Faqir Chand and Sons: Preserving stories and memories since 1951
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Faqir Chand and Sons: Preserving stories and memories since 1951

The store still has a hand-painted hoarding and paperbacks covered with plastic covers.

Faqir Chand and Sons: Preserving stories and memories since 1951

Years have gone by, the city of Delhi, as we know has changed, but thankfully some things have remained the same. That is the allure of Faqir Chand Bookstore, an iconic bookstore in Khan Market, that is sure to remind one of a bygone era.

Faqir Chand and Sons stands firm as one of the oldest shops in this poshest market of upscale South Delhi. Once you step in the first thing you notice is that it is a relatively small place. Then you can smell the fragrance of worn-out pages that only a book lover can appreciate! It retains the charm of sifting through hundreds of books lying on haphazardly lined shelves. The bookstore's board proudly proclaims that it was founded in 1951, and nothing has changed about its character since then.

If you are a book lover, which I sure am, you would call this place beautiful. That is how I saw it as I entered this place. I was amazed by the beauty of the books piled up all around me. The store deals in everything from kids’ reading to evergreen classics. I had never seen something like this before in my life.

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In a modern landscape where haute cuisine and glass-encased bookshops have taken hold of the streets, this bookstore is proud to be one of the few that still has a hand-painted hoarding and paperbacks covered by the staff with plastic covers.

The history of the people who run this store is as rich as the titles of books the palace has. The place is presently being run by the fourth generation starting from Faqir Chand. Here, at the store is a tiny desk where you'll see Mamta Marwah, the store owner, proudly owning the legacy of her great great grandfather. Typically in Indian families, the male usually gets ownership, but here you'll see Mamta Marwah breaking all stereotypes.

Faqir Chand came from Peshawar about 90 years ago where he had been running a bookstore since 1931. The 1947 partition of India forced him to migrate to Delhi, leaving everything behind. The family lived in a few places in Delhi until they came to Khan Market, which was established to rehabilitate partition refugees, particularly traders from North-West Frontier Pakistan. The place was initially named Khan Abdul Jabbar Khan. In 1951, Faqir Chand was allotted a shop and a flat in Khan Market. A home where his descendants still live.

Thankfully for us, Faqir Chand decided to reopen his bookstore. He gradually built his clientele and his goodwill increased with time. By the time he finished, he was attracting customers from all over the world and left behind a legacy that has remained in the family ever since.

Abhinav, 24, the founder's great-grandson, has grown up at this bookstore, surrounded by stories and authors. For him, the old Khan market is a part of stories.

"Khan Market, as they tell me, has changed dramatically. Particularly in the last few decades. Once a neighbourhood market, Khan Market today has become India’s most expensive retail location housing many international brands and fancy stores. A fancy Sushi restaurant shares a wall with my bedroom. This is the Khan Market, where I was born into. Originally 74 families were living here, we being one of them. That's the Khan Market I've heard about from my parents' stories. Now only a few families live here."

Visiting the place, you'll encounter different people from places with their pieces of stories to tell.

It was an amazing coincidence that I met Dr Neena Verma at Faqir chand on the day when she was signing her own book “Grief, Growth, Grace — A Sacred Pilgrimage. Neena, a regular at Faqir Chand and sons, shared how she started coming to his place "I was doing my B.Com(H) from SRCC, and as I remember I was reading a book in the garden of my college. Suddenly a professor came, and appreciating my love for reading, he suggested that I visit Faqir Chand. All that he wanted was for me to see the charm of this place and savour their range of books. That was the day I became a regular at the Faqir Chand Bookstore. Later I started bringing my children who are voracious readers. Today no matter where I live, I often come back to this place.”

Faqir Chand and Sons have kept the old-school '1951' look in their shop. They haven't changed the furniture, there haven't been any renovations, and they haven't even classified the bookstore by genre. They prefer to keep it the old way, where people come to browse and stumble upon stacks of books, only to be surprised by a book they had no idea existed.

Interestingly, you would still not feel lost here. The people manning the store will locate most of the titles for you through some unexplained old-school magic. It's the experience and smell of a bookstore that draws people back again and again.

Abhinav, the son of Mamta Marwah, gladly told us, " The most rewarding part for me while working in the bookstore is meeting new people and getting to know strangers. I enjoy interacting with and conversing with book lovers. Meeting people from all over the world and sharing stories, memories, authors, and hobbies with them. Simply holding a book can start a beautiful conversation and create a lifelong connection. The second is meeting our customers, who are more like family friends and hearing their memories and watching them get nostalgic about our shop and my family. Often grandparents come here along with their grandchildren, and tell them how they used to come here with their parents for comics when they were school-age children".

He further added, "It's really emotional when old patrons come and tell me, 'You, know, I knew your grandparents.”

Besides classics and best-sellers, their collection of books on history, mythology, historical and mythological fiction, and Sufi and Urdu poetry sets them apart.

While leaving the store, you'll see a beautiful aesthetic piece on a board decorated with flowers with Faqir Chand and sons written on top at the end of the store.

It's amazing to see how this century-old book store is still here in the 21st century to share its stories with this generation and the generations to come.
 

Sakshi Tickoo
Sakshi Tickoo
929 Days Ago
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