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It’s an indie book store with the ambience of a salon. Soft music, well-lit shelves and a selection of little-known surveys of regional and global cultures seduce visitors to linger, explore and buy—maybe even begin casual conversations with fellow browsers. But right now it’s facing a dire crisis.

Located in an alley in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village (HKV), Yodakin—started by Arpita Das, the publisher of Yoda Press, in 2009—is probably one of the first curated bookshops in the city. When it opened four years ago, HKV was a true bohemian hub, not the steadily gentrifying neighbourhood it has now become.

As restaurants, cafés and boutiques have mushroomed in the area, rents have also gone through the roof. Several small businesses have been forced to move elsewhere or just shut shop. “There was a guy who sold maps and lithographs at the end of this lane who packed up and left one day," recalls Das, “as did a couple of others selling souvenirs and clothes."

And now, Yodakin, confronted with the prospect of paying double the rent it was paying so far, is considering moving to another part of the village, to a more modest space that is less visible than its current location. To stay afloat, Das has started a series of events to raise funds, the first of which took place on 27 April. Niranjani Iyer read from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for the 70th anniversary of the book, followed by readings by Vivek Mansukhani from Roald Dahl’s Matilda, to mark the feisty heroine turning 25. There is also a donation box in the store where visitors can make contributions.

“Before I chose where we are today, I did explore other options like Shahpur Jat," says Das, “but something about those places did not speak to me the way HKV did." After nearly half a decade in HKV, “Yodakin has become synonymous with the village which, I have always felt, had a spirit of eccentricity built into it," adds Das.

But costs are going up in Shahpur Jat as well. Feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia, who runs Zubaan from there, mentions escalating rent, alongside increased overhead and distribution costs, as some of the difficulties faced by indie publishers. S. Anand, founder of Navayana, perhaps the only English-language publisher in the country focusing on Dalit writing, agrees. “It’s sad that Yodakin is going through a tough time," he says. “It was one of the few book stores that would keep 8-10 backlist titles of ours." Sudhanva Deshpande of LeftWord Books says that operating out of Shadi Khampur, a more affordable locality in west Delhi, as well as the support of several like-minded organizations, have worked for his venture.

Yodakin, so far, has relied on a very basic business model. With the growing popularity of HKV, the number of visitors to the store increased. Word of mouth helped spread awareness of what the store offered, earning it a small but dedicated and growing community of patrons. “The mathematics of it worked for us," says Das, “though I had to invest a good deal in doing up the interiors when we opened the store. At that time, I had hoped that we would stay on for at least 7-10 years."

In the last four years, Yodakin has stocked a range of titles from indie publishers, though it has been discriminating in its selection. “We said no to several indie publishers," says Das, “and only kept those titles that we value." LGBT studies has been a key area of interest for Yodakin, and there is a dedicated reading room in the loft of the store, where it has kept journals like Granta and The New York Review of Books, graphic novels, comics, and canonical and alternative literature in different languages. Das intends to develop this section in future.

To know how you can contribute to Yodakin, visit

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