Starting a new chapter

Updated: Aug 19, 2019, 08:02 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

A much-loved bookstore and library has relocated from Lower Parel to a cosy nook in Bandra, though its essence remains the same

Patrons leaf through books in the section that houses the library. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Patrons leaf through books in the section that houses the library. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators." That's the Stephen Fry quote printed on a piece of paper that greets you when, ironically, you walk up a staircase at Trilogy. It's an apt statement, going by the steady stream of patrons flowing in and out of the recently relocated bookstore and library. The place used to exist in a Lower Parel mill for five years. But then the landlord and the BMC got into a conflict. So the owners, Meethil Momaya and Ahalya Naidu, made a timely exit this April, fearing that the authorities would seal their treasure trove of titles behind locked doors.

A one-sentence conversation between Momaya and his mother then led to Trilogy shifting to its present Bandra location. It went something like this. Momaya: "Mum, can we use your garments workshop that you have kept shuttered for a year as the space for our library?" Mum: "Yep, sure you can." It was as easy as that. But the process of shifting all the books and furniture from the earlier spot was a lot more tedious. Renovating the ramshackle garments workshop was quite a task as well. Momaya and Naidu have retained the essence of the previous avatar in the sense that the walls are a similar yellow shade, and even the wooden floorboards were ripped off from the Lower Parel space to be re-laid in the new Bandra location. The shelves are the same ones as before. Their distributors haven't changed either. So, what exactly is different about the bookstore now that it's opened up in a cosy nook in the tony suburb, a hop, skip and jump away from Jogger's Park on Carter Road?

Ahalya Naidu and Meethil Momaya
Ahalya Naidu and Meethil Momaya

Well, for starters, the mill space consisted of one large 2,100-sq ft room where a solitary shelf made for a soft divide between the bookstore and library. But in Bandra, the demarcation is clear-cut since the ground floor with three rooms houses the bookstore, while the upper deck serves as the library. This structure opens up the possibility of serendipity. You browse through the poetry section near the main door to chance upon a corner with books on food, which deal more with culinary history than with recipes. The next room contains the contributions of independent publishers and titles on women's issues, apart from other non-fiction works. And you then peek into the room at the far end to find a wealth of children's literature, which includes books aimed at piquing the interest of kids about the world around them.

The library, meanwhile, doubles up as a space for intimate events. These can include author interactions, talks by wildlife experts and city historians, and even film screenings. But like everything else here, the events are also carefully curated. Momaya and Naidu in fact act as filters for all the books that pass through the doors of Trilogy. They don't accept donations. They steer clear of run-of-the-mill bestsellers. Instead, they actively seek out titles that they hear about, and which they think would add genuine value to their collection.

Titles on display
Titles on display

And it's this hands-on approach to their business that sets Momaya and Naidu apart from Crossword and Title Waves, their competitors in the vicinity (though the former tells us that they don't hesitate in guiding patrons to these places in case they don't have a particular book, because the idea is to build a community around the habit of reading). It's actually charming to imagine what the husband-wife duo's average day is like. Picture a couple who wake up in the morning and make their way to their labour of love by 10 am. Think of yourself as someone who walks into the bookstore and is greeted warmly before being led on a walkthrough by either one of them so that you find exactly what you need. And then imagine them doing the same with every other visitor, before they finally lock up Trilogy at 7.30 pm to go back home in the same neighbourhood, only to start the whole process again the next day.

The entire exercise validates what Fry had said in his quote. Yes, Kindles are now a thing. But ask yourself this: can an e-book really be a substitute for the tactile pleasure of leafing through a paperback? Or, for that matter, does the act of going through an article on a tiny mobile phone offer the same experience as reading one in a newspaper, such as the one you're holding?

Time 10 am to 7.30 pm (closed on Mondays)
At 1 Carter Road, Chimbai Koliwada, Bandra West.
Call 9004444560

Four rare titles

. The Complete Don Camillo
. The Women's Atlas by John Seagar
. The Discworld Atlas by Terry Pratchett
. Rehearsing Freedom: The Story of a Theatre in Palestine edited by Johanna Wallin

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