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KD, The Book Shop and the emergence of a modern city

Nilanjana Roy has written so well about KD Singh and The Book Shop that it is actually unnecessary for me to add my two paise. But the making of our lives as city persons compels us to weigh in when a friend and person close to our feeling of the city passes away. Roy’s article about KD Singh and The Book Shop published by Business Standard is reproduced on page 6.

We must take part in this ritual of the city becoming more of a city — and in this case, to acknowledge a place that was the crossroads of our individual and collective biblophilia and humanity and our need to be part of an organism that can self-correct itself into the future. In a way anonymity makes a city better — the realization that we are all little fish in a very big pond — and that our general behaviour contributes personally in a modest and self-effacing way. In our own way challenging the brash self-aggrandizement of a capital still coming to terms with itself — where too many of us are out to prove that we are somebody.

I was one of many who worked in the The Book Shop a legion that over the past 40 years benefitted from KD and Ninni Singh’s gentle friendship — in my case an informal part-time arrangement that included looking after the Jorbagh bookshop in the afternoons at a time when it played second fiddle to the much larger and hugely sucessful Khan market shop. This relationship began one day in Khan market when as a mere browser, I remarked that a certain type of non-fiction segment could be enhanced. KD immediately responded by asking me to build up this section and since I worked as a consultant a few days a week, I did this by spending several afternoons a week there. Although the section never really took off, it is just an example of KD’s tolerance and generosity — his willingness to listen to and work with anybody. KD was a fiercely loyal friend — he stood by his friendships even in very challenging situations. Those of us who tried to get him to dump a losing cause could never get him to abandon or speak ill of an old friend.

Occasionally one met friends, interesting readers and authors at the Book Shop. But the mere fact of the Book Shop’s existence in a city that was rapidly evolving meant that we shared this place separately and collectively — its collection of books a mixture of our nostalgic and other longings and taste, KD’s recommendations, and our own intuitive discoveries. KD Singh tolerated and often empathized with all our weaknesses and egos. It helped that Delhi’s grappling with modernity and power yielded some positives including its flourishing publishing industry.

It was always fun to discuss the publishing industry with KD. He was among the first to point out that eCommerce sites were selling books at a loss but he had a strong self-belief that independent book shops would survive.

One cannot forget him or neglect The Book Shop in Jorbagh. Above all his passing reminds some of us of our past forty years of living in Delhi and how this brutal city always contained a man who provided a gentle sanctuary for our sometimes bruised souls. Or the times he invited us next door for a cup of tea during his afternoon break.
Naresh Khanna from the edit-blog page of Indian Printer and Publisher, September 2014

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