‘Convenience is killing the CULTURE’

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–says Ajit Vikram Singh, owner, Fact & Fiction bookshop, New Delhi It was an end of an era for all those book lovers, who just love to walk into the eclectic book shop, located at the corner, just opposite Priya cinema, New Delhi. For Delhities…especially bibliophile, it is a must visit bookshop for over three decades now. But, it was rather sad, that owner decided to bring down the curtain on Fact & Fiction. Here Ajit Vikram Singh, in conversation with Smita Dwivedi shares his state of numbness on taking this decision. Being in a business for so long, it must not be an easy decision for diehard book lover Ajit Vikram to shut down his bookshop Fact & Fiction. On asking about the same, he shared, “It’s not an easy decision to make, but it’s no big deal. For me, though, it is the end of a long road. I have finally accepted this. I tried to fight this situation for long but finally gave up. For the past several years, I have spent hours wondering about the changes that are happening to my dream profession. The joy of walking into a bookshop looking for particular title has vanished, the quality of people coming has changed, the relationship between a bookseller and buyer has gone oblivion…people are loving convenience, they want to get world at their doorstep.”

So far….so good!

Ajit Vikram SinghOn asking about, how was the journey so far, he added with smile, “Oh! It was a lovely journey for me. I was not forced into book trade; it was my own decision to start a bookshop, as I love to be with books. For me selecting books was not mere a part of my job, it was my passion. I love to select masterpieces for my stock and never just go for best-sellers; I always select good literature, which I suppose was my USP.”

Further commenting on his glorious past, that he and his bookshop enjoyed, he shared, “There was a time when my shop was always packed with bookworms who were drawn to its eclecticism. The world has changed and so have people. There are not many people coming to the shop these days as was the case a few years ago. And as most of the book buyers have shifted to online buying. Over the years, I have developed such a wonderful friendships with people, but now I’m left wondering, where that all gone. There were people like senior govt. officials, authors, scholars, researchers, who all just envy me for having such a noble profession…. Today, they too have disappeared.”

Simulated reading Commenting on decline in reading habits and book buying culture in India, he shared that there’s no book culture in Delhi and added, “I feel that India is not a readers’ country. It’s a shame that bestseller in India is a book that sells ten thousand copies. Just ten thousand! Population size is not the measure of how many people are reading. We can buy cheapest books in India as compared to US or UK. Still, the situation is not good for books. I feel the percentage of genuine readers and book lovers is really less in India.”

He supplemented his statement with the examples of closing down of several book shops across country and solitary disposition of most of the public libraries. Most people, in India buy a book that help them pass an academic exam and that limits their reading.

Stock clearance

Soon after he announced the closure of his bookshop, there are few loyal customers, who are busy giving orders for books, which he feels is really good gesture on their part. “There are few of my regular and loyal customers, who just keep calling now and then to order books, so that I can add more to my stocks, but it’s too late now. They keep interrogating, my decision is still intact or I’m giving it a second thought. As you can see some of the shelves are empty, so I am just waiting for my stocks to get clear,” he shared.

Fact & Fiction houses books ranging from children’s books, classics, to translations. There are some rare books as well, besides books on literary fiction, religion, cinema, philosophy, travel, music, science, history, wild life, cookery, ecology, economics and poetry.

No discounts please!

He also shared his disgust, on people asking for discounts up to 30-40 percent, “People come to my shop and ask if, there’s special discount as we are closing down, I feel disgusted. Look at this place, it is a posh market of Delhi, where people easily spend thousands on food and entertainment, but when it comes to books they want to save money. It’s really sad situation.”

What next?

On a concluding note, we just wanted to know what are his plans for future and he shared, “Even I am wondering what I will do next, one thing is sure that I can’t stay away from books. I might be ordering books for me, reading more and maybe I will do something to make our world, a reader’s paradise,” he concluded.

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