebrations and then the ASEAN Summit.
According to Ashrafi Lal, vice-president, Daryaganj Patri Sunday Book Bazar Welfare Association, the market was closed from December 31 and was re-opened only on February 5. There was also another change — Since then, the market has been functioning in around only a 1-km area starting from Golcha to Delite Cinema.
After working for around 25 years with a publishing firm in Asaf Ali Road, Gulab Chand decided to set his own shop in Daryaganj Sunday Book market as his salary of Rs 5,000 was not enough to feed his family and educate his children. Since the past 15 years, his Sunday begins at 5 in the morning and he sets up his stall near Delite Cinema by 9 am.
“Even for this makeshift market, all of us have to pay Rs 500 every Sunday. At times, we don’t even earn Rs 10 or 20. Those five weeks of closure were no less than a nightmare for us. The only good thing was I could spend some time with my family and children,” Gulab Chand said, adding his son earns around Rs 8,000 and gives it to the family.
“This market is one-of-a-kind and people from all walks of life come here. The aim of this market is to provide a wide range of books, magazines, and journals at a very low price. People who studied using books from here went on to become IAS officers, advocates, and bureaucrats. We are doing social service through this market. But what did we get? Around 70 book vendors don’t even have space now for setting up their stalls,” said Ashrafi Lal.
Just like several other book vendors, Manoj Kumar is the sole-earner of his family and has been setting up his shop for the past eight years. Most of the book vendors spend their week collecting books to sell at the Sunday book market. Sometimes, the students also sell their course books after the end of the academic year at school or college.
“No market means no business. It seemed as if the struggle will never come to an end. Now that the market is back, we were told that we should set our stalls within 4 by 6 space which is not enough to keep the books,” said Manoj Kumar.
Due to the paucity of space, the book vendors had to set up their bookstalls near Delhi Gate metro station. The shopkeepers are trying their best to adjust within the space by reducing their shop sizes but all this is causing huge loss to the booksellers.
“We met Ruchika Katyal, Deputy Commissioner, City-Sadar Paharganj Zone and even Union Minister Dr Harshvardhan regarding this. He wrote a letter to the Mayor requesting the market be allowed to function like earlier but our market is restricted now,” Ashrafi Lal said.
“I have been coming to this market since last year when my college friend told me that I must visit this market to get some rare books at dirt cheap prices. Recently I read that the market might never re-open and I was so disheartened. Thankfully the market is back,” said Purobi, a literature student at Delhi University.