We are talking about iconic bookstore that’s had more than its share of troubles, but Kitab Khana is now open again, having weathered a year of lockdowns and pandemic-era restrictions as well as a large fire that gutted its interiors.
A simple lamp-lighting ceremony was held to mark the reopening on Thursday. “We turn 10 today and will have a celebration to mark the occasion, but all in good time,” co-owner Amrita Somaiya said.
It will be a while before the store can resume its popular events calendar, which pre-pandemic ranged from book readings to discussions and sessions for children. But already on day one, the small ceremony at the rebuilt store was followed by warm conversations as frequent visitors arrived, masked and distanced, to reconnect with the books and each other.
The wait is finally over. We can’t wait to see all of you tomorrow as we reopen our doors, after what seems like an eternity. See you in the morning. In case, you can’t make it, tune in to our #instalive as we share a glimpse of your favourite bookstore!#kitabkhanarises pic.twitter.com/bzCxGJyzCF
— Kitab Khana (@KitabKhanaBooks) March 10, 2021
“This is not just a place of transactional interests. It guards a common point where people crisscross and where social, cultural and intellectual interactions happen, both by chance and design,” said architect, author and city researcher Kaiwan Mehta, who visited on Thursday. “Now that it is up and about, a vacuum has been filled.”
A void has been filled for Somaiya too. “We had a series of setbacks in the last year,” Somaiya said at the reopening. “My father, who had supervised the interior design of the bookshop, was suffering. And a week before his death, I received a letter of hope from a 12-year-old girl named Dania Khan. She described how her love for books had blossomed in the corners of Kitab Khana and shared her wish to help us through crowdfunding. I was too full for words. I am so glad she lit the lamp for us this morning. And I thank everyone else who has been a pillar of support.”
Virtual book discussions and events are planned, with details set to be shared via social media. “This is not only a place where we come to read, browse or buy books, it is also a centre for a community of readers and writers,” said poet Ranjit Hoskote, who also visited the bookstore on its reopening day. “The revival is a miraculous measure of continuity.”