After a quick stop at Starbucks and then depositing David at his office, Joachim (our driver) and I set off to find Kitab Khana. I always feel like we are on an episode of The Amazing Race whenever we try to find somewhere in Mumbai as addresses are really just a rough guide and Joachim invariably has to stop the car numerous times to jump out and ask for help, which is not always very forthcoming. The best solution to this problem is to find a phone number for the location, so that Joachim can call to get directions, but also find any and all landmarks that are close by. Luckily for us, Kitab Khana is actually very close to the Flora Fountain and that did the trick for this hunt. Word to the wise, the fountain doesn’t have any water in it and it’s such a busy junction that photo ops are limiting without risking life and limb.
Joachim dropped me at the corner of this junction and I walked the short distance to the shops entrance. Lining the walls of the archway leading to the store are numerous vendors selling a variety of goods: the usual scarves, denim products and now umbrellas, but be warned there are quite a few stalls with male plastic appendages that kind of took me by surprise, and no I didn’t get a photo.
Leaving the chaos of the street scene behind you, step inside this amazing bookstore housed in a heritage structure that is over 150 years old and wonder at the wooden bookshelves packed to the rafters. I didn’t really have a game plan as to what I wanted to purchase so I began by walking around the various sections that are very clearly labeled. Towards the back of the store there is a children’s book section that also has a play area set up to keep any little ones entertained. Adjacent to this area is a vegetarian cafe serving breakfast, lunch and coffee but unlike the US bookstores you are requested to make your book purchases prior to entering the cafe area.
Getting into the swing of book hunting I discovered the photography section side by side with the cookery section and plonked myself in a comfy chair and started to browse my options. I could have easily spent a few hours in this area alone due to the many selections on offer but after a while I decided that the mezzanine area looked quite inviting and so headed upstairs. Here I found sections on Indian religion, politics, management style and culture. I found a good book for David, Chanakya’s 7 Secrets of Leadership; I thought this might give him some insight into how his colleagues are thinking and at Rupees 299 (around GBP 3, USD 4.80) a real bargain.
The Indian equivalent of Feng Shui is called Vaastushaastra or Vaastu for short. As I thought I was in the correct section for this type of book I asked one of the salesmen if he could help me and he promptly pulled out a book from the shelf and asked me to sit and take a look. He shuffled off and soon returned with an armful of other options for me that he had gathered from the floor below – what service. Finding a book for Rupees 75 (GBP 75p or USD 1.25) is just too tempting to say no. Seeing my arms full of books the salesperson took my selections to the cash till to save me carrying anything, so civilized.
Next I headed back downstairs to the fiction/nonfiction areas and browsed the many books by Indian authors. I selected Secrets and Second Chances by Anita Shirodkar (an Indian chic book I’m guessing) and The Big Connect by Shaili Choppra a book about politics in the age of social media (a little more challenging probably).
After ‘loosing’ a couple of hours I headed to the cash till and marveled at the great prices of books in India. That is when I was told that actually there would be a further 20 percent taken off although somewhat apologetically the salesman added that books under 100 Rupees didn’t qualify for the discount! If a book is less than GBP 1/USD 1.60ish then I’m not going to complain if I don’t get a further discount. My total haul of 7 books that included 2 hard backs cost less then GBP 29/USD 46 so I was very happy and will be returning to this store in my near future for sure.
Location: Somaiya Bhavan, 45/47 MG Road, Ford
Phone: +91 0226 170 2276
Hours: 10.30am – 7.30 everyday
Website: Kitab Khana