CITYSCAPE Having to buy many books, are you wondering how to balance the budget? Here’s the answer: second-hand books.JOHANNA BOZUWA
Chennai’s Moore Market has always been known for its second-hand books. From the 1890s, the shelves have been perused by thousands, searching for that enticing title. Unfortunately, this old market caught on fire in 1985. Now, in the shadow of the Central Railway Station, there is a replacement market under the same name.
Frequenters of the old market. however, say the charm of the past is gone. Even vendors like Youseff who has been selling in Moore Market for over 25 years, exclaim, “I liked the old market better.” But, they still stand next to their stacks ready to sell. The books may have cracked spines but, for the most part, they are in good condition, itching to be read.
As you peruse the offerings, you will be astounded to see Gandhi’s autobiography placed next to Nicholas Spark’s Dear John, both propped up by a guide to computer technology, dated 1999.Mohamed Rafi, another vendor, says Sidney Sheldon and Nicholas Sparks are some of the better selling authors in his shop. If Moore Market doesn’t have what you want, you could also try Pycrofts Road, Triplicane.
The vendors’ biggest source is from second-hand textbooks, especially engineering! You can find 1000-page books on civil engineering for a mere Rs. 60, or even less, if you are a good bargainer. Sometimes, the notes in the margins or highlighting of certain passages is the greatest gift you get when it is two in the morning and you are trying to get through tomorrow’s assignment in a rush.
If you want to read a book for leisure, or are an avid book-reader who goes through titles like Count of Monte Cristo in two days, this is the place to go. They have authors like Nora Roberts and the big names from the past like Leo Tolstoy. Though it may take some digging, there are bound to be treasures locked away under the stacks. It just takes some time, and if you are a book-lover, this won’t be a problem. The books aren’t solely in English, either.
Don’t expect the vendors to help you, though. They know the names of the books and the popularity, but very few have read on their own time.
Too many books
If your desk is already a thick wall of books, may be it is time to weed out the ones from that class you ended up not taking or the Grisham that wasn’t exactly your cup of tea and make some money. The vendors have to get their products from somewhere, and that could just be your overstuffed shelves. Though you won’t get the price you paid for it, you can still make a little money off the books, and know that someone else is enjoying (or labouring over) them.
The white bearded Alwar has been holding a roadside stand for second-hand books in Mylapore for 70 years. If you make your way to his outdoor “shop,” you will see piles of haphazardly strewn books of any shape, size, or edition with a tarp thrown over to keep out the sun and rain.
Do not let this jumbled sight fool you, though. Under the unlikely tarps and ripped copies are gems just waiting to be discovered. There are also comics, textbooks, and entrance exam books for you to buy, as well. It is well worth checking out, and you may even have a celebrity sighting at the humble roadside stand.
Johanna is entering her second year studying Environmental Policy at Barnard College, part of Columbia University.
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