“Trade to enjoy, learn and grow”

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says Maya H Primlani of Oxford Book & Stationery Co, Darjeeling – the only bookshop in the beautiful city of Darjeeling. Popularly known for its world famous tea business, Darjeeling is a favourite tourist destination. Here people come to unwind…and books are the favoured companions for most.

Jaswant Singh at the bookshop.What better place to find harmony with nature than the ‘Queen of the hills’ or the Darjeeling! And who can forget the world-famous Darjeeling tea revered by connoisseurs across the globe. While most of us know that majority of people are engaged in the tea business here, not many would know that education has been the second most growing activity here. There are many boarding schools in Darjeeling, where thousands of students across the country stay here to get quality education. Thus, the demand for books is obviously high.

One of the oldest shops in Darjeeling dealing with books is Oxford Book & Stationery Co, which has been in operations for over 70 years. Though the name of the bookshop does contain the word ‘stationery’ but the shop focuses mainly on books. The bookshop is now ably run and managed by Maya H Primlani. “This bookshop was originally set up by my father-in-law late Jiwakram H Primlani and then was later managed by my husband late Hiroo J Primlani. After my husband’s death in 1994, I had to step in and run the bookshop, which I equally enjoy,” told Maya.

The bookshop offers books in various genres. While self-help books and management books are in good demand elsewhere, it is not the case in Darjeeling. “Tourists normally pick up children books, guide books, maps and fiction. Books on Buddhism are also in good demand,” she told. The bookshop also houses nursery books which are bought by private schools. “We stock books of 8-10 local Nepalese authors, which are liked very much by local people,” she told.

Telling about their relationship with publishers and distributors, Maya told, “We have been offering books from well known publishers like Gyan, Rupa & Co, etc. We also have good business relations with well-known distributors like India Book Distributors and Variety Book Depot, etc for the last many years.”

On asking about the pattern of shoppers coming to their shop throughout the year, Maya replied, “The only lean season for us are the months of February, July and August, when we keep one-and-a-half days off in a week – half days on Saturday and a holiday on Sunday. But, rest of the months, we have good number of buyers to our shop and so we are open all days of the week,” she added. Of these, Maya attributes 60 percent of their book sales coming from tourists while rest 40 percent from local residents.

So what has been the change in reading habits over the years of the local people in Darjeeling? “The reading habits amongst locals are growing for sure,” she replied. But, the trend of launching books at bookstores is yet to be seen in Darjeeling.

So popular is this bookshop that it finds mention in a pocket-size tourist book on Darjeeling brought out by Rupa & Co. Some of the prominent visitors to their bookshop have been Jaswant Singh in September 2009 and Princess of Thailand – Maha Chakri Srindhorn in March 2005.

In spite of being in business for last 17 years, Maya still feels herself a newcomer to the industry, which is indeed a humble assertion of her zeal to grow further. She is ably assisted by six staff members, of whom Indraman Dewan has recently completed 51 years of his service. “I enjoy this place and the book trade, where there’s a lot to learn and grow,” she concluded.

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