Dear Second Hand Book Sellers of Bombay

You sell magic dont you. and you sell dreams. and you sell imagination. and you sell them at a rate which everyone can afford.

My earliest memories of Bombay was coming to Chitappa’s house and then going with Appa to King’s Circle to browse through the second hand book stands. Most of you were so so helpful and some of you were friends with Appa thanks to his regular visits. You would recommend books and you would recommend which  books were in demand and which werent.

Each book of yours told a story. A story not only written by the author but also a story on who had the book before you. Sometimes, the unwritten story was more interesting than the written story.

I remember being elated by the prices at which you would sell Wodehouse novels. While in the book store they would charge Rs. 150 for a new copy, you would sell it to Appa and me for about Rs.25. Looking at my eager face you would even give us a discount if we bought more than two.

You have encouraged generations of readers by keeping your fares low. You buy books irrespective of caste creed or religion, irrespective of authors and irrespective of genres. I doubt if we can ever find old and new books, romance and mystery, thrillers and philosophy at such rates apart from a central library.

I used to be astonished on how you would know the where exactly each book was placed and take it out in a jiffy when we asked for it. I would love to browse through your collection of comics and one of you even smiled at me indulgently despite knowing that I was trying to finish off a Tinkle before Appa made his choice.

You have given me immense happiness in your own small way. I was over the moon when Appa got the book ‘Naughtiest girl becomes a monitor’. I searched for it in so many places but it was you people who came to rescue. It still remains one of my favorite books.

Appa would buy so many different novels from you every time we came to Bombay. Visit to you guys used to be the highpoint of my trip.

Ironically, I dont visit you people any more.Most of you are either too far or I dont have enough time 😦

Thats so sad.

One of my dreams is to spend some time with you people with my daughter in tow. I want to expose her to the same joy and give her the same fun as my Appa gave to me. I want to spend time browsing through the novels wondering which one to select while she quickly tries to complete that one story in that comic 🙂

I want her to know how signficant you have been in my upbringing.

Thank you for being there.

Always grateful


PS – this post was inspired by Sudhagee’s post on the second hand book shop. Go on read it, it is fantastic and reminds me of some nice poet putting her words in prose.

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54 Responses to Dear Second Hand Book Sellers of Bombay

  1. Pepper says:

    I love it. I have several second hand book stores right below my house. I can see them from my bedroom window. These people are amazing. Not only do they sell books at such a reasonable rate, a lot of them also give you the option of going and returning the book to them and getting half of the money back!

    I suppose these kind of second hand book vendors exist all over India? Or is it a Mumbai thing?

    • R's Mom says:

      oh you do..then I am definitely coming to your place..pakka 🙂

      No no, they exist all over India rey..its just that I have always been acquainted with the Bombay ones..Appa used to go to Madras second hand book stores as well..and annual when we went to Calcutta..the college street was a favorite haunt 🙂

    • rajk says:

      I”ve been looking for them in Hyderabad and, to my despair, haven’t found any. Yes, these guys are great. But do you think, they also sell cheap, pirated copies of good books? Is there such a thing? I remember buying some books with really thin paper and bad printing.

  2. chipmunk says:

    me first eh today 🙂

  3. Ashwathy says:

    Try making some time out on ONE Saturday… whenever possible… to take R to King’s Circle, especially for this. You know the result is worth it. 🙂
    And if you don’t purposely take the time out for it, it is never going to happen.

  4. chipmunk says:

    I totally agree with you, I don’t know from which source they get book in that bundle and mostly these people never say no, they either ask us to come after a day or two and they satisfy the customer very greatly than any one does:) In Chennai most of the people doesn’t have that much knowledge of English, but still they pronounce with perfect accent and help us, be it a old uncle to a middle age man they are perfect in the work they do 🙂

  5. Lovely post! 🙂 You know how much I love books and second-hand bookstores, don’t you? 🙂

    I LOVED Sudhagee’s post as well.

    I have to thank the second-hand booksellers and the ones on the pavement who sell books at throwaway prices, too. They have, in their own way, fuelled the passion for reading in me. I have always been amazed at the way they have known exactly which book is kept, out of the hundreds of books they handle every day. And they seem to know the favourites of each customer, too!

    I LOVE the second-hand bookstores in Bangalore, especially Blossoms. You SHOULD visit that place when you are in Bangalore. Or have you, already? It is a paradise for booklovers. Sadly, there weren’t many second-hand bookstores in Ahmedabad who could boast of a great collection like Blossoms.

    I still have very fond memories of frequenting a particular bookseller near Law Garden and one near Gujarat University. I still go visit them whenever I am in Ahmedabad. 🙂

    • R's Mom says:

      I know your love for second hand books..I remember that post on reading on your blog 🙂

      I havent been to Blossoms..we will go together in my next trip to Bangalore?

      I didnt have anyone in Baroda who sold old books honestly..thats why the Bombay trips had one evening of browsing with Appa 🙂

  6. Sujatha says:

    yup.. I too have wondered so many times on how well they organize the books in the tiny place…. You can get various genres of books in these shops at a very very low rate.. U reminded me of my college days through this post..

  7. Amit says:

    There is this Sunday market in Daryaganj where I used to go when I did not have enough money to buy original books. I spent hours there going around and picking and choosing the books. I used to save money from the amount my father gave me for college. 🙂
    You post brought beautiful memories.

  8. My Era says:

    I totally agree with you RM. Books are all about the joy of reading and to me the book matters more than it being a pre-owned one or a fresh from the press 🙂
    Just yesterday I was praying for more second hand book stalls in my city after browsing my wishlist of books 🙂

  9. ashreyamom says:

    oh nice.. i have been told by my colleagues that you get a good collection there at chembur.. just waiting to come there and pick up as many books i can.. i used to read the pirated version( duplicate print on bad quality paper) than buying second hand b’cas i am scared of those silver worms and allergy.. :).

  10. Smita T says:

    U R so right… I still visit raddiwalas in Pune to buy Enid Blyton for N…. and read it before I read it aloud for N…. these are just amazing places….

  11. Sreetama says:

    Oh I loved reading this post! There is a similar book market in Delhi, Daryaganj in Old Delhi. I went there only once as the place is pretty far away. But it is sheer joy to be there on Sundays. I hope you’ve visited College Street in Kolkata? They say, if you can’t find a book in College Street, that book doesn’t exist! 😛 My tech savvy father, who is highly into online shopping is game for buying everything, from a pin to an elephant from the online shopping websites, but not books. Unless he sees, touches, smells a book, he won’t buy it! Cheers to the book lovers! Am sure R would love to visit the place. If I ever visit Mumbai, I would love to be there too!

  12. chaitali says:

    I read your blog as it gives me a positive outlook to look at the world. I appreciate your effort to put it in simple words and once again Big Thanks for making me realize that there are many goodies around us, we just need that outlook.

  13. Jayashree says:

    Read the other post…..Wow!!! An amazing find, indeed. I recently had a chance to see the second hand book sellers setting up stall in King’s Circle….unfortunately, was rushing couldn’t stop and browse. Note to self – go back and spend some time there.

  14. Smita says:

    Ah!!! You have reminded me of my relationship with them. In fact I have written a story on one such vendor…

    I loved the shops @ fact there is a treasure beyond the usual ones in a 2nd hand book….because u might discover somebody’ notes in it 🙂

  15. sudhagee says:

    Thank you, RM for such beautiful words about my post and linking it too. 🙂

    My love for second hand books is as recent as 2004, when “84 Charing Cross Road” changed my whole perception and attitude towards second hand books. Till then I was quite disdainful of second-hand books an by extension book shops too. Today, browsing through second hand bookshops give me pleasure like no other. 🙂

    Take some time off and make that trip to Matunga/Kings Circle. You’ll find that a lot has changes, but you’ll also find that some things haven’t changed — the second hand book shops. 🙂

    • R's Mom says:

      I havent read that book yet, but both you and TGND have recommended it so I am going in search of it definitely

      Yes yes…I should do that! one of the weekends pakka 🙂

  16. Zephyr says:

    Well well, it seems to be the season of second hand book stores. My friend had done a photo essay on the Fort shops and then the lyrical Sudha post and then this. I love the way you pay tributes to the ordinary and the extraordinary people of Mumbai. and here is the link to the post I mentioned:

    • R's Mom says:

      I loved that picture post…it has been so wonderfully captured 🙂 thanks for the link!

      • Swati says:

        Wow! What a wonderful and rightful tribute 🙂 Whenever I see a a second hand book shop, I dive into it with the excitement like that of a little child. I may not always come out with a bagful of books, but the presence of so many old books around is quite reassuring.

        There’s a shop in Pune called ‘Crazy Book Sale’ that has second hand books from all over the world. Children’s books with funny things written by little English boys and girls.. One had a boarding pass of a flight taken by an Indian from Dubai to NYC many years ago. Some had messages written from friends.. All so very enchanting! Reading this post took me back to that shop .. may be I should go there again..soon 🙂

  17. Vidya says:

    Tell me about it! There are such shops in Chennai too.. I was once aghast when a friend told that they sold their entire collection to a vendor- the books acquired over some years! This post has made me nostalgic. Let me try taking the two sometime!

  18. I lived in Kingcircle before moving to Sydney and your post brings back awesome memories. My mom is a regular still at these shops and her usual bookseller ‘Hitler Rajan” got me a French book I couldn’t find at the Frenchlibrary. Awesome !

  19. anisnest says:

    thank you RM..for making me remember those second hand book shops I have frequented during my school years.. this also reminds me about the circulation system. Amma is a subscriber of this system from my childhood days, where a man visits your home every other day and lends you magazines of all sorts for next 2 days. we can choose which one we want and he precisely knows the preference of every family. For instance, he used to make that special evening visit to our home every Thursday only ‘coz amma, appa and my bro were crazy about the “Junior Vikatan” magazine. you should see the way all 3 fights to reach the gate when the circulation wala rings his cycle bell.. I had always settled down with my own magazines and this man also had a lending library that I used to visit often…

    Then, when we moved to the city of Chennai I found this lending library close to my work and have become a member.. From that’s where I have read all the sheldon novels and got introduced to Archer and other authors. Yeah, you are right, the guy in that library used to recommend some authors to me and we used to generally chat about books… oh what a memory…thank you RM.. thank you for rekindling my memories…

  20. Jazz says:

    Me too love second hand book vendors. My roommate in Chennai would get so many novels and tinkle magazines for so cheap and my sister is a frequent visitor at the Sunday bazaars they organize in Abids area in Hyderabad. 🙂

  21. Next time u r in blore i will take u to blossoms…this post has convinced me that we can both get lost the whole day there 🙂

  22. Nidaa says:

    “You sell magic dont you”- says it all

  23. Sunita says:


    You have an amazing writing style. Kudos!!

    I am an avid reader too and used to visit Dariyaganj in delhi to buy second hand novels, books and magazines. But in today’s time when e-commerce is picking up, I gave a try to this website – and was surprised by their amazing service. All books in excellent condition and packaged so beautifully that I was awestruck and became an online buyer. I still do visit those places but the charm of the going to those places has faded away when you know you can do it in just a few clicks right at home.

    Just 2 cents 🙂

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