July 24th, 2017
19, M.G. Marg, Civil Lines, Allahabad – 211001, Uttar Pradesh, India.
It’s a shame to have lived in the 1900s and not have heard of The Jungle Book, penned down by a widely renowned Anglo-Indian, Rudyard Kipling. The fables from The Jungle Book have come out in so many television series and motion pictures, that it almost becomes not-very-possible to not know Kipling. His journey in the world of paperback began with a series of books, Plain tales of Hills being one of them, published by the House of Wheelers, Allahabad in 1888.
The House of Wheelers, better known as A.H. Wheeler & Co. Pvt. Ltd., has its outlets all across the major cities and railway stations in India, particularly in the North. One of its many outlets is the Wheeler Book Shop in Allahabad. It is currently managed by Mr. P.L. Yadav, and the A.H. Wheeler & Company Pvt. Ltd. as a whole operates under the management of Mr. Alok Banerjee.
“Books are not expensive”, says Mr. Yadav. “Our attitude towards them makes them look expensive. I see people in torn slippers with nothing but a water bottle and essentials in their bags buying rare editions of books from here. I’ve also seen people coming here in expensive shoes and complaining about the prices of books. We have to decide for ourselves; what is worth more – Books, or shoes!”
Mr. Tripathi, a sturdy gentleman supposedly in his late 50s, also a vivid reader, has been visiting this bookstore for ages now. Coincidentally, he’s at the store, at 11:00 am today. He buys some books and insists Mr. Yadav keep them till he comes back to collect them. He cannot take them home for apparently, his wife is already furious with the massive collection at their house.
“When I came here for the first time, the billing counter was shorter than it is now; more than some 50 years ago. And, earlier, the counter used to be on the right side”, Mr. Tripathi recalls. “Long time back, when I was working out of the city, I was looking for a book on Varanasi, known as Varanasi Rediscovered. I ordered it at some bookstore. They had one copy of it left, and that was in Singapore. So they got it delivered for me. It cost some 2000 INR. The other day, I came here and was talking about it. These people asked me the name of the book, went inside and came back with two copies of the same.” He goes on to list some of the best bookstores across the country while putting the Wheeler Bookshop on the top of them all.
Two young men enrolled in the University of Allahabad persuade Mr. Tripathi to help them find good books on Life Skills. He’s happy to help. Before I leave, however, he has an important fact in store for me. “If you are free some time, around 04:00 pm maybe, come down to this bookstore. They play a collection of Hindustani music that you’ll probably not find anywhere else.”
The Wheeler Bookshop – “Sharpening Minds Since 1966”
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Wheeler-Book-Shop/1291833537575661
Official Website: https://ahwheeler.com/
Covered by: Ashmita Rai for Experiences1o1.com