Mass Incarceration

A conversation with a dying breed: A bookseller in Kolkata

The guide trade in Kolkata is in decline. Here’s a dialog with presumably one of many final impartial English booksellers within the Indian metropolis, who delves into why his enterprise, the trade and the tradition is struggling

19 January, 2023, 09:00 am

Final modified: 19 January, 2023, 09:04 am

Prem Prakash is dedicated to maintaining his bookshop, presumably one of many final English bookshops in central Kolkata, open until the top of his time.
Photograph: Courtesy

Prem Prakash is committed to keeping his bookshop, possibly one of the last English bookshops in central Kolkata, open till the end of his time.
Photo: Courtesy

Prem Prakash is dedicated to maintaining his bookshop, presumably one of many final English bookshops in central Kolkata, open until the top of his time.
Photograph: Courtesy

Prem Prakash is initially a refugee from Dera Gazi Khan, West Pakistan. His mother and father and two brothers migrated to India in 1946 and first arrived in Agra. In response to Prem, his father opened the primary bookshop there and later opened a second one in Shillong, West Bengal, in 1949, simply after the partition.

I met him for the primary time in 1971, once I was a refugee in India too, at his bookshop. Subsequent to New Market and reverse the well-known Kolkata cinema corridor Mild Home, stood his English bookshop named The Fashionable Guide Depot.

In November final yr, once I was in Kolkata, I traversed town to succeed in his store; extra so to search out out whether or not he’s nonetheless there. To my very nice shock, I discovered him on the actual location, the place he nonetheless runs his store and it appears virtually the identical because it did greater than 5 a long time in the past in 1971. 

Ecstatic, I grew to become immersed in a protracted dialog with him, significantly in regards to the present English guide market in Kolkata. Quickly I discovered that neither of his two youngsters are inquisitive about persevering with this enterprise; at the moment one is in america and one other one is out of West Bengal. 

Prem, who involves his store each day, shared how he’s beneath strain from members of the family, constructing homeowners and neighbouring hawkers to shut his store and promote the house to different companies. 

Prem additionally defined he’s not making any cash from the store – a phenomenon that may be attributed to the final decline in guide gross sales on this age of the web. On-line enterprise is extra profitable than bodily bookshops. And Prem’s enterprise was not spared the reeling results of the digital age on booksellers.  English guide publishers like ‘Orient Longman’ are closing their enterprise in Kolkata. 

“I blame the federal government of Bengal and the present regime in Delhi for the exacerbated assault on the guide trade,” mentioned Prem, who opined that each one ruling events, together with communists and Trinamool, have undermined intellectuals, professionalism and academic establishments in Bengal. 

Furthermore, the media panorama is present process a considerable change too. “Almost all newspapers have change into a beacon of political propaganda. As soon as Kolkata was proud to publish newspapers like ‘Statesman’ however at present credible newspapers that work to serve the frequent persons are a troublesome discover,” lamented the veteran bookshop proprietor. 

Prem additionally harbours robust emotions in opposition to political establishments’ affect on the training sector. 

“If one appears at nice academic establishments like Presidency Faculty and Jadavpur College, all are actually managed by the ruling occasion scholar entrance. There is no such thing as a scope at no cost scholar politics and the follow of free speech and democratic values,” shared Prem. 

I used to be saddened to see empty cabinets and meet an emotional Prem Prakash at his store. At this age, he’s now not optimistic about English guide shops in Kolkata. One dedication he made was he’ll attempt to maintain, presumably, one of many final English bookshops open within the central location of Kolkata, until the top of his time.

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