Strand Book Stall, Mumbai’s iconic bookshop, down shutters after 70 years
Mumbai: Strand Book Stall, frequented by India’s famous figures, including Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, downed shutters on Wednesday after a run of 70 years.
The curtains came down a day after the ninth death anniversary of its founder T.N. Shanbagh, who started it as a kiosk at Colaba’s Strand Cinema in 1948, and in 1953, moved it to south Mumbai’s Fort area. “This was our flagship book store. The first to open, the last to shut down,” Shanbagh’s daughter Vidya Virkar said.
Five years ago, the five branches she had opened in other cities were shut. “It is not viable to run a book store. The footfall is very low. People’s reading habits have changed. It required deep pockets and subsidies to run this business,” she told PTI.
Visitors to the book shop, which became a landmark in south Mumbai, included scientist Vikram Sarabhai, who had introduced late president Abdul Kalam to Shanbagh, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2003. The legend goes that once when former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited the bookshop after the usual closing hours, Shanbagh gave him 20% discount in the bill, a trademark of the small, compact shop which always had the “new book smell” that so entices bibliophiles.
Noted author late Khushwant Singh once described Strand as the “only personal bookshop” in India, while former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh used to drop by often during his days as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor. After Shanbhag’s death in 2009, the footfall reduced, with the usual suspects being blamed—online retailers and proliferation of e-books.