Delhi’s iconic bookstore, The Book Shop, closed its doors on 31 October – 52 years after Kanwarjit Singh Dhingra (KD) and Nini Singh launched it in Delhi’s upscale Jor Bagh neighborhood in 1970. The Bookshop’s closure was announced through a social media post by Rachna Singh, founder KD Singh’s daughter.
“It is with sadness that I would like to announce that on 31 October 2023, The Book Shop will down its shutters — and we will dissolve the partnership that owns it. As it is said, to everything, there is a season, The Book Shop, too, has had its season, now it’s time to move on,” the post said.
With a relaxed vibe, this bookstore was considered as the wonderland of surprises for visitors and regulars not just in Delhi, but across the country. The quaint bookstore was frequented by bureaucrats, authors, politicians and celebrities. It was once described by The New York Times as “the coziest bookshop in the country.”
“The Bookshop is part of so many people’s lives that it could never have closed. It will always be there,” says translator Arunava Sinha.
The Bookshop originally was located at two places – Jor Bagh and Khan Market. The Khan Market store, which was run by KD and daughter Rachna, closed down in 2006 after a 25-year run. After KD’s death, Nini and Rachna remained involved with the Jor Bagh store.
Many bibliophiles and literary enthusiasts visited The Bookshop one last time to pay homage to their preferred haunt and carry back a book or two in its memory.
However, this ending has paved the way for a new beginning – the opening of The Bookshop Inc in nearby Lodhi Colony Market on 1 November.
The new store is led by a former partner, owner and curator Sonal Narain and creative director Mahika Chaturvedi, sales associate Nishad Sen and operations manager Sohan Singh and has exclusively curated books for the capital’s book lovers.
The clean, bright interiors of the new bookshop are lined with a few cane chairs where readers can browse through the books while making their selection. The Book Shop Inc is lined with neatly organized bookshelves on food, travel and nature, world history and politics, philosophy, science, gender, poetry, south Asian literature, and art and drama along with a few shelves for new arrivals and the shop’s monthly curations, which are a big hit with regulars and visitors. However, like in the old store, there’s a stark absence of Hindi and Indian regional language literature on the shelves.
The bigger store has carefully curated shelves with handpicked books from the same minds that have been doing it for so long in its earlier counterpart. With more space between the aisles and the same dark wood bookshelves, the space is well lit and meticulously organized, with slow jazz playing in the background – a remarkable feature that that has been the favorite of the regulars over the years. The mirrors in the ceiling remind one of the older store.
The Book Shop’s old companion, the shop cat, has made it to the new store along with the other familiar faces. The place boasts a tiny lawn at the back, lined with house plants, which sets it apart from the slightly cramped space in the Jor Bagh entity.
When we visited the store on 20 November, exactly 20 days after it opened its doors right next to Guppy in Lodhi Colony market, we could spot readers, both young and old, trying to get comfortable with the serene environment while missing the nuances of their old haunt. The BookShop Inc team, however, remained unavailable for comment.