Mumbai streets to studio

Updated: Jul 07, 2019, 12:34 IST | Anju Maskeri | Mumbai

A design studio founder is giving second-hand booksellers, inconvenienced by the rains, a platform to continue their business

Vivek Pandey operates out of a godown in Chembur
Vivek Pandey operates out of a godown in Chembur

Last July, Mansi Dhanraj Shetty, co-founder of One by One Design, a design and digital studio in Mumbai, decided to spend her birthday month retreating into the analog world of physical books. It was a wonderful idea, except for a logistical bummer: getting hold of the desired titles. "I contacted my trusted set of second-hand booksellers. But there was a delay in getting those books delivered due to the rains," says the 34-year-old, who is also the founder of a 'mood-based' book recommendation site called What Are You Reading Today? "What happens in the monsoon is that these booksellers are neither able to go out to get their stock nor go out to sell. Running the business then is a challenge." It's while mulling on the alternatives that she thought of Twice Told, an exhibition for Mumbai booksellers who are rendered idle during these months. "It was a very ad hoc concept at the time, but we decided to go ahead nonetheless. A few booksellers came onboard, and the exhibition was organised at CoWrks, Worli." Despite its experimental beginnings, the footfalls exceeded 400.

Now in its second edition, the event has managed to grab a lot more eyeballs, and will be held on a grander scale from July 19 to 22 at the same Worli outpost. The all-day event won't be limited to book sales alone, but will also include spoken word poetry, Jashn-E-Qalam storytelling that will celebrate the works of Bhisham Sahni and Premchand. While Premchand's birth anniversary falls on July 31, Bhisham Sahni's death anniversary falls on July 11. "We also have a literary supper, which essentially involves dining with an author, or a second-hand bookseller, and they talk about their experience over food. The dinner is usually a recreated versions of their favourite dishes from books," says Shetty. Also on offer will be translations by Delhi's Niyogi Books and Seagull Books from Kolkata.

Hitler at his stall in King's Circle. Pics/Ashish Raje
Hitler at his stall in King's Circle. Pics/Ashish Raje

But the heroes of the event are the booksellers who, for the last two months, have been curating the titles along with Shetty. One of them is Hitler, a mild-mannered Tamilian, who sells his wares from a licensed shop at King's Circle. His stock comprises rare and antique books in addition to collectors' items such as letters of antiquity, postcards, photographs, and other such memorabilia. "I ventured into antique books 10 years ago, thanks to an MIT professor from America, who contacted me for some scholarly books. While scouring for the ones he required, I stumbled upon some gems," he says.

Currently, his ammo includes forgotten volumes such as Ayeen Akbery; Or, the Institutes of the Emperor Akber: Translated from the Original Persian by Francis Gladwin, and an English-Chinese dictionary (a handbook for translations). Fifteen days ago, he also came across one of the earliest maps of Mumbai, which he bought from a newspaper vendor for '1,000. Although a large chunk of his repository includes books in the English language, he often gets requests for Marathi novels. Along with Hitler, Mohammed Afzal will also showcase his books.

Mansi Goenka. Pic/Atul Kamble
Mansi Dhanraj Shetty. Pic/Atul Kamble

In early 2017, the BMC forced his shop off the pavement at King's Circle. He now runs his business from Chembur, where he is sought out by a loyal pool of customers. For both Afzal and Hitler, the city's raddiwalas are a great resource, through whom they have given many invaluable books a second life. "While Hitler has antiquated books, Afzal has unknown authors and UK and US editions of books. Students who've studied abroad often dump these books on their return," says Shetty. The new entrant is Vivek Pandey, who operates out of a godown in Chembur. A veteran in the field, he has spent 35 out of his 42 years selling and distributing books. "We have tried to pick the best in the business," says Shetty.

Where: CoWrks, Birla Centurion, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Century Mills, Worli
When: 10 AM to 9 PM, July 19 to 22
Call: 8369371019


2 to 3.30 PM: July 20: The Sanskaari Girls Book Club interactive workshop on portrayal of women characters in biblical narratives

12.30 to 2 PM: July 21: Author Meet: Anukrti Upadhyay

6 to 7.30 PM: July 21: Jashn-E-Qalam Storytelling: Bhisham Sahni's Leela Nandlal Ki and Premchand's Bade Bhaisahab

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