All of them have died. Nearly all of the legendary founders of Delhi’s nice unbiased bookstores have left us. Anil Arora of now-extinct The Bookworm handed away in August 2016. Balraj Bahri Malhotra of Bahrisons Booksellers handed away in February 2016. KD Singh of The Guide Store handed away in Might 2014.
However one continues to be with us.
Mirza Yaseen Baig, the founding father of Midland bookstores continues to be with us. He’s 93 and comes day by day, with out fail, to his store at south Delhi’s Aurobindo Market—even in these dangerous occasions of coronavirus pandemic.
With so a few years weighing down on his again, Mr Baig has decreased his interplay with clients. He spent the day sitting exterior the bookshop on a chair going through a shelf stacked with classics of English literature; the store itself is dealt with by Afsar, his second son.
The bookstore is like Mr Baig’s second house.
One afternoon, earlier than the pandemic, he was seen taking a nap. His head bent down and his face resting on his arm, his chest was heaving gently in a deep-sleep breath. A number of buyers walked about with out waking him up.
This night, nevertheless, he’s wakeful however sitting quietly, his face lined within the ubiquitous face masks. And but, he’s trying each inch a bookstore emeritus.
Not like the opposite three aforementioned bookstore founders, Mr Baig’s connection to Delhi is considerably newer. Like most of us Delhiites, he isn’t a Delhi native. Mr Baig is from Hyderabad within the south. There he used to run a small guide stall on the bustling Sultan Bazaar Street. In 1970, he folded his enterprise and moved to Delhi together with his spouse, 4 sons and 6 daughters (yet one more woman can be born later).
Within the Capital, he arrange the same stall, later named Books Choice Middle, simply exterior the Indian Espresso Home in Connaught Place — at the moment the espresso place was not in its current location in Mohan Singh Place however on the location of present-day Palika Bazaar.
Eight years later, Mr Baig based the New Guide Land, the primary of his 4 Delhi bookstores, simply exterior the Janpath flea market. It continues to exist and is managed by his third son, Salim, a charmingly moody man who could be good or detached, relying upon your luck at that second.
In 1985, Mr Baig opened the primary Midland within the model new Aurobindo Market, an aesthetically difficult block constructed by Delhi Growth Authority (the market’s small backyard has a big cement butterfly).
The opposite two shops in South Extension I and Gurugram got here later.
Like virtually each long-time bookshops within the metropolis, Midland shops too have a following. The one in Aurobindo Market is a beloved of many well-known writers corresponding to Namita Gokhale who lives close by in SDA Colony. For a lot of old-time regulars to this market, the ritual is to first have a burger and a glass of sentimental drink on the close by Wimpy’s (a fast-food legend in its personal proper however sadly, not open as of late) and solely then to step inside Midland to browse for the brand new releases.
Whereas Midland is perhaps beloved by its patrons, it didn’t attraction to at the least a number of the metropolis’s booksellers. Its crime — it was among the many first retailers in Delhi to promote books at 20% low cost, a scheme that led the spoiled clients to demand related reductions elsewhere. The late Anil Arora confessed his disappointment to this reporter on Midland’s pricing technique on the eve of closing his bookshop, The Bookworm, in Connaught Place in 2008.
However at such a sophisticated age, simply why can’t Mr Baig sit at house, secure from the virus, with spouse, Sardar Begum, in west Delhi’s Paschim Vihar? “Coming to the store is my behavior,” he says in his cracking voice filled with affection. “I can not sit at house. Right here I watch folks, see the world go backward and forward about me and I really feel good.”
Within the pre-corona days, Mr Baig, who’s addressed as Babuji by his staff, reached the store each morning at 11 and would go away by eight within the night. However now he comes by 2pm.
It’s tempting to implore the readers to present this iconic bookseller a direct go to however these are harmful occasions. Maybe you may await the pandemic to recede, following which you may go to Mr Baig, hopefully nonetheless sitting like a monument at his normal spot.