TWENTYONE-year-old Shubham Bhalerao tries to find a quiet corner to read books while spending the night at Shivaji Park on the intervening night of December 5 and 6 when lakhs of people travel to the city from all over the country to pay their respects to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar at Chaityabhoomi. The second-year engineering student has been accompanying his father Kailash in setting up a book stall outside Shivaji Park for over 10 years.
His favourite part in the entire process remains reading the books. “Whenever there is time for a break, I try reading as much as I can from the books we have brought to sell, especially during the night,” Shubham says.
His father looks on and talks about his favourite books. “I read and re-read everything written by Babasaheb,” he says.
The father-son duo are among the many men and women who set up book stalls in Dadar on Mahaparinirvan Diwas. Kailash came to Mumbai from Yawal in Jalgaon district over 20 years ago in search of livelihood. He was the first in his family of farmers to get education, Kailash says. He was pursuing a Masters degree in Geography when he took up a job in an AC repair company. “The company shut shop in a few years and I was looking for a job again. An acquaintance suggested that I set up a book stall here on April 14 — Ambedkar Jayanti — and on December 6 —Mahaparinirvan Diwas. He himself was a dealer in books and in the first year, he gave me books worth around Rs 2,000 to sell,” recalls Kailash.
In the first few years, Kailash says, he barely made enough money. But he continued as he got a sense of the kind of books people come looking for.
“I would initially bring in all kinds of authors. I realised people seek books on Babasaheb —his work, his writings and his biographies. I bring a maximum of those now. This year, I brought books worth around Rs 50,000,” he says. But the rain in the city due to cyclone Ockhi played a dampener. “We usually come here from December 5 but this year, due to the rain, we could only come here on December 6. Many returned or faced losses due to damage caused to the books because of the rain and sludge all over,” Kailash says.
Kailash also sets up book stalls on April 14 and other occasions, including on days when lectures and other events are held in the city. Throughout the year, he helps organise marriages, birthdays and other ceremonies, he says.
Residing with his family at a Buddhavihar, these are the few days when his wife, two sons and a daughter, come together to set up stalls at various places outside Shivaji Park.
“For these days, it is not just about selling books or making profits. I feel proud that as a follower of Babasaheb, I get an opportunity to spread his thoughts through this work,” Kailash says.