Walden opened its doors at a time when Hyderabad had few book stores to boast about. Yes, we did have and still have the typical unorganised shops and footpaths to scrounge about. As kids, managing on shoestring pocket money, we were used to visiting secondhand bookstores in Koti, the Sunday footpath book stores in Abids. And on better days, when we had a little more money, thanks to festivals and gifts, we used to visit a little treasure trove called AA Hussain. AA Hussain had heaps of good books spread all over the place. We hardly had any space to walk around without worrying about tipping those precariously stacked books. The owner knew where each book was and would guide us precisely to that section. We couldn’t, however, spend too much time there as it would be overflowing with books and people. And most of the times, I visited this shop to pick up a book I had already decided on.
It was in these times that Walden opened its doors to wonderland —rows and rows of beautifully stacked books, sections, catalogues, and bookstore helpers who always knew where to find things and also recommend books. The highly organised, large store made every one of us ecstatic. Here was a place I could go around, spend hours without someone peeping over your shoulder. Here was a place I could explore and discover.
Spending hours was easy at Walden and we didn’t need a reason to go there. Either to treat oneself to that book one was drooling about or one that you indulged impulsively or to gift it to friends or to pick up a greeting card for some occasion or the other (yes, fancy phones hadn’t yet arrived then) — reasons were aplenty.
I visited the flagship store at Begumpet, which was the most happening place in the late 90s, for over many years, first as a student, then as an advertising professional, and again when I took my kids there to buy books and toys for them. The pleasure and excitement of visiting the store was always the same. There was something new always there and you ended up buying something even if you hadn’t had that in mind.
My decision to only gift books also took me there quite often. There is something about the smell of books that makes me warm and comfortable. Reading tonnes of reviews and synopsis to select that one special book that would become my tea time companion — it was probably the most satisfying experience ever.
Since the arrival of Walden, I think more people were exposed to many kinds of books — be it recipes or fiction or management or children’s books, Walden gave everyone what they wanted.
Walden was my favourite place and I will always remember it very fondly.
(Walden shut its flagship store last year and was running two other branches, both of which have now been shut since 1 November 2020.)