A Week in Delhi: Day 1

Sunday Book Market, Daryaganj

Unpacking your backpack upon arrival in Delhi, did you break into a cold sweat, realizing that you’d left your copy of “World’s Very Best SMS Jokes” at home? Worry not – spend your first day in Delhi visiting the Daryaganj Kitab Bazaar (Book Market), and find not just SMS jokes but a delightfully eclectic assortment of secondhand books, from anthologies of gay Indian literature to cookbooks to business school textbooks. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Daryaganj’s Sunday Book Market is “India’s largest platform market for magazines and second hand books.” Take that, Bombay booksellers!

It is huge. Let the crowds push you down the one-kilometer stretch of road that comprises the makeshift market, and peruse roadside bookstall after roadside bookstall.

If you go with a set reading list, you’re likely to be disappointed; go with an open mind, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you find. Plus haggling is expected, so you can come away with, say, the Selected Works of Tagore for about a dollar.

According to at least one media report, the roadside market is not exactly legal, but each bookseller gives 200 rupees to the police for “protection” and the market goes on undisrupted. (Also, the reports of the bazaar’s death have been greatly exaggerated; it’s still going strong as of August 2010.)

In addition to the books, you’ll also find posters – of Bollywood stars and Hindu dieties (no comment on the similarity between the two), of nature scenes, of mismatched text and pictures.

And, after an exhausting day of shopping, you can refresh yourself with a glass of fresh mosambi juice.

How to get there: The nearest Metro station is Chawri Bazar; from there, it’s about 1.5 km to Daryaganj. Either take a rickshaw from the station or, if you’re feeling energetic, walk. If walking, ask for directions at 2-minute intervals (see my advice on going places in India). The Ambedkar Bus Terminal is also nearby (same advice applies). Or, if you have an iPhone, you know, use it.

When to go: Sunday (duh). The vendors are usually set up by mid-morning and stay until dusk.

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