Daryaganj Sunday Patri Kitab Bazar (or, Daryaganj Sunday Footpath Book Market) is a local weekly informal market for used books that has been operating on the streets of Old Delhi, every Sunday for the past five decades. Historically and sociologically, it can be classified as a user-based space, so much so that in 2007 it was officially registered as a “natural market” –– a space which got established over the course of time in which buyers and sellers interact without significant institutional intervention. In this paper, I “locate” these two primary users of this book bazar –– the booksellers, and the book buyers. They are the enablers of the conditions of production and dissemination that operate in this market. Simultaneously, they are the archivers of the (un)official history of Daryaganj Patri Kitab Bazar.
But what must they narrate to a curious ethnographer/ oral historian keen to record the history of a seemingly tentative site? Not necessarily the overarching history of the bazar, but their personal histories –– of their “arrival” in the bazar, of their shauq, or their “attachment” (or, detachment) to the place. Once integrated, these personal histories form a collective biography of Daryaganj Sunday Patri Kitab Bazar. By way of their participation, these users have come to embody the memory of this bazar: they have become “communities of memory” as it were. Methodologically speaking, this is how they participate in this study. I am keen to explore their anthropological relevance in creating a discourse about the parallel book history of Daryaganj Sunday Patri Kitab Bazar that is central to this project, producing a more enduring heritage of the bazar. One could argue that social memory is at its most effective when it is implemented by a majority of a community, rather than by individuals alone. This, however, leads to the formation of a dominant narrative which is deemed more powerful than the minor narratives, which includes narratives of members who are either marginalised, less represented, or new. As I explore the dominant narratives and the ones that are subsided, I will try to understand the need to create such a boundary within the community and without. With the help of ethnography, rhythmanalysis, and interviews, this paper will engage with these anthropological subjects, as it connects book history of Daryaganj Patri Kitab Bazar with its collective yet convoluted social memory.
Keywords: book bazar, communities of memory, attachment to place, oral history, book history
Kanu Priya Dhingra is a research scholar of Book History and Print Cultures at the Centre for Cultural, Literary, and Postcolonial Studies, at SOAS, University of London. Supported by Felix Scholarship Fund, her current research engages with the parallel book markets of Old Delhi. More recently, her work has been published by Himal Southasian, The Caravan, Scroll.in, Indian Literature, among others.
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