Well, Narnia for a bibliomaniac anyway!
It was a typical Sunday. We had finished a hearty breakfast – sandwiches, chocolate cake, vanilla latte, et al – at Sibang Bakery (it’s Korean) at Gurgaon’s South Point Mall – I tell you this understated mall has THE BEST treasures tucked away. (Try Izu, if you love Japanese. The portions are larger than most Jap restaurants in Delhi-NCR).
Anyway, so instead of going back home, we decided to walk around the mall in the hope that we stumble across another hidden egg. And lo and behold, there it was: the best bookstore ever!
Hidden in plain sight, Chapter 101 seems like a pretty nondescript shop from the outside. In fact, the name doesn’t exactly tell you anything except for maybe the almost invisible ‘curated and collected’ words written on its glass doors.
It’s when you open the door that you truly feel like you’ve stepped into the cupboard like little Lucy Pevensie. Or slipped down the rabbit hole like Alice. Or opened the door to the Department of Mysteries for the first time.
You are immediately transported into what Sherlock Holmes’ study probably looked like – huge armchairs, an exquisite wooden desk, bulky bookshelves, a (fake) fireplace, carpets and OH that smell of leather! (The only thing missing was that distinctive smell of pipe tobacco in the air…)
And of course there are books everywhere – and no Chetan Bhagats allowed! Sounds like Paradise, doesn’t it?
What is unique about Chapter 101 is that you probably won’t find the books here in any old regular store in Delhi-NCR’ – first editions, rare volumes, the lot!. Most of these have been acquired from bookstores and auctions around the world (like Barnes & Noble and the Franklin Library).
You’ll find limited and unique editions of your favourite classics like Little Women, Bram Stroker’s Dracula, Heidi, A Christmas Carol and my personal FAVE – old (but brand new) editions of ALL 90 of P.G. Wodehouse’s books! Spanning three whole shelves! I am just dizzy thinking about them.
And then they also have twists to classics like Tequila Mockingbird and Gone With the Gin!
The books aren’t cheap, mind you; prices start from 500 INR and go into lakhs of rupees – you’ll know why when you find gems like all 19 volumes of Ernest Hemingway, unique editions of Vanity Fair and Don Quixote (with artwork by Dali!) or a crumbling 1860 edition of the KJV Bible.
You know what I love about Chapter 101? It doesn’t seem to be the kind of bookstore where you absolutely have to buy a book or else endure dirty looks from the boy behind the desk. It is the kind of book heaven where you are welcome just to flip some pages, have *free* coffee as a soft jazz record plays, and sit for hours. It is the kind of bookstore only a book lover could have imagined and poured his soul into, not for any profit but his own personal collection for everyone to enjoy.
I wish there were many places like Chapter 101. But then, there would be too many Alices for my comfort!