The charm and delight of laying your hands on a pre-owned book is unparalleled. The tattered book cover and yellow annotated pages carry remnants of all its owners, giving the book a history of its own. Housing a treasure trove of pre-owned and thrifted copies is a small bookstore in Lajpat Bhawan, Lajpat Nagar, that is run by Sisters of the People, a vertical of Servants of the People Society, a non-profit organisation established by Lala Lajpat Rai in 1921.
This quaint store sells books received through donations. Founded by Patricia Gupta, a volunteer of the Society, in 2001, this bookstore has expanded slowly over the years due to the efforts of their volunteers. “This bookstore has two motives. Raise funds for the Society and also promote a reading culture. The practise of reading is becoming extinct. We want more people to read,” shared Manisha Bedi, volunteer, Sisters of the People.
A haven for bibliophiles
We visited the bookstore on a Saturday afternoon and were greeted by the smiling faces of the volunteers—a number of college students who have offered to assist here. Stacks of books that almost reach the ceiling fill two cramped rooms. We noticed a number of fascinating titles on the racks. From rare books such as actor Naseeruddin Shah’s memoir And Then One Day and Urdu writer Rahi Masoom Raza’s Dil Ek Sada Kaagaz to popular titles such as Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Homer’s Odyssey, the volumes in this store span across genres. If you scour the racks carefully, you may also find rare first editions and signed copies. “We recently found PG Wodehouse’s signed autobiography,” Bedi mentioned. The books here are usually priced at 60 per cent of the MRP. If one’s lucky, they might, find a deal for as low as `10!
The bookstore has also fostered a congenial environment. The volunteers, who are reading enthusiasts, will not only help you find books but also extend recommendations. Volunteering here has also helped them take their reading habit forward. “The best part of working here is that I have started reading. I now gift books to people around me and prompt people who join us to do the same,” admitted Himanshu Bhati (24) who has been volunteering here since 2019. Sustainability is a core value the bookstore upholds. You may want to carry your own cloth or paper bag if you are planning to visit.
For a noble cause
The proceeds of this bookstore go directly to sustain the 18 Balwadis—the pre-schools are for children aged between three and six years—that are run by Servants of the People Society. Since the organisation does not take any funds from the government, it depends on individuals to support them with their cause. “We need funds to run these Balwadis. We give the kids food, medical assistance, books, uniform, etc.,” mentioned Bedi.
“The bookstore provides books at very competitive prices. I have had a very good experience at this organisation. This is a great way to spread knowledge in this era of internet revolution,” concluded Dr Karuna Taneja, a resident of Golf Links, who we met at the bookstore on Saturday.