Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Kolkata's book street

 During a recent visit to Kolkata, I spent an afternoon exploring College Street. Rows upon rows of cluttered bookstalls, jostling browsers, the honks and rattles of quaint trams and yellow Ambassador taxis... the entire scene seems rooted in the past. A day and age when people had the time and inclination to curl up with books; when eager readers searched for that special book they had always wanted to read.

The world’s largest second-hand book bazaar and the largest book market in India, College Street featured in Time Magazine’s “Best of Asia” list in 2007. At first glance, one is overwhelmed, and a bit disappointed by the predominance of textbooks. Where are the rare old books, first editions, books in diverse Indian languages, and unusual books in and out of print from distant lands? There is also the fear of being buried alive in an avalanche of dusty tomes barely held back by sheets of corrugated tin and canvas clinging to frames of bamboo. Braving such minor hazards, adventurous souls can still seek and discover rare pearls in this sea of books. My uncle, a regular visitor to this street, discovered several gems on the course of his voyages of discovery. An exquisitely illustrated antique edition of The Rubayiat of Omar Khayyam discovered in College Street, continues to hold pride of place in his personal library.
My detailed account is published in Sunday Herald


Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan said...

Lovely article, brings back a flood of memories. I lived in Calcutta (as it was then) for two years, eons ago. College street was one of my favourite haunts. I seem to remember it was also the destination for bargain LP records. What a magical place!

monideepa sahu said...

Glad you enjoyed the article, Harini. I never, ever lived in Kolkata. My visits were sporadic, and the days were hijacked by relatives. With the best of intentions, they kept me in their homes,and stuffed me with sweets and fish, when I would have preferred to go out and explore the city. During this visit after a decade, I did just that. Many of those loving elders are now long gone. I did have much more time to myself, and how I missed them.