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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

Read and eat: The fourth Bahrisons in Gurgaon has a café too

The formula to run the new Bahrisons still the same: find the book for the reader through any channel

gurgaon Updated: Dec 22, 2017 20:30 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi
Mayank Austen Soofi
Hindustan Times
Bahrisons, Galleria Market, Gurgaon
Bahrisons, Galleria Market, Gurgaon (Mayank Austen Soofi / HT )

A gentle winter light is falling on the bookshelves. Here and there, unopened boxes stand on the floor. In one of the book-lined alleys, a silver-haired woman in salwar suit is holding on to her walking stick. She is Bhag Bahri Malhotra, the matriarch of Bahrisons Booksellers, the legendary Khan Market bookshop that will turn 65 next year.

We are in Gurgaon’s Galleria Market, witnessing the first day of the new Bahrisons shop, a much more spacious affair than the cramped Khan Market original, so beloved of authors, diplomats and expats. It even has a café! But wait…why are they putting up this shelf of handsome Everyman hard-bounds for their new and still unknown customers here in Gurgaon, and not for their long-time loyalists in Khan Market?

An embarrassed staffer sheepishly says, “We have no space left in Khan”.

Besides Mrs Malhotra, and her daughter-in-law, Rajni Malhotra, the third Bahri woman present in the shop is Rajni’s elder daughter, Aanchal, a new author herself. “We’ll have events in this new shop,” says Aanchal. “We are even planning yoga sessions here!”

The three Bahrisons women: Mrs Bhag Bahri Malhotra (middle), daughter-in-law Rajni Malhotra (left) and granddaughter Aanchal.
The three Bahrisons women: Mrs Bhag Bahri Malhotra (middle), daughter-in-law Rajni Malhotra (left) and granddaughter Aanchal. ( Mayank Austen Soofi / HT )

While a new bookstore nearer their pincodes is good news for Gurgaon’s book lovers, this is not the first time a Delhi bookstore has opened an outlet here. In 2007, the discount-friendly Midland Book Shop opened in DLF Phase I.

“The formula to run the new Bahrisons will still be the same: find the book for the reader through any channel,” asserts Rajni. The Gurgaon store is particularly well-stocked with children’s books. It also has an extensive selection of Hindi novels.

At one point, the three women gather in front of an elderly man’s portrait, reverently arranged between icons of Ganesha and Krishna. Balraj Bahri, the shop’s founder, passed away last year. He had arrived in Delhi in 1947 as a 19-year-old Partition refugee, and opened the bookstore six years later. He arranged the initial investment of Rs 800 by selling his mother’s single gold bangle. Since then, more than one generation of literary-minded Delhiwallas grew up buying books from him in Khan Market. Some years ago, he passed down the bookshop’s day-to-day administration to his son, Anuj.

Over the years, Delhi has seen the closure of many landmark bookshops—The Bookworm, The Book Shop, New Book Depot, Galgotia & Sons, and Fact & Fiction. Bahrisons is a rare independent bookstore that has thrived enough to have created chain stores. Exclaims Aanchal, “That makes us sound like Walmart! Call us a family-run chain please.”

The Bahri family opened its second outlet--a bookstore in Saket--and a third--a bookshop for children in Khan Market’s Middle Lane--in 2010. They are opening another store in Saket in two months. The family runs a publishing house, too. Anuj Bahri, who sits at the Khan Market store, is also a literary agent.

The Gurgaon bookshop has a cafe for readers to relax in.
The Gurgaon bookshop has a cafe for readers to relax in. ( Mayank Austen Soofi / HT )

While surveying the books stacked on the new store’s shelf of classics, Aanchal tells us how carefully her grandfather would listen to what his customers wanted to read. “He would write down the names of the books on a note pad, and that’s how Bade Papa built his fledging bookshop’s collection,’’ she says. ‘’And this is what we shall do in Gurgaon.”

As the late morning turns into afternoon, the shop’s early customers troop in. One of them is a Political Science student who lives nearby. “Such a lovely space… I’m noting down the names of the books I want,” says Vidiha Arora, while taking a picture of the Bahri women, which she immediately posts on her Instagram.

Bhag Bahri Malhotra, too, picks up a book. it’s a recipe book for a friend. She buys it from the counter, like any other customer. The cashier blushes as he hands her the change. The elder Mrs Bahri then slowly walks down the stairs with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter, heading home, in Safdarjang Enclave. Later in the evening, if she feels like it, she might go to the bookstore in Khan Market or to the one in Saket. It’s all her empire.


What: Opening of Bahrisons’ new outlet

Where: R 1, Second Floor, Galleria Market, DLF Phase IV, Gurgaon

Timings: 9:30 m-9:30 pm. Open all days

Nearest metro station: IFFCO Chowk