Diviya Kapur , Founder of Literati Bookshop , Goa (India) Talks about Community and Running a…
Running her own Bookshop is literally a dream come true for Divya Kapur. As a child growing up in the big city, she always had this dream…
Running her own Bookshop is literally a dream come true for Diviya Kapur. As a child growing up in the big city, she always had this dream of opening her own book store far away from home, in a place that she would soon uproot herself and relocate to.
Though a major in Law from National Law School of India University (NLSIU) , Bengaluru (https://www.nls.ac.in/) and a litigation attorney from Delhi, Diviya has always been passionate about Books and the Bookselling Business Ecosystem. So, a few years later she decided to semi-retire from legal field and change professions mid-career and looked into pursuing her dream of owning a bookshop.
She has taken over an exquisite and fascinating 100 year old Candolim Portuguese house with a garden, and turned it into a bookstore. Book readings, book clubs, author events and discussion about books…all of Goa’s literature enthusiast gather regularly at Diviya’s — they include now, a fairly large group of writers and creators that have made Goa their home, such as Amitav Ghosh and Dayanita Singh. If anyone walk down the garden path that leads to Literati , they would be greeted and licked by Frida, Diviya’s Labrador.
“I have had to shuttle from Bengaluru to Delhi, and had a year away in Paris as well,” Diviya says, “Eventually, life as a litigator was just too exhausting to handle.”
The book features an incredible roster of great bookstores from across the globe and stories from writers, thinkers and artists of our time. Page by page, Eckstein perfectly captures the lifelong love affair with books, bookstores, and book-sellers that is at once heartfelt, bittersweet, and cheerfully confessional. There’s a reason so many people fall in love in bookstores. Many have an intangible magic. Bob has tried in his book to illustrate the innumerable ways that can take form.
Interview with Bob Eckstein (New York Times Best Selling Author & New Yorker Cartoonist)
Bob Eckstein is an award-winning writer, New Yorker Cartoonist and author of The New York Times best-selling Footnotes…medium.datadriveninvestor.com
Excerpts from the Interview :-
Q1) How did you came up with the idea behind Literati Bookstore & Cafe?
Diviya : The idea of a Bookshop & Cafe was on my mind for a long time as I love reading and it seemed like an ideal way to work and live. I first began to explore the idea when I was living in Bangalore in 1998.
When I was working as a lawyer I had this constant pit in my stomach that something needs to change. I don’t see myself working in a Supreme or High Court all my life . And when the challenges of a career in law made me a cynic , I decided to throw it all, and become a believer again by leaving the halls of crumbling justice. I left Delhi and the kachheri rounds for the ideal life in Goa. My dream came to life in Literati (2006), nestled amid thick shrubbery in a 100-year-old home where books reside, and so do the stories, all kept guard by my Labrador, Frida. :))
Q2) Diviya, tell us about your background. You are a National Law School, Bengaluru (NISIU) alumni. From a baccalaureate degrees in legal studies from the top law school in India then working as a lawyer in Delhi to be in the Bookselling Business, what was your journey? When did you decide that you want to be in the bookselling business? Was there a ‘defining moment’ in your life when you knew you loved books and wanted to point your career in that direction?
Diviya : When I graduated from Law School I practised law in the Delhi Courts for about a year and a half. Though the work was challenging and fulfilling, it was also very frustrating to work in the legal system and on top of that I found living in Delhi problematic because of the aggression and a culture which I found alienating. Though I left the city and legal practice, I came back to both after some time. It was only in 2003 or so that I made the decision that it was time to move on from both. That is when I decided on living in Goa and trying to pursue my earlier idea of opening a Bookshop cum Cafe.
Having made the decision to take a step in a new direction, the question arose of the optimum location for such a venture. “Goa was the optimum choice in many aspects. Not only was the capital required not as much as the cities, but the state also affords a rich interaction with various kinds of people, and that enables you to find ways in which both your life and work can merge.” she says. Thus Literati Bookshop and Café was born.
Q3) What’s your bookstore philosophy and core focus? Curating a Bookstore where you face a wall of books telling different stories, talking about issues which are often suppressed must be a hugely liberating feeling, right?
Diviya : There are many incredible things about being a bookseller, but one of the things I treasure the most is helping readers connect with books and authors, which is part of Literati’s core mission. Being able to help readers find themselves in books, learn about a new culture, or escape to a new adventure is a privilege.
Reading is hugely liberating. It exposes you to new ideas and new worlds of fact and imagination. It allows you to grow as an individual in a way that can’t be compared to anything else. I have always talked about issues that are suppressed, even before opening Literati. So that journey was a natural continuation.
Q4) Bookshops are the space station of the imagination — the place where your mind can take rocket ships to other worlds. They’re places for contemplation, relaxation and escape — and a place where, in most cases, lingering is actively encouraged. Do you agree with this?
Diviya : Absolutely 100%. Unfortunately covid has forced us to change that policy for now, as lingering is no longer advisable. Another factor which has made us wary of lingering, is those who come to a Bookshop to see but only buy online for a few pennies less.
Q5) Why did you choose to focus on radical and independent bookshops, rather than the bigger chains?
Diviya : The joy of a Bookshop for me is in the curation and in the exchange/conversation with other book lovers. The independent bookshop enables this.
Q6) What do you look for in a good book? Could you briefly describe your personal reading preferences? Which stories shaped you into the businesswomen that you are today? What would you say are your top 3 ultimate Feminist books that you love?
Diviya : A good book tells a good story. It creates a rapport with the reader even if the story is not familiar. Different people have different genres that they prefer. I love Literature and poetry, and occasionally a good biography/autobiography.
I don’t know if I am a businesswoman though I hope I am. There are many favorites which have helped shape me as a person. Feminist books which I loved also because of when I read them, include The Women’s Room by Marilyn French, books by Shashi Deshpande and Fear of Flying by Erica Jong.
Q7) Is there anything you’d wish readers paid more attention to in the store? A genre? Or an author?
Diviya : Actually no. The readers we get are diverse and eclectic. Our curation has also been shaped by them. In any case, I believe that all reading is good reading and that we must allow readers to evolve in their own ways.
Q8) While the online shopping culture and Kindle devices had somewhat impacted the business of small bookstores. In a world that is becoming virtual, where one can have books delivered to one’s doorstep and giants like Amazon are encroaching on traditional territory, bookshops are finding it hard to survive. Today’s generation is a generation of browsers not readers. Do you agree with this? What’s behind this resurgence?
Diviya : According to me the kindle reader has only marginally affected the business of small bookstores. It is the big monopolies in alliance with the publishers who have made the lives of independent bookstores really difficult. From devaluing books by offering unviable discounts to non supply of stock to small bookstores, the issues are numerous. But hopefully since most independent bookstores are run by book lovers we will fight back.
I do not agree with the statement that today’s generation is a generation of browsers not readers. I think that those who browse in bookstores and do not buy, go home and buy online. We have created a generation of consumers who are always looking for a deal. That’s what I meant when I was saying books are being devalued. It is time the publishers stepped in and stopped the unequal field of book selling. If not I wish we had governments everywhere which realised the cultural significance of bookshops and stepped in with regulations like in France and Germany.
Q9) Coronavirus restrictions now have independent bookstores caught in an agonizing situation: Just when there a huge audience looking for something to read, they‘ve had to close their doors. Many have found creative ways of dealing with the challenge. Could you tell us about the virtual or digital opportunities during the lockdown, and how far the Bookstore team efforts have been successful?
Diviya : Firstly , I started focusing on what I could do at home during the lockdown. I checked in with my friends and family to see if they were okay. I also spent some time on reading books, watching television, and engaged in some physical activities.
We started seriously getting online orders and delivering them all over the country. We also did an online sale in collaboration with a group called Twice Told which gave sales a boost and helped us expand our customer base. We are trying to be more tech savvy and have started a literatigoa instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/literatigoa/). While the amount of work is a lot more and we have to keep looking at ways of adapting, I would say that we have weathered the storm so far.
Q10) And, lastly what are your future plans for the bookstore?
Diviya : To try and solve the problem of sourcing books and make our presence felt with the publishers so that we can give readers the books they want, To keep our heads above water as the uncertainty continues.
Thank you so much for sharing all these incredible insights with me, Diviya! I’ll be visiting the Bookshop maybe to volunteer, shout booklove and have coffee. I’m sure my readers will be inspired to do the same with their local indie.
If any of my readers here , wish to know more about the bookstore. Do open the links mentioned below . They have a wonderful informative , articulated and well-curated website.
Website : http://www.literati-goa.com/
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/LiteratiBookshop
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/literatigoa/