The End Of An Era At Mumbai’s Iconic Strand Book Stall
Meher Moos browses through the bookshelves at Strand Book Stall. But, this time she does it with a heavy heart. Her favourite bookstore in the heart of Mumbai is shutting down on Feb. 27. “Strand is 70 years old, I’m 73,” she points out, having visited the store right from the time that it was a just a couple of book shelves set up by TN Shanbagh, at Mumbai’s then-chic Strand Cinema in Colaba. Shanbagh eventually moved to a bigger store in the busy commercial district of Fort, just a few miles away.
Customers, young and old share some of their fondest memories at the bookstore, pointing to the narrow stairways and the quaint decor, and the warmth extended to all customers.
Shanbagh’s daughter, Vidya Virkar has been running the store since 2009, after her father passed away. She maintained the store’s traditions over the years, from discounts and special sale days, to tying up with schools to hand out vouchers to students. But, with many customers preferring to purchase books online, or consume content on e-readers and hand-held devices, the bookstore business has been like going through “hoops of fire”, says Virkar .
Still, when you head down to Strand in its last few days and you’ll see teenagers and octogenarians alike still share their love for books. A customer browsing through a stack of books calls out to another scrutinising a peculiarly-stacked set. “Excuse me, that’s my pile over there,” she says. Both exchange awkward looks, then a few laughs and a few book recommendations as well.