The death of a book store

My first post on WordPress, having been prodded many times to create one.

Ironical, that I start a platform to write, expecting to be read.  And the first post is an obituary to a book store.

When we moved to Hyderabad, about twenty months back, early days, introductions still happening, roads just about beginning to look familiar, talking about what one does and likes to do, I was suggested that I look up AA Husain & Co. by a doctor. That said something. A store has to be there for a long time to get noticed and recommended by doctors, otherwise busy cutting up and stitching up, saving lives and everything else. And following the blog of a bird enthusiast, found the mention of AA Husain & Co book store. So very different kinds of people, and the same book store.

So when I saw the advert that there is a book sale going on, it felt ominous. Books do not go stale, or out of fashion. Checked with the proprietor of an online library (, runs through the internet, where you can choose/ pick up/ get them home delivered;  books), that the store is running out of business and there is a mall that’s coming up in its place.

@ AA Husain: A small space, am not too good with measurements, especially when its wall to wall books, say about twenty  feet by twenty feet, and an attic like space, with a rickety narrow old style steps to climb up.

Books everywhere is an understatement. Some authors I ask for are all taken already, James Herriot, Gerald Durrel, Murakami , all sold. There is still plenty. I start with the children section which is upstairs. They have all been wrapped up neatly in plastic transparent wrappers. Because there is just so much dust from the constructions nearby!  In five minutes of touching the books, my palms turn black. I heard a man say “haath kharab ho rahen hein” (hands are becoming dirty).  The person assisting around nods.

Descending downstairs, one does not know where to begin. Its Chaos. Almost all of them mixed up and all of them everywhere. There is still some method in the madness, and that only the store assistants are able to help you with, knowing where is what, having worked there for a very long time. Selling a book, as we all know, is much different than selling a burger or a chiffon saree. It requires you to know a genre, know an author, know contemporaries of that author and know that Time.

I try to ask, when did the book store start? 1978. Are you shutting down? Yes. Is it because of lack of business (terrible I called it business) or is it the online purchases. Multiple reasons, am told. I sigh. But they go about their work stoically, much like how I feel when I visit a relative in a house, old or bedridden, at death’s door as they say, but find the people around going about their everyday lives. Resilience, adapting, I honestly do not know.

Despite the dust smeared palms, peak summer with couple of fans, literally stepping on somebody’s foot or knocking against someone, many “excuse me-s”, nobody is complaining. Nobody is even talking loudly. Plain and simple, looking at books, searching for books, just books in everybody’s minds.

So, how would the people who like an old, musty book store, be able to say they do not want it to go. They do not want a mall in its place. They do not have any use for a mall. Who decides in urban spaces whether a hospital, a school or a mall is needed?

Surely, there needs to be more justification than just the ability of a realtor to pay?


blackened palms
blackened palms

DSC_1334DSC_1331 DSC_1330

the staircase
the staircase


view from the attic
view from the attic
two bags full
two bags full

6 thoughts on “The death of a book store

  1. Thanks for this Anu. You have evoked that feeling of loss, the touch of pathos…..almost as if it is a bookshop just next door. You leave the readers with that question that we ask so often these days: Who decides whether a bookshop should remain or not? Whether it is in the ‘national interest’ or not…and many many more…


  2. Hi, I have been trying the landline number of A.A.Hussain, given quite a few times, in Hindu Metro Plus/Friday Review, but there was no response. Could you please share any mobile number by which they can be reached, if you have one.

    Thank you.


  3. Hey, when you were talking about how the people who were working there were stoic akin to how people are on a relative’s deathbed, it is not resilience and it is not adaption moreover. It’s that feeling of helplessness that makes you figure out that theres nothing more you can do than move on and I’ll be lying if I say I don’t feel pain but after the initial bit of sadness, it becomes quite easy to come to terms with someone’s passing away. I believe they have the same mindset.

    But the books. I am glad you bought so many, the very thought of a bookstore closing still gives me an unsettling feeling. Maybe tats because I had a library of my own, from which I had to distribute all the books I had because we were moving away.

    You’ve written beautifully.


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