Kutub Khana Rashidia Posts

“Urdu Bazaar, within the Walled City of Delhi” by Mayank Austen Soofi

On 23 Feb 2023, the well-known Delhi chronicler and photographer, Mayank Austen Soofi, created a fabulous Facebook post about Urdu Bazaar. It is within the Walled City of Delhi. With his permission, I am reposting his text and photographs on my blog. Thank you, Mayank!

Urdu Bazar is a terrifyingly congested block of human cacophony and traffic tumult. Tolerated only because it hosts a picturesque part of the Walled City (Jama Masjid gate no. 1), and because of its dozens of kebab shacks (Chunnu Chacha Kakori Kebab’s, etc). Not many are aware that these popular eating joints replaced the once-popular institutions that constituted the spine of Delhi’s literary world—the Urdu bookstores and publishers that gave the bazar its name (according to a version). Today, a Walled City bashinda finds it impossible to name even a single of those extinct landmarks. But reader, you won’t be one of those ignorant citizens. Here’s a list of all the disappeared icons:
Azad Kitab Ghar
Central Book Depot
Chaman Book Depot
Deeni Book Depot
Ilmi Kitab Ghar
Kutub Khana Hamidia
Kutub Khana Nazirya
Kutub Khana Rashidia
Lajpat Rai and Sons
Maktaba Akhlaqia
Maktaba Burhan
Maktaba Ishat ul Quran
Maktaba Shah Rah
New Taj Company
Saji Book Depot
Sangam Kitab Ghar
Make no mistake, Urdu Bazar is still left with a few bookshops:
Kutub Khana Anjuman-Taraqqi-e-Urdu
Kutub Khana Azizia
Kutub Khana Rahimiya
Maktaba Jamia Ltd
Markazi Maktaba Islami
Madina Book Depot
Rizwan Book Depot
Indeed, it is the generous gentleman at Maktaba Jamia Ltd who listed out all the extinct bookstores. The unassuming Ali Khusro Zaidi, 68, is the bazar’s longest serving bookstore staffer (see photo). A Sikandrabad native, he has been manning the shop since 1978. “All those bookstores were in existence when I started working in Urdu Bazar.” The man’s Urdu diction is genteel, leisurely paced and melodious. You are tempted to preserve his speaking voice into the mobile phone recorder to replay later on loop. “Urdu ka mahaul waqt ke saath ujadta raha,” he mutters, picking up a receipt booklet.
This afternoon, the bookstore is as quiet as a qabar. A 2023 wall calendar is highlighted with an Allama Iqbal verse:
Sitaaron se aage jahan aur bhi hain
Abhi ishq ke imtihan aur bhi hain.
(More worlds exist beyond the stars,
More love trials still to surpass.)
On enquiring about a framed calligraphy nailed on the shop’s mehrab, Ali Khusro explains “that’s ‘khushamdid,’ meaning welcome.” And this paper scrap with handwritten Urdu on the desk? These are the books ordered for a customer, he says. He reads aloud the list:
“Yehudi ki Ladki
Urdu Shayari Ka Fanni Irtiqa
Urdu Nasra Ka Fanni Irtiqa
Tamasha Ghar
Rasta Band Hain.”
The bookstore, since 1949, stands beside the much-loved Tasty Chicken Corner, formerly Maktaba Akhlaqia.

24 Feb 2023

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