Five evenings after the formal launch of his eighth book, Nine Lives, author William Dalrymple (Will, if you please) was spotted at Bahrisons Booksellers in Khan Market.
Sitting next to a shelf stacked with coffee table volumes, he had some 300 copies of the book piled neatly on his right. Rajni Bahri, the store’s owner, was handing him the hardbounds one by one. Will was chatty. He discussed children, joked about learning Bengali, and praised a new book on Hinduism.
After half an hour, he was seen in front of the foreign magazine stall run by Mercury Audio Video. Next, his car was driving into Jor Bagh Market. He checked into The Book Shop. A Jor Bagh resident waiting for him cried out a ‘Hey’ and clapped her hands. She was the only customer present, besides Nini Singh and husband KD Singh, the storeowners. A friend had tipped her off that Will could be coming for an impromptu book signing. After signing some 25 copies, the author spent around 10 minutes browsing at the store. When KD said that City of Djinns, the award-winning Delhi travelogue, still sold the most among his several books, he laughed and made the indulgent face a parent does when hearing of the popularity of his favourite child. The Jor Bagh resident said, “City of Djinns was the reason why I moved from Hong Kong to Delhi.”
Once the author drove away, presumably, to his farmhouse near Mehrauli, KD shared an old anecdote with this reporter. Once Will came to The Book Shop in Khan Market (that branch shut down in 2006) to sign copies of his just-released book. He was with his wife, Olivia, who had illustrated the book. The event was well-publicised, the store was in the footfall-rich Khan Market, and this was William Dalrymple. A crowd was expected. Three hours passed; no one came. “Will was very good about it,” said KD . “He laughed all the time saying that it was his most memorable signing session.” Within three days, all copies were sold out.
More than a decade later, Will remains as marketable. After he left the Bahrisons, M. Singh, the store assistant, was heard predicting, “All 300 copies will be out in five days. We should have got Dalrymple to sign more.” At The Book Shop, KD said, “There has not been a single day that we have not sold a William Dalrymple.” Last Thursday, Bahrisons put the sales figure of Nine Lives to 325.