Faqir Chand Bookstore : An Interview with Abhinav Bamhi
Faqir Chand Bookstore is a well-known bookstore located in Khan Market, New Delhi, India. It has been in operation since 1951 and is popular among book lovers in the area. The store is known for its extensive collection of books, ranging from fiction and non-fiction to academic and reference books. The bookstore is also known for its knowledgeable staff, who can assist customers in finding the right book for their needs. If you're a book lover in Delhi and looking for a place to explore a wide range of books, Faqir Chand Bookstore is definitely worth a visit.
Thanks for reading The Literature Archive! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Over the years, Faqir Chand Bookstore has remained committed to promoting reading culture and supporting local authors and publishers. The store is now run by Faqir Chand's son, Abhinav, who has continued his father's legacy by providing an excellent selection of books to readers in Delhi.
I had a wonderful & insightful conversation and Q&A session with Abhinav who is incredibly warm, friendly and cheerful about Bookselling Business Ecosystem and how indies can be resilient in an uncertain business and economic environment.
“As a great grandson of the founder. I’m still learning been in the family business for the last 6 years. I’ve done my graduation in English literature while learning practically at the bookstore (helping my parents in family-business). As we live in khan market itself, I’ve literally grown living amongst books, authors, and book lover” says Abhinav
Excerpts from the Interview :-
Q1. Tell me about Faqir Chand Bookstore. What’s it like? Tell our readers here about its rich and organic history? When and how the bookshop came into existence?
Abhinav : I’m the fourth generation bookseller. Going back about 90 years .My great grandfather MR. Faqir chand came from Peshawar ,he was running the bookstore there since 1931, but as a consequence of partition he has to flee leaving everything behind. Post partition - In Delhi, my family kept shifting places, until they came to Khan Market. Established to rehabilitate the partition refugees , particularly the traders from the NWFP. Named after khan abdul jabbar khan. 1951 when he was allotted a shop and a flat (where we still live) in khanmarket. He decided to re-establish his bookshop Here, starting from a scratch , he slowly built his client’s and goodwill over the year , making patrons from All oner the world, and leaving behind the legacy that is still running in the family ever since. I spend my entire day at the bookstore, learning the trade from/with my parents. We’re proud as a family to be a part of this legacy, continuing it as a family run bookstore.
Q2) How did your family manage to make the move from Peshawar to Delhi, and was it difficult to do so?
Abhinav : At first, my family was reluctant to leave their home, but slowly and eventually they had to flee! In 1948 a little after the division! (As the communal tensions grew stronger ) and they had no other option. The June 1947 the announcement of partition came as a total surprise, they had never believed that partition would actually happen. Even after the announcement,They believed that partition would be quite peaceful, and they could continue to live in Peshawar. In August, they declared themselves as Pakistani citizens and celebrated the end of British rule. They never thought that partition would bring any change in their lives. The communal trouble started much later in Peshawar. They left Peshawar in mid-November.
Mr. Faqir Chand couldn’t imagine leaving everything behind. It was only when the deputy commissioner (a friend of his), told Faqir Chand, that could no longer protect him, that Faqir Chand realized that the family would have to leave.
The family was already living in a state of fear, the shop already declared an evacuee property. Thankfully, The deputy commissioner arranged a chartered flight to Delhi. They didn’t suffer the violence and train journey. As heard, their Muslim friends helped them reach the airport safely.
Q3) You've been in Khan Market since 1951. How have you seen the market change and evolve?
Abhinav : ah! Khanmarket has changed tremendously. Specially over the last couple of decades, with international brands setting up. A place that was home to 74 (flats)families, only 6 residents are left (we being one of them). The once, local neighbourhood market has turned into the most expensive retail location of our country. But that’s the khan market I’ve heard of, in stories told by parents. For me, the current Khan Market is how I’ve seen the market! My bedroom’s wall is shared by a fancy Sushi restaurant. This is the only Khan market I know. This is the Khan Market "my home” I was born into.
Q4) How many books do you think you have gathered over the years?
Abhinav : to be honest! No idea. As there are books behind books, behind books. Some were bought during my grandparents time, and these rare treasures are still with us, waiting to be found.
Q5) Have you personally always wanted to help run the bookstore?
Abhinav : yes! That has always been my plan, from very early in life. Honestly, this is all I know. Continuing the family legacy remains my primary motivation. Plus, i myself love reading, that adds to the beauty of my everyday.
Q6) Faqir Chand has an old-world charm about it which remains unparalleled. What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in this bookstore? What, according to you, makes Faqir Chand special?
Abhinav : We’ve maintained the old-world "1951” Look. Haven’t changes the furniture, no renovations, haven’t even categorised the bookstore according to genres. As we like to keep it the old way where people come and browse and stumble upon stacks of books, and get found a book they didn’t know existed. Although, by some unexplainable "method to the madness”, me and my family knows how to locate most of the titles.As people say this is his a bookshop should be, where our priority is books and just books. It’s more about the experience and the scent of a bookshop that gets people back, again and again. For us personal relationship with our customers is most important, to understand our readers, to know there personal tastes and then recommending them new books. Most of the regular customers have become my friend.
2 most rewarding aspects of my work/life!
The first is to meet people, getting to strangers. I love interacting, talking to booklovers. Meeting people coming from all over the world, Discussing stories, memories, authors, hobbies with them. Just holding a book in enough to start a beautiful conversation and making a lifetime connection.
The second is to meet our customers (who are more like family friends), when they share their memories and nostalgia associated with our shop and my family. We get people from all over the world, coming and telling that how happy they’re too see our bookshop again, some of them are coming to India after decades ,they share their memories and love.Sometime elderlies get their grandchildren and tell them how they used to come with their parents for comics, when they were school going kids. People walk in And stand still (lost in thoughts) looking at the books, remembering all the memories they’ve shared with our store and they say 'this is something that hasn’t changed’. People move to other the world, live whatever lives they live. And come home and find, faqir chand is still here. Reminding them of the lives they’ve lived.
It’s really emotional when old patrons come and tell me "You know, I knew you grandparents”. Or laughingly they say
"I’ve been coming here since 70’s, long before You were born”.
Q7) Do you think the print industry has suffered in recent years? What does Faqir Chand's future look like?
Abhinav : No, can’t complain. People who read books they read "books”! Nothing can replace the human experience to get lost among piles of books, exploring unknown authors, smelling the pages, touching the paper , interacting with fellow browsers and storekeeper. This is something only a brick and mortar shop can provide. This is my point of view, although I’m aware that bookstores all over the globe have shut down. But luckily, Delhi still reads "books”.
The legacy will continue! I’m hopeful About it ❤️
Q8) We have seen many shops come and go in Khan Market, yet yours remains a delightful constant. How have you managed to stay afloat in the new digital age, as well as during the pandemic?
Abhinav : The main reason for that is, we own the place. Otherwise paying rentals and running a bookstore is impossible! In Khan Market.
The LOVE we get from people, helps us stay afloat emotionally and morally, that’s all need, that’s all that keeps us going.
Even during the pandemic, we received such kind message from our customers, who’re more than just customers. Asking and hoping for our well-being. Expressing their eagerness to visit the shop post lockdown.
Q9) Out of the myriad books that line your shelves, which is your personal favourite?
Abhinav : ok, the most difficult question! To name one book that is the closest to my heart, it’ll be "The god of small things by Arundhati Roy”. Certainly the most soulful book I’ve ever read, written in a beautiful poetic style that touched each and every sense of my soul. After reading a chapter I started living with the book, could feel author’s breath on every page, was able sense the characters and relate every word and feeling. I started experiencing another world, the world which was more real than reality. Each and every line made me live, think and die at the same time. Sometimes it felt like I’ve written these lines or maybe the book already knows me and my life.
After finishing the book I felt a sense of great loss, like I’d become a part of the book or maybe the book took a part of me. I’ll probably never get out of the book, a part of my soul will always remain in there. The made me feel so much more that I can’t even express…How can i say more than words can say.
Q10) What are some books you would always recommend to your customers?
Abhinav : Oh! There are so many! It depends on the vibe I get from the person/customer asking for a recommendation. I’ll just name a few (my favourites)
- The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
- City of Djinns by William Dalrymple
- The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
- The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich
- the outsider by Albert Camus
- Dozakhnama by Rabisankar Bal
Poetry! Specially Urdu Shayari, my love. My favourites are Mir taqi mir, Ghalib, Faiz, Amrita Pritam and I really really really recommend Agha shahid ali’s poetry, to everyone! I make sure, all my friends read his poems.
Thanks for reading The Literature Archive! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.