Sitting on the anvil of my new Book release – my debut in non-fiction – I decided to visit a couple of Bookstores in Dehradun, the still beauteous Valleytown that sits cradled in the bosom of the Shivalik foothills of the great Himalayas.
At one time, in my not too distant past, Dehradun was a place of academic thrust and a host of literary activities. I remember discussing magazine features with Brahm Dev, whose majestic Astley Hall Watch Shop – RK & Company had been a meeting ground for several luminaries in the field of literature including the indefatigable and timeless Ruskin Bond. I recall Brahm Uncle sending me off to the abodes of established writers and Hindi language poets, who had made Dehradun their home, for relaxed yet highly entertaining interviews. I also recollect being invited to the prestigious Doon Club to participate in Kavi Sammelans – Poets’ Meets – that were often held on Sunday mid-mornings.
Since there was a paucity of time on this visit – one that I was making to Doon after a gap of three long years – I decided to drop into two bookstores, which were at a necking distance of each other and easily accessible to me.
The first was The English Book Depot and the other was Natraj. Both stirred within me a whirlpool of memories. Remembrances of my growing up years in Doon Valley – those sanguine days of childhood and young adulthood – came flooding back, flashing through my mind like a motion picture.
The English Book Depot, owned and run by the Dutt family, is perhaps the prettiest Bookshop in Dehradun. Opposite Gandhi Park, it is located on the left-hand side of the swankiest nook of Rajpur Road, a little before the red light crossing spilling at the edge of which stands the over 100-year-old – but recently renovated – the building of Central Bank.
The tall, old trees lining this patch of road, the ornate, vintage-in-design, wrought iron grills on the low running wall that demarcates the area from the main road, the cobbled pavement by the road, and the gravelled pathway outside the shops – it really makes for a neat, clean, nice-looking setting that has held on steadfastly, almost obstinately to its glorious past. While new shops with their newer wares have sprung up, this area still is the closest we can get to the Doon of the 80s.
Years back when the Dutt family had let out the front of their Store to Barista, I was sorely upset.