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As a new bride in a new city, I was quite lost.

Mumbai of the single days that were spent on street shopping and gol gappas and movies and partying was quite a far throw from Mumbai I discovered when I moved here after my wedding. In those days just as one is acclimatizing to a new home, new family, new room-mate (!), new dog – the city too looked new to me.

In the midst of all this newness I ached for something familiar. One day while passing in the car towards our office in Fort I caught a fleeting glimpse of a sign – STRAND book stall. I remembered my father telling me about this shop when he started his career in Mumbai, back in the late 1950s and how he kept visiting it through the years.

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Quietly I trudged out to find the shop among the maze like roads in Fort. It happened to be just a corner away from the office. I entered it and it instantly reminded me of all the old fashioned bookshops I have been to where there shelves may not be swanky but the books are – where the people of the shop knew about the books and don’t have to refer to some computerized catalogue for authors they had never heard of. I felt at home. It was just so comfortable and familiar though I was in there for the first time! Very quickly it became a favourite haunt and my go-to space for comfort and discovery of so many interesting books and authors. So many of my treasures are from there.

Until we moved office to Bandra Kurla Complex – very cool and hep alright but no bookshop around the corner! L I consoled myself that we cant have everything at the same time. Yet whenever I could not find a book, I was still calling up Strand and they would find it! The last one I bought there was a while ago – a beautiful biography of David Lean, put together by his wife Sandra Lean.

Now having returned to the city after six months away shooting my film, I just heard that the Strand Book Stall is closing down. https://scroll.in/video/869831/video-mumbai-s-strand-book-stall-is-closing-we-take-a-trip-down-memory-lane The video beautifully explains the blurred categories of the bookshop and its distinct charm. Somewhere within, this news moves me so much – it signals the closing down of an era.

I remembered how as a student in Pune, one of the iconic bookshops was shutting down and I made it there on the last evening just before its closing time. I was on another upper floor when closing time came and went. I heard some noises but was too busy on my knees looking for books marked 70% off! Finally when I made my way down the stairs, it was just the unsmiling owner and me. Everyone else had left and the shop had officially closed. When I took him my books he gestured to leave them on the counter as he was handling something else. I did so and quietly drifted towards the shelves greedy to find some more. We’d exchange glances at each other as I wondered if I had any more time before he closed down. And perhaps he wondered how long I would stay and therefore delay the final closing time. In that silence I continued to search and he continued to write his accounts. Finally when I had another armful I went to his counter. He patiently looked through each one, made me a bill, took my payment and packed the books. I watched for any sign of emotion and the man held on as stoic as ever. He looked through his glasses as he handed the books over.

“You come here often, don’t you?” I nodded as I gathered the books and smiled. No sign of a smile. As I struggled with the many books he got off his chair and walked to the door. He held the door open for me and I stepped out thanking him. He said “thank you”.

I crossed the road and flagged down an autorickshaw. As we moved I saw him watch me leaning in through the glass door. I’ll never forget that sight because I saw a glimpse of the many emotions he possibly felt.

This time during the film shoot in Nilgiris, during shot one of our senior actors closed a glass door and looked through the door exactly the same way. In an instant I was catapulted back to that autorickshaw and the bookshop man. That is how it works – memory is simply emotion imprinted on moments.

Tomorrow when Strand Book Stall closes down I am sure there will be far more people there. I shall go to pick up some books as tribute to that space and those people who made it feel like home. I will miss it.


Comments: 28

  • theblueyonder February 27, 20182:29 pm

    Good to see you writing again ! ———————————————————— Gopinath Parayil – Founder The Blue Yonder +91.90475.23960 +91.413.4502218 http://www.theblueyonder.com http://www.about.me/gparayil


  • sree4ps February 27, 20182:35 pm

    emotion imprinted on moments!

  • Anil Menon February 27, 20185:21 pm

    Memories are always mesmerizing!

  • Savio February 27, 20186:06 pm

    Didn’t know they were shutting down. Have left Bombay ages ago but these places are part of my DNA. With Rythm House shutting down last year, and now Strand Book House, Bombay sure seems to be in a rush towards letting go of its identity 🙁

  • Divya AP February 27, 20186:26 pm

    Just loved it…’memory is simply emotion imprinted on moments’..Great..!!

  • Babu Sadanand February 27, 20187:35 pm

    memories haunts wherever you are that is how life is….especially to those who forget living,,,,,,,keep writing once your time permit…

  • Jithin Nazeer February 27, 20187:35 pm

    Books are always a signature emotion. Couple that with the shantaram city and a romantic of emotional memories, perfect read for my evening coffee break. Thank you ma’am. And now that you are done shooting, requesting more blogs along the way 🙂

  • ASISH S MENON February 28, 201812:58 am

    lovely note, and thanks for sharing the video too, Anjali.
    goosebumps when he says, coming here every time is a pilgrimage to me.
    the serendipity idea encouraging people to read more is brilliant. wish they didnt have to close down.

  • parvathimad96 February 28, 20182:50 pm

    It feels like I’ve written this. I was in Bombay last summer. I was 21, and living on my own for the first time. The throngs of Mumbai welcomed me as their own, and vada pav and sugarcane juice became daily pleasures. But when the noise got a bit too much, I would go to Strand, pick up a few treasures, and walk to Nariman point for chai. Strand was an integral part of a beautiful summer. I’m going to miss it.

  • Surya February 28, 20184:14 pm

    I am reading your blog for the first time. Even your writing seems visual.

  • d i l i p February 28, 20188:42 pm

    That’s really very sad news Never knew about Rhythm House too. 🙁

  • Vakeel February 28, 20189:52 pm

    It’s wonderful! 🌹🍓💐💝

  • Sara Zacharia March 1, 20188:33 am

    How sad😢 book shops are the breath of any city!

  • Prem Nizar Hameed March 1, 20185:20 pm

    After a long time, I got a notification from you. I thought you stopped writing here and busy working with celluloid scenes. However, nice to see you again with a fine composition. As a bookworm, I could sense your feelings having been etched here, and the glimpse vividly portrayed to make it sustainable. It seems your Mumbai days are more beautiful than your Bangalore days 🙂

  • ramble March 4, 201811:47 am

    I guess it is the time of Amazon and flipkart
    But nothing will beat the joy of finding an unexpected book in a quaint stall.

  • Sheena Yusuf March 4, 20186:26 pm

    Reading your words was like a visual treat. I saw all of it in my mind as though I had been there, Beyond all of that, I felt all the emotions just as though it had been my experience. Beautifully written !

  • musingsofakacchalimbu March 13, 20189:54 pm

    Hey! I loved your piece!
    We have written an article on Strand as well. Please do check it out.
    We are- https://pavwadapepanchat.wordpress.com/2018/03/03/end-of-an-era-strand-book-stall/

  • John Michael April 27, 20188:35 pm

    Beautifully written.
    Thank You

  • manjunambiarblog July 8, 20181:25 am

    Loved your blog. I am a huge fan of quaint bookshops too and would love to spend hours and hours in there. My retirement plan is to start a library in Kerala ! Some day 🙂 !

  • K Kurien Issac July 21, 20189:47 am

    Strand was indeed special. Before Crossword came up closer to us in Powai, Strand and the old books carts of Flora Fountain were the places we could browse for hours. Mr Shanbag (if I remember the name correctly) had a very personal touch. Unlike your Pune book shop owner who kept the emotion in, Mr Shanbag wore it on his sleeve. Sad to hear Strand is no more. Your blog is wonderfully written.

  • Abhishek A S August 7, 20182:12 am

    Early Gud mrng Mam…i dont know wether this will reach in ur eyes and I don’t know who is taking care of this profile.of urs…but I just wanted to convey a msg that..u just took my heart away..by giving such a beautiful movie to the industry…Mam…it’s like now too I can’t even breath properly due to that heavy weight if emotion tht u have showed through tht movie..such a wonderful movie…I’m a movie lover and my passion is to make good movies..but unfortunately I ended being anotherHuman being who has to earn to sustain or to get my life settles due to some reasons..but I have the hope tht..I will one day reach my dream of making a very good movie..like how u r doin now..always will be my.role.model…alwsys..and forever..🖤Thanku for giving us such a beautiful movie .u r an owner of a very great beautiful soul.🖤with lots of love ..one among ur thousands of Fans..-Abhi

  • Rose September 17, 201812:02 pm

    Hi Anjali, I just wanted say Thank you for the wonderful movie koode, deeply touched.
    I lost my daughter, and the movie made me feel she is with me always, thank you for making people feel good..God bless..

  • parvathy sasikala November 22, 20183:53 pm

    Hi ,
    I was trying to find a word to address you with the Hi above. You stay so so close to my heart, I don’t even know how to address you…I am writing this while listening to the song aararo from Koode… Even the shortest beat of that song is filled with so much of emotions…same was tru with this article.. I could see you in fron tof my eyes…It is such a great experience to watch each and every piece of art of yours…a movie or a blog…Thank you…

  • Dini January 4, 20192:34 pm

    So so beautiful how totally unrelated moments connected through your words.

  • Ranjita July 29, 201911:19 pm

    “Memory is simply emotions imprinted in moments” I am taking this as a memory imprinting on my memory of reading this!!!

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