Dariyaganj Sunday book market has moved to the Mahila Haat
New Delhi : Leaving home is never easy, even when it’s across the road and cleaner. Ask the hawkers of the city’s Daryaganj Sunday book market, who have a new address at the Mahila Haat ground. After 50 years of operating from the crammed, congested pavement between Delite and Golcha cinemas, the book bazaar has moved to the elevated Mahila Haat ground on Asaf Ali Road nearby.
And the shopkeepers as well as buyers are beset with mixed feelings.
“Apna ghar chod kar nayi jagah jaana kis ko accha lagta hai (Who feels good about leaving their old house for a new one),” 67-year-old Niyazuddin, who has been selling books in the market for the last 40 years, said on Sunday, a week after the shift.
“Letting go is always difficult. I don’t know how it will feel after some time, but right now it surely does not feel good,” Niyazuddin said.
The famed Sunday book bazaar is where one can land a rare copy of New Yorker, or even a first edition of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” for just Rs 20.
The book bazaar was closed for several weeks, ever since July 2 when the Delhi High Court vacated a stay on a direction declaring Netaji Subhash Marg (also including the road between Delite and Golcha) a “non-vending zone”.
Each vendor has a designated 4 feet by 6 feet space in the new space allotted by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) in the Mahila Haat ground. The rent has gone up from Rs 15 to Rs 185 per week and the space has been given on a two-year lease.
Sumit Verma, a member of the Daryaganj Patri Sunday Book Bazaar Welfare Association, alleged that the administration had violated the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act (2014), and accused them of ruining the heritage status of the book market.
“What kind of barter is this? You take our 50-year-old heritage market and give us a new piece of land on two years lease. What is the surety that you won’t take this away as well?” Verma asked as some vendors protested outside the ground.
Despite their misgivings, he said many hawkers are taking up space in the new ground because it is a question of their livelihood. Of the 276 stalls, over 200 were occupied this Sunday. Last week, the first Sunday at the new venue, there were only about 100 stalls, he said.
According to the Act, “Natural markets where street vendors have conducted business for over fifty years shall be declared as heritage markets, and the street vendors in such markets shall not be relocated”.
For regular visitors, it is the idea of letting go of the original market’s old world charm that is most painful. Many admit having had a long-term relationship with the market that spans years, even decades.
They can’t help but be nostalgic about the innumerable times they have rummaged through giant piles of dusty books to find old and rare titles, including first editions of classics or a vintage gold foil embossed leather bound book.
“It was in Daryaganj where I first discovered the works of legendary playwright Oscar Wilde and it has stayed with me since then. Then a naughty teenager, and now an old grumpy grandmother, a trip to this place on Sundays has been a one constant thing in my life,” said 52-year-old Renu Uppal.
Uppal, who was visiting the new market this Sunday with her granddaughter, said she hoped it would be moved back to its original location.
“It is so out of place in this location. It looks like as if we have been robbed of our childhood,” she added. A major disadvantage of the new location is that the Mahila Haat ground is not covered unlike their earlier space, Niyazuddin said.
“It is all open out here with no shed to protect us from rains,” he said. Not all vendors, however, are unhappy.Many said the new space with facilities such as a nearby park, toilets and parking is far better.
“There were too many drawbacks of having bookstalls on the roadside. The books would get very dirty because of the dust. Then there were constant thefts taking place too. Here, the place is clean and much better organised,” Nitin Kumar, who has been selling books here for the last two decades, said.