What we thought would be a book-nerd's paradise....

12:31 AM

             Daryaganj Sunday Book Market: Review and Personal experience

Books all around, the volatile organic compounds doing their part to make the place smell like heaven (if there is such thing as heaven, it must smell like the pages of an old book), people hogging up stalls to get their hands on bestsellers.... 'Next station is Chandni Chowk, the doors will open on the right *beep beep beep beep*', THIS was my cue to wake up from the fantasy I had been having about Daryaganj Sunday book market which had its reputation of being the best market to buy books, both novels and textbooks, at cheap prices (we are talking about only Rs.100 or Rs. 200 for a kilogram of books here *drools*). It was my first time visiting there so I had to re-confirm the way as i took an exit from the metro station. Luckily enough, I was with a friend whose father had visited this area and knew the means of transportation to reach the place we were destined for, pretty well. He guided us on the phone to go to the other side of the road and wait just outside Old Delhi Railway station for either a 405 numbered DTC bus or take an auto. We preferred the latter option and took a pre-paid auto. The auto/taxi booth was inside the premises of Old Delhi railway station and it cost us 55 bucks to Daryaganj from there. (Quite a deal as compared to post-paid autowalas who were asking around 80,right? *self taps on shoulder*)

The auto-wala dropped us in the middle of the road and we had to cross over to the other side to find the books we had planned to buy. We had made a long list in Google Keep to keep ourselves focused while scouring through large piles of books that spanned over almost 4 long lanes at the feet of shopkeepers who were wide awake, calling prospective buyers to check their collection out. But as we leaned down to check out the books, which were arranged systematically at some stalls and scattered here and there on a plastic sheet at some others, we found out that our work had been made easy because most of them were textbooks, ranging from preparation materials for competitive exams to physics and chemistry books for college. Keeping our disappointment aside, we moved further to check out the stalls ahead. And we did find some novels which we’d considered buying although they weren’t specifically on our list. But to our disappointment, they weren’t as cheap as we’d expected them to be. We did employ the best of bargaining skills we possessed but the last price which was offered to us for say, “Kane and Abel” was Rs. 100. That shopkeeper would have let us buy 2 books for Rs.100 at max, provided we were able to find another book worth buying; WHICH WE DID NOT. And to give away Rs. 100 for a book, of the same quality, which we could have bought for the same price in Connaught Place or beside Lajpat Nagar Metro station exit for the same price, didn’t seem worth it; that too when we had expected to buy a kilogram of books for that price. Maybe, if you are not as choosy as us, you might find some books worth buying in the pile of those which were actually being sold for Rs. 100 or 200/kg….oh c’mon, who are we kidding those books were probably being sold at that price because nobody actually ever reads them, we hadn’t even heard the names of the authors they were written by!

Images courtesy: Google

The same story followed in the stalls we visited further. And we were so hungry after all the lane-scouring that we decided to take a snack-break. We gorged on Kachoris(which were so yummy) and Omellete. Another thing that appealed to our senses was Chocolate Kulfi, which was shown as a speciality of one of the shops there which served fast foods, so we decided to try it. We had expected a stick-kulfi dipped in molten chocolate and what we were given was laccha-kulfi topped with hershey’s syrup *slow claps*. So after witnessing the "Chocolate Kulfi" scam, we were so frustrated and annoyed that all
we wanted to do was go home. But, well, it was Delhi. It conspires to make you not go home when you really want to. And the jam wasn't just of the cars, it was a jam of people, like we were rallying for Human Rights. We had to switch lanes, which were self-made and pathetic, and we had to jump over the piles of books we did not want to buy, and over flock of clothes, and shoes and stuff. For ten shops that had the books we needed, there were about a hundred shops selling things other than Books. We saw those books selling Organic Chemistry for IIT and my friend felt really relieved that he did not have to worry about that shit now. Anyway, the road to the end of the tunnel was a harsh one, with people and Auto-Rickshaws and Cars and Buses and what not. At one point, we wished we had a PortKey.  
We had travelled for like forty kilometers, for a reader's paradise, and this wasn't even feast for a reader, and to go home without even a single book was kind of heartbreaking and annoying. The pollution, the honking of the horns, the crowd, and the unavailability of the books was PATHETIC. We left. That is, we turned and hoped we made it through. Again, If you are thinking getting to the red light, that is the beginning of the market, was all there was for us to walk and that we could board any public transport vehicle from there, then you are wrong. It is one thing getting there, and another leaving it. We reached the red light, alive, only to find out that there was a much severe jam on the road that led to the Chandni Chowk Metro Station, and on the rest of the lanes, of course.
What could we do? We had to walk. Thirsty. The sun being the sun, and I swear we understood what the fuck was global warming all about. I had no other choice, so I did this: I took his arm, and we ran and ran but not for much because for every hundred meters of jam, there was only a metre of free space. And if you really were in a hurry, you had to run in the middle of the road, piercing through vehicles and saving yourself from getting killed. I saved my companion from being run over by a car twice, and I also helped him save his foot being crushed by a vehicle, and he said he was glad I was there. He was glad I am always there. Or else, he would not have been here whining
about this so called paradise with me. After a while, I clutched his bag, the bag which was supposed to have books, but only had his wallet then, and I commanded him to walk, swiftly and smoothly, slowly or in a haste, all depending on me. It is like I was driving and he was the car, and I had the gas and the brake. For the entire part of this trip, that was the most amazing part. Being teammates. If ever there was a need and we had to go to the border to fight, I suppose I had found my partner.
We somehow got to the Metro station, eating oranges in between, running in the scorching heat. And on the ride back home, we luckily got a seat and I fell asleep with my head on the mirror-pane, trying to recollect the only good times of our little excursion- running back to the metro station struggling to find our way yet still laughing along and gorging on delicious kachoris when we had been left completely disheartened.... *dozes off*

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