A new bookstore called ‘Kitab Khana’, the size of four two-bedroom flats, will open in the Fort area, likely by the end of November.
To be housed in Somaiya Bhavan, a heritage building at Hutatma Chowk, it will stock around 50,000 titles in English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati, said Amrita Somaiya, who along with her husband, Samir Somaiya, is a trustee of the Somaiya Education Trust in Vidyavihar.
“The Fort area has a wonderful mix of artists, students, businessmen, lawyers, journalists and other professionals. They can spend hours at the bookstore reading,” said Amrita Somaiya, who runs the Help a Child non-profit group, which gives underprivileged children scholarships for higher education.
The Somaiyas had rented the ground floor of the building to a private bank. But it has been lying empty for the past six years.
“Whenever we travelled abroad, we came across simple yet wonderful bookstores. We realised Mumbai needed something similar,” said Somaiya, who says the bookstore will also stock books in Indian languages. “I want to promote a culture of reading in the city.”
The store will be designed for browsing but will retain the heritage structure’s columns, stained glass and wrought iron railings, she said. South Mumbai is already home to bookstores such as Oxford Book Store at Churchgate, Crossword at Kemp’s Corner and Strand Book Stall in Fort, but book lovers say they would welcome another one.
“Bookstores today try to be too many things,” said Purva Shinde, a regular buyer of books. “I will definitely spend hours at a simple, spacious bookstore where I can browse for hours without any hassles.”
Kitab Khana will, however, have to contend with the enduring lure of the 62-year old Strand Book Stall, a city institution located just a few hundred metres away. Although it is small and cramped, Strand has legions of fiercely loyal customers.
“Our service is what binds people to this place,” said Sanjeev Kamat, sales executive at Strand, who has been with the bookstore for 28 years.
Even closer in the other direction lie the pavements from which the municipal corporation evicted rows of bookstalls two years ago. Kitab Khana could soon fill that vacuum.