You may disdain Mills & Boon (MB) novellas but that should not prevent the admission that Kuldip Chander , the seller of MBs, is a great product that has come out of that pulp factory.
Year after year, this quiet and unassuming man is seen seated on the same spot outside his little shack in Hargyan Singh Arya Marg, a rutty lane in South Extension-I. We rarely see a crowd at ‘Kuldeep Book Shop’, but since Chander has been in business for more than four decades, he must be making money. One of the three signboards outside his stall advertise: “Return the books and take half the money back.”
Chander was six when his father left the hometown Gujranwala, now in Pakistan, in 1947. They came to India as Partition refugees. The family lived in various towns in North India before settling in Delhi in 1958.
After graduating from a government school in Lodhi Road, Chander opened a second hand bookshop in Defence Colony in 1965. In the beginning, he stocked thriller novelists such as James Hadley Chase, Nick Carter and Alistair MacLean. He would get them from the discards of private libraries and also, of course, from second-hand book dealers in Daryagnaj’s Sunday Book bazaar. The customers were, and still are, mostly college students, especially girls, looking for bargains in R30 romance paperbacks.
With the advent of TV, the business dimmed. Chander closed the Defence Colony establishment and opened a stall of MBs in South Extension in 1985. There he has become as much of a landmark as Bengali Sweet House across the street. Commuting in DTC bus route 222, he reaches his stall at 11 am and leaves for home at 10 pm. He does not read books.