The bookshop of 75-year old Narinderpal Singh in what was once a bustling Mai Sewan Bazaar has not changed. It looks the same as it did over five decades ago. The bricks, the door are the same and so are the shelves inside. Despite the shabby outlook of the shop, the owner is happy with himself for he has managed to safeguard the heritage of his grandfather and his father.
What saddens him is a glance up and down the lane where his shop is located.
“There were 70 - odd bookshops in this area, but now just three remain. The Pustak Market, which was part of the original Mai Sewan Bazaar, no longer exists,” he says.
Narinderpal lived in a three-storied house in a joint family in Pustak Market. The house still stands but is locked. The family has moved out. There was a time when he would just walk down from his home to his shop. But now his son drops him off every morning as the family now lives in the posh Ranjit Avenue since the mid-’90s.
“We moved out with a heavy heart, as here we were close to the abode of God, the Golden Temple. We were left with no option due to the drinking water shortage, choked sewers and frequent power cuts that take place in the vicinity of the shrine,” he explains.
There were many others like Narinderpal whose lives underwent a change when the Golden Temple Corridor plan was launched in July 1988. Narinderpal can still consider himself lucky, as his house and shop remained intact after the government went about demolishing structures, some over a hundred years old, in the 30-metre periphery of the shrine.
Though the corridor plan was launched after Operation Black Thunder, but it was first conceived after Operation Bluestar. The basic aim was to prevent the Golden Temple from becoming a sanctuary for armed militants.
However, Harinder Singh, the owner of ‘Gift House’ outside the shrine, was not as lucky. His house in Mai Sewan Bazaar was razed to the ground. He, too, moved out and built a new house, another home.