On October 21, 2013, in a post titled Of old books and dying telegrams, I wrote about the famed secondhand bookstalls of south Mumbai, located about 2 km (1.25 miles) from my office and 20 km (12.40 miles) from where I live. The following pictures are of more of these bookstalls situated outside American Express Bank at Flora Fountain, or Hutatma Chowk (Martyrs' Square). So far the municipal corporation has left them alone. Dozens of others on opposite footpaths were not so lucky; they were evicted a few years ago.
The booksellers don't read books but they know their books—ask for a title and they'll most likely have it. If they don't then they'll get it for you.
One of the good things about these footpath booksellers is that they also lend books on a library basis. For instance, you can borrow an Agatha Christie or a P.G. Wodehouse for Rs.100 ($1.60) and keep it for a month. Upon returning it, the bookseller will repay Rs.70 and pocket the balance Rs.30 as reading price. Prices vary depending on the book you borrow. However, before lending you the book, he makes a small notation on the last page, a sort of identification, so he knows you borrowed it from him. He will scribble 100 - 70 = 30 and put his initials next to it. There is no limit on the number of books you can borrow. In case you don't ever return the book, then he keeps Rs.100 as the actual price of the book. In fact, books are lent on the selling price on the assumption that you won't return them.
The famous St. Thomas Cathedral Church located a few metres away. Built in 1718, it is the first Anglican church in Mumbai (then Bombay). The nearby Churchgate station, the beginning and end of journey for office-goers and local commuters, gets its name from this church.
I seldom buy books from these sellers. If they know their books well, they know their prices even better. I have found other places, especially in the suburbs where I live, where good used books can be found much cheaper. The two John Gardner's James Bond novels I wrote about in the previous post would have cost me at least Rs.50 each (nearly a dollar) as opposed to Rs.20 (less than half a dollar) that I paid in the suburbs.
© All photographs by Prashant C. Trikannad