June 09, 2021
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Anil Arora, Mr. Bookworm, R.I.P.

Anil Arora, Mr. Bookworm, R.I.P.
Courtesy: IndiaMike
Anil Arora, Mr. Bookworm, R.I.P.

Just read an obit notice. Anil Arora, the man who owned and ran The Bookworm is no more. All things and people that pass take some parts of us away with them: Anil belonged to that part of my time which I spent most joyfully in his delightful bookshop in Connaught Place. I would get off from a bus or an auto, depending upon how broke or flush I was, and head straight into The Bookworm, all set for the familiar heady smell of new books, finger those that I couldn't afford, dip into stuff and earmark for future purchase.

Anil would always be there, behind his desk, playing his beloved jazz -- these were days before I-pod constructed loops, you had select and choose and play the stuff you wanted to hear.

Over the years, he became a dear book friend. He knew what I liked, and he would keep aside books for me, especially the kind of crime fiction I enjoyed most, as well books on cinema, both the genres I still read with a passion.

Anil would always wrinkle his nose at some of my really hardcore crime/science fiction choices, and ask: how can you read that rubbish? And I would grin back at him and order a few more, which he would ask his overseas suppliers to deliver because he wouldn't usually stock that 'rubbish', but was happy to get for you because, you know, Books. All this was way before your Internet-Amazon-Flipkart delivery days, needless to say, as they say. With Anil on your side, you didn't need any other book provider.

You could browse all day, sitting on the tiny stools, and shoot the breeze with him, or you could whizz in to pick up a couple of lovely Penguin classics and race off to a matinee at near-by Plaza, and promise to play him later. It was perfectly all right, because he knew I would be back: where could I go, and not be back?

Connaught Place is no longer the place it used to be. The Bookworm shut down, as I feared it would, because Anil would talk about how the construction of the metro and all the rubble in front had taken away wandering footfalls, and even his most loyal customers had moved to buying stuff online.

I buy stuff online too, but reluctantly, and I can never not frequent bookshops. It is where everything starts.

Play some Coltrane up there, Anil, for all of us bookworms. We will always remember you.

(Extracted with permission from Shubhra Gupta's Facebook post)

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