It’s easy to sense the anguish in her tone, over the lines from her office in Bengaluru. Vidya Virkar has been inundated with queries that the almost 64-year-old Strand Book Stall will be downing its shutters at Dhannur on Sir PM Road in Mumbai. The news first emerged on Twitter over the weekend, and caught on like wildfire, particularly among the city’s book-loving community.
Virkar breaks down the sequence, “I was shocked to receive the information that someone had innocuously planted the lie that Strand Book Stall is shutting down. This rumour has been initiated by detractors of Strand. These people are aware that cyberspace can be used to hurt and damage; such rumours about a much-loved icon show a lack of ethic.”
The journalist attached to a city broadsheet, who first tweeted about this, gave us her version, on condition of anonymity: “A reputed source in the trade shared this information. I tweeted about it out of sheer depression. People took it too seriously. I was glad to learn from Vidya’s tweet that Strand isn’t shutting down.”
Clearing the air about Strand’s position in the bigger picture, Virkar admits that it isn’t smooth sailing: “Currently, it is a big struggle. But despite the ups and downs in the book industry, Strand is managing to hold out because of our low prices (lower than on-line stores), handpicked titles, pan-India base, and loyal readers. In fact, plans are afoot for the next round of the Strand Book Festival.”
Several diehard readers
had actually turned up at the bookstore on Sunday; “a customer showed up at our Bengaluru outlet too,” shares Virkar, about the snowball effect of the tweet. Strand regular for 30 years, media professional Gina Vaid is relieved: “it was disturbing to read about it; more the reason why we must patronise Strand, a Mumbai institution that should never have to shut down. My thoughts went out to the dedicated staff as well.” Virkar is hopeful that this episode will highlight to readers the importance of good physical stores.