Letter from Delhi: A Bookstore of Safety

New Yorker, May 24, 2013

For the past four years, the best alternative bookstore in Delhi has crouched in an awkward, elongated space in Hauz Khas Village, a warren of narrow pedestrian lanes that dates back to the thirteenth century and has become one of the capital’s bohemian—and increasingly gentrified—enclaves. Parks, medieval monuments, and a reservoir surround the village, which has a single entrance at the end of an access road where cars must park and auto rickshaws drop their passengers. Yodakin, the bookstore, occupies a ground-floor space in a building close to this entrance, which insures decent foot traffic.

The shop’s front door is up a few steps from the lane, with a tiny landing that Arpita Das, Yodakin’s owner, optimistically calls a veranda. The set-up is inconvenient, but the décor is pleasant and almost airy. The books, all from small presses, sit neatly grouped by publisher on well-lit shelving made of reddish wood, alongside pretty posters of cover illustrations. When Yodakin hosts events, which deal with poetry, art, politics, and sexuality, the audience quickly overspills the minute space and backs into the hall, from where it is impossible to see (or properly hear) anything. Others dangle from the mezzanine, where Das has her work area, and where she lets students who visit the shop but have no money to spend hang around and read. [Read the whole story at NewYorker.com]