Delhi’s Sunday book market, mired in #WeekendCurfew
It’s the third Sunday in a row that the popular Sunday Book Bazaar, still remembered as the one from Daryaganj, will be missed by bibliophiles. An old haven for not just students but readers from all age groups, this weekly market has been the perfect place to scout or hoard anything from textbooks and novels to magazines and diaries or planners; that too at throwaway prices. But with the weekend curfew restrictions in the Capital, the 276 booksellers at this bazaar say they have no hopes of reviving their business.
Irshad, a book seller who travels from Lakdi Market, near Welcome Metro Station, to set-up his stall at this bazaar shares, “Hum har hafte ₹2,000-2,500 kama lete the is bazaar se. Isse ghar ka kharcha nikal jata tha. Ab sab thapp hai. I hope ki jaldi normal ho jaye sab warna pata nahi ghar kaise chalayenge.”
The weekly bazaar had got shifted from old Delhi’s pavements to Mahila Haat on Asaf Ali Road in 2019, and was running somehow until the pandemic hit. “For many months after the pandemic started in March-April 2020, the bazaar was only operational from 4pm to 8pm. During this time, we lost out on the morning influx of readers, jo subah subah aate the. Then, it had only been a month of normally functioning from 8am to 5pm, just when the weekend curfew made a blow to our businesses,” says Kamar Saeed, head of the Darya Ganj Patri Sunday Book Bazar Welfare Association. Pointing at the losses looming large for most of the sellers, Saeed informs that they are considering to appeal for financial help.
“The book bazaar is the only dedicated book market in the area, and we’re proud to have contributed to the taleem (education) of students in Delhi. We only get a day in the week to earn and that with the ongoing weekend curfew, that avenue is also closed. It is necessary to have restrictions in place to curb the spread of Covid, but it’s unfortunate that this is affecting so many small vendors monetarily,” opines Saeed.
Other book vendors chime in that with each passing weekend, it’s going to be a big challenge for them to sustain beyond a few weeks. “In case the Covid situation does not normalise soon, we are planning to write letters to the authorities to explain our plight. Madad ki guhaar lagayenge. It will be a big help if any section of the society could come forward to help us,” says Saeed. And Asharafi Lal Verma, the association’s vice president, adds: “More than 200 vendors live hand to mouth, week to week. They collect books for six days and then wait to sell them on Sunday. It’s not possible to shift the bazaar to any other day of the week or to sell the books online. We are planning to appeal to the authorities and general public to support us financially, via our website and via an NGO Seva Bharati, which recently distributed dry ration to us.”
Those residents who are a regular at this market, too feel sad about the plight of vendors. “It’s here that I got all the exam related books, I needed, that too in fairly good condition and at just 30% of the printed price! I would not have been able to crack my exams if I had not got the books here at such a cheap deal,” says Prasu Jain, who recently cleared his exam and is now a statistics professional. And Meenu Rawat, a development practitioner with a non-profit organisation, who usually buys self- help and academic books from this market, adds: “This market excited and forced me to visit because of my love for books. It’s a heaven on the Earth for book lovers, and in my opinion it shouldn’t be closed else the condition of sellers will get worst. I know there’s a risk involved due to the pandemic, but if the buyers and the vendors both take safety precautions and if there is limited entry allowed, then we can keep enjoying the books here without the risk to public health.”
Jain adds, “It should be made mandatory to produce vaccination certificate, for both the buyers as well as the sellers. But this part of Delhi’s culture, history and tradition of literature should not be allowed to wither away!”
Author tweets @siddhijainn
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