Bookstores with a difference
In the new series, we feature independent bookstores from across the country and highlight what makes them special. Here are four unique spaces — two from the East of India and two from the West. Words: Dibyajyoti Sarma
20 Apr 2023 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma
Rachna Books/ Café Fiction/ Bookman’s BnB
Location: Rachna Books, Opposite Manan Bhawan, Development Area, Gangtok, Sikkim737101
Founded in 1979, Rachna Books and Publications, an independent bookstore and publishing house, has been the centre of literary and cultural activities in the eastern Himalaya. After years of closure, Raman Shresta restarted the bookshop in 2001.
Over the years, Rachna Books has emerged as a vibrant cultural landmark in the Himalaya.
Shresta says, “We curate, organise and host events through various collaborations with the aim of discovering new ideas, stories and worlds. We use our space to encourage the exchange of knowledge and sharing of cultures of our times. Through talks, performances, readings, workshops and screenings we try to bring the world at large to the Himalaya and, in turn, share our slice of life with the rest of the world.”
With over two decades in the industry as a bookseller and more recently as a publisher, Raman has been a speaker at a wide range of literary and publishing platforms, including the Jaipur Literature Festival, the Hindu Lit for Life, Goa Arts and Literature Festival, Jaipur Bookmark, Brahmaputra Literary Festival, Kantipur Conclave, Kathmandu to name a few. Raman was one of the 12 publishers (six from India and six from the UK) to be selected for the year-long British Council International Publishing Fellowship 2022.
Rachna Books was awarded the Best Bookshop Publishing Next Industry Award in 2015, and the Food for Thought Best Bookstore Award at Hyderabad Lit Fest in 2020.Raman was also a part of the India delegation at the Sharjah Booksellers Conference 2022.
Rachna Books has published fiction, poetry, translation and academic research works. Its publication, Song of the Soil, was longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature 2022.
Rachna Books also houses the popular Café Fiction and top-rated Bookman’s Bed and Breakfast on the same premises.
Pagdandi Bookstore Café
Location: Shop 6, Regent Plaza, BanerPashan Link Road, Behind Symantec, Baner, Pune
In Hindi, the word Pagdandi stands for a narrow, rough road. It is a metaphor to signify the small, exploratory path we take every time we choose a book to read.
Pagdandi was started by Neha and Vishal Pipraiya in 2013 as a small library cafe and a community space. Within a year, they started stocking hand-picked books for sale.
“Since we had a small space where we had a library plus seating space for a café, along with events, we kept the collection small and curated. During the Covid lockdown in 2020, while the cafe and library were shut, we decided to deliver books from our collection not knowing what the response would be. Readers from all across India supported and ordered books, and this encouraged us to start a bookstore with a bigger but curated and hand-picked collection,” Vishal Pipraiya says.
Recently, they shifted the bookstore into a new small space next to Pagdandi reading space and cafe.
At Pagdandi, books are curated for people to explore and discover unique titles. Other than general fiction and non-fiction, there is a special focus on titles about political freedom, gender studies, caste studies, nature and wildlife for adults, young adults and children.
Pagdandi also puts up book stalls at local events like literature festivals, markets, conferences, college events and schools curating collections on the theme of the event.
“We are working to resume our on-site creative events in the nature of book readings, storytelling, music jams, art and craft workshops, poetry sessions, theatre workshops and group discussions on social and scientific issues and make it a lively hub to bring the community together, leading to an exchange of thoughts and ideas,” Neha says, adding, “We are working hard in improving our collection and trying to stock new books. It’s a long pagdandi to walk but we are hoping we will learn with time and keep doing better.”
The Book Nook
Location: House No 21, NBP Road, Amolapatty, Nagaon782003, Assam
Would you ever consider creating a bookstore tailored to avid readers? What books would you include, and in what languages? These are the questions that prompted Bijit Borthakur to state Book Nook, a home-based bookstore that stores a curated collection of classics and beyond, in four languages — English, Assamese, Bengali, and Hindi.
The uncluttered space offers minimal furniture for sitting and a small café in the corner to sip coffee/tea and trya pitha, a local cake. The owner intends to make the open garden an extended café with tables spread across the space.The Book Nook regularly holds book launches, meets with authors, and offers space on rent for such literary events.
The Dogears Bookshop
Location: Ground Floor, Adolfo Mansion,Rua Bernardo da Costa, Margao, Goa 403601
Established in 2016, The Dogears Bookshop is a small-town bookstore with what, Leonard J Fernandes, the owner, thinks is a place for all.
“We are a general bookstore with an emphasis on books for children, and on books on Goa, which is where we are based. In addition, we have curated a selection of fiction and non-fiction titles, both from independent presses and mainstream publishers and a selection of translations from other Indian languages into English. Our collection of pre-loved, secondhand, books is also impressive, as they are mainly sourced from tourists who bring a book to read in Goa, but decided to leave them behind after reading. In that sense, our bookshop is made of many cultures and experiences,” Fernandes says.
As it did before the lockdown, the bookstore organises discussions around books with their authors, other seminars and panel discussions, poetry slam events, theatre and other workshops for children, and musical performances.
“Through all these initiatives, we have sought to bring people together through their love of the arts. We will continue to have more such events, and broaden the scope of what we organise in our small space. If you are in Goa, do visit us,” he concludes.