Hindi Granth Karyalay - Bookstore Mumbai

Published: 05.06.2008
Updated: 03.01.2011

Local Flavour

The long brass chain - with bells at both ends - hanging at the middle of the Hindi Granth Karyalay's entrance has been serving a dual purpose for the last 40 years. Since the stairs leading to the shop are steep, the chain helps the aging customers climb up. While its jingles, as if unwittingly, announce the arrival of a booklover.

They alert Manish Modi, who now runs the CP Tank Road landmark founded by his great-grandfather Pandit Nathuram Premi, to accord them a warm welcome. Nestled in a century-old building, the bookstore's ambiance resembles that of a home library, albeit its size and number of books stacked are little too much for that.

"The publishing house-cum-bookstore started with a Hindi translation of John Stuart Mill's Liberty, titled Svadhinta, in September 1912 by my great-grandfather," says 38-year-old Modi, who left a job at Bulgari in Dubai in 1999 to run the oldest bookstore in Mumbai. This relieved his father, Yashodhar Modi, of this responsibility after nearly 50 years.

Premiji, who worked as a clerk in a Mumbai firm before establishing the publishing house, brought out almost the entire oeuvre of Sharatchandra Chattopadhyaya (most of the titles are still available here) and works of Rabindranath Tagore. Premiji's efforts made works of Gujarati writer K M Munshi's, such as Gujarat ke Nath and Patan ka Prabhutva, available to Hindi readers.

The reach of Munshi Premchand's creations, including classic novel Godan, got a further boost due to the founder's effort. Then new writers Hajariprasad Dvivedi, Jainendrakumar, Yashpal, Acharya Chatursen and Pandit Sudarshan enjoyed Premiji's support before becoming a name in Hindi literature.

The Karyalay's uniqueness lies in its record of publishing 500 books, including a huge amount of Indology and ethic related books in English, Sanskrit, Prakrit, Apabhramsha, Hindi and Urdu. The publishing house's enduring tryst with Indology has its root in its founder, who wrote under the nom de plume 'Premi', being an intellectual giant in the field of Jainism as well as Hindi literature.

Customers like Kristi L Wiley of Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, come here in search of books on Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and other studies. "I had first come here three years back. After that, I have ordered the books I want several times," Wiley says. Another visitor Diana Mahimwala, picks up two books by Arthur Avalon on Kundalini yoga, says, "A friend recommended this place after I failed to get them elsewhere."

A closer look at the collection - new, dust-covered and even with torn jackets - is bound to throw up some pleasant surprises. There are books by Nirmal Verma, considered to be the finest writer in Hindi, plays by Habib Tanvir, more than one editions of the legendary Harivansh Rai Bachchan's Madhushala. More surprises: Koi Achchasa Ladka, Hindi version of Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus in Hindi as Ek Duje Ke Liye and Little Prince as Chotta Rajkumar. There are even copies of the Robert Ludlum's Bourne series.

"I don't want to restrict the shop to just Hindi books," says Modi. As for storing the books with yellowing pages, he says: "In this business, often the father gets the books, the son sells them."

The Sunday Newsline, MUmbai, Sunday, March 16, 2008
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Apabhramsha
  3. Buddhism
  4. Dubai
  5. Gujarat
  6. Hinduism
  7. Islam
  8. Jainism
  9. Kundalini
  10. Manish Modi
  11. Mumbai
  12. Nath
  13. Pandit
  14. Prakrit
  15. Rabindranath Tagore
  16. Sanskrit
  17. Tagore
  18. Yoga
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