Come Friday, and Delhi stands to lose one of its salient landmarks that has etched itself into the history of the city. The Sunday book market of Daryaganj might have seen four decades of this ever-changing city, but its future depends on an order which is to be passed on Friday.
Around 200-odd bookshops line the Netaji Subhash Chandra Road every Sunday, but the MCD has ordered the market to be relocated to Mata Sundari Road, and to discuss that, the booksellers are convening at the office of the Station House Officer of Daryaganj.
Arif Ali's father Samsher Ali had run their bookshop since past 15 years. Arif said, "The MCD have asked us to shift to Mata Sundari Road but everyone is sceptical because we have a customer base here. If we shift we are going to lose a lot of our customers. Besides there is a certain history associated with this place."
The market had been asked to move by the police but due pressure from various circles the decision was deferred till a consensus could be reached between the MCD and the booksellers. Hence this Sunday the market was still found in its old haunt.
"This Friday there's going to be a decision by the MCD on whether to allow the shops to sit here or to shift them," Samsher Ali said with Arif adding, "At one time we were asked by MCD to fill in a form and selected shop numbers were announced on the internet. These were the one who were allowed to set up shop here. I saw our shop number on the internet. It's 137. That's why I don't understand what is this new order all about. If the earlier scheme of MCD is anything to go by, we are here legitimately."
"The MCD order says that since it is a book bazaar only books should be there and not anything like toys or clothes stores," he said, adding, "off late a lot of these stores have come up."
The booksellers of Daryaganj usually spend the weekdays scrounging for books with all the sales being on Sunday. They get around 2,000-3,000 visitors every Sunday which helps them make a respectable profit.
Around two years ago a similar order had been passed when security reasons were cited after the bomb blasts in Delhi. And that ban had lasted for two month, after which things were back to normal on the Netaji Subhash Chandra Road.
Book lovers are also dismayed by the idea of losing the market from its original haunt. Gautam Sharma, a customer, said, "I remember coming to this place since I was a kid. Today I'm bringing my children over. I don't think the place will be the same if it shifts. Of course we'll still get books but people like me will lose the memories."
Another customer Amarjot Singh said, "It's not only about buying the books. It's also the nostalgia associated with this place for Delhiites, that too should count."