A columned façade and understated signage will draw in the curious at bookstore Wayward & Wise. Unlike bookstore chains in the city, you won't find toys, bags or stationery but only books here. And CEO Virat Chandhok is proud of staying away from commercial trappings. Book lovers would remember Chandhok as the man at the popular Bandra bookstore, Lotus Book House that shut down in 2005. Post this, Chandhok had joined a leading bookstore chain but quit his job in 2014 to ideate on Wayword & Wise.
Virat Chandhok and Atul Sud
The store is a result of the owner and investment banker Atul Sud's aim to recreate Delhi's popular The Bookshop by KD Singh in Mumbai. Chandhok tells us that Sud had previously planned to open an outlet of The Bookshop in the city in 2014 with Singh as the mentor. But after Singh passed away in 2014, they decided to open a bookshop of their own. Wayword opened its doors in October 2015.
"I was very clear that commercial considerations would play second fiddle to a vision, which was a passion about having a real bookstore. I wanted a classic bookstore, the kinds that you dream about while growing. I had been a banker for 25 years, and I had seen the hurly-burly of mergers, acquisitions and finance. I wanted to do something that would stimulate the daily journey of life," says Sud. "I was more than happy as I could sell the books I liked," adds Chandhok.
Curate above all
"I must have scanned over 3 lakh titles from the catalogues of publishers and we got them imported specially. What usually happens is that publishers order 10,000 copies of popular titles like John Grisham or Nicholas Sparks, which are easy to sell. 90% of the books at our store are not lying with publishers in Delhi; they are imports which you won't find elsewhere," assures Chandhok.
You can pick from a host of genres, graphic novels to poetry
The result — you will find English translations of French writers by Gallic Books, books by Hesperus Press, and even titles on performing arts such as Ingmar Berman's The Magic Lantern or books on Jean Luc Godard. Chandhok also offers to get any particular book that is in print.
Eat, read, love
And soon, a valuable addition will be a glass of wine to accompany your reading time at the store. Sud, who is into the gourmet food business too, has planned a menu with wine, cheese, bread, coffee and cold cuts, hopefully, in a month's time. His interest in food also lends to the cookbook section.
The interiors of Wayword & Wise. Pics/Dhara Vora
"I wanted a wine and cheese café the way you see it in Europe. For books, I wanted most regions of India to be represented. We also have a Cuban food book. Along with titles by Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, we also stock books by New York Times' columnist and food critic, Mark Bittman that are doing well," shares Sud.
Chandhok feels that bookstores that claim online sales are affecting them are giving a lazy argument. "You have to pull up your socks. If you keep the right kind of books, people will buy them. If you keep commercial Indian writers, you will be affected because that crap is available online at half the rate. People who are walking down the road are not my customers. Ours is a highbrow bookshop, unabashedly so," he says.
The best sellers
Apart from fiction, literary criticism and essays are their second-highest selling segments due to lack of availability. The continental philosophy, and poetry sections are doing well too. "I told myself, 'Let me keep books which should sell and not just which can sell'," prophesies Chandhok.
Time 11 am to 7.30 pm, all days (Chandhok, who guides visitors for purchases is not in on Mondays)
At Strategic House, Mint Road, Fort.
Chandhok's top picks
> The Elegance of the Hedgehog: Muriel Barbery
> Voices from Chernobyl: Svetlana Alexievich
> The Meursault Investigation: Kamel Daoud
> Portraits: John Berger on Artists
> The Sympathizer: Viet Thanh Nguyen