Old Books Fair: Books as Heritage
You may have visited Readings, Liberty Books, and Variety Books, but visiting these places adds nothing to your street cred as a book lover. It is only after you have explored the mysterious old bookshops in Lahore – especially the Old Books Fair in Anarkali on Sundays – can you claim this exclusive title. As is promised by the name of this fair, second-hand books are exhibited in a very humble and haphazard way on the ancillary road along the Maal in Anarkali from dawn to dusk. Only rain and emergency situations can interrupt this generous affair.
Shuffling and unearthing literary gems, from amidst piles of musty old books, is considered a rite of passage by most avid readers. Old Book Fairs test even the most voracious of readers, read through our experience.
To write this review, I visited the Old Books Fair on a Sunday. I say this as if this was a novelty: I visit it nearly every Sunday. The spectacle was as appealing as always, with thousands of books, magazines, digests, and miscellanies spread out on wooden tables, carts, and makeshift rugs. Books of all genres were heaped over one another without discrimination or preference for international bestsellers’ lists. Classic novels covered detective thrillers were topped by religious commentaries and finished off with pop star’s biographies and memoirs.
While I was perusing book titles, I saw a grey cat scurrying about over tables and underneath carts. It was probably in search of some antique cat classic at the Old Books Fair.
What I love about the Old Books Fair is that you have to find your desired book entirely on your own. It becomes a sacred rite for book readers. They come here in groups late on Sunday mornings, rummage through books, shuffle a few here and there, and, at times, buy nothing after hours of exploring. The books at Old Books Fair are inexpensive, and can often be bargained down to unbelievable prices. Unlike big bookstores, and have the capacity to purchase as many books as you want.
After I was done observing and buying books – and taking photographs – I noticed the same grey cat meowing in a shrill voice to its companion. Perhaps they were shortlisting the books they wanted to scratch today. I took a picture of the scheming duo without formal consent.
I owe most of my book collection to the Old Books Fair. Many of these titles are covered in signatures, love letters and tributes penned by readers from the 60s and 70s. They are sensual and aesthetic: their yellow-brown pages and damp scents give them a personal touch. I am also very aware that these books have been a part of many lives including mine, which makes them even more special.
The road on which this fair takes place happens to be dull in appearance and uninviting at first glance. But the clamor of literary enthusiasts and vendors creates an exciting atmosphere. You never know what you’re going to find, and will clearly over-compensate for the predetermined links in your mind. You will almost always go home from the Old Books Fair with arms full of books and an experience that makes going-out-of-the-way worthwhile.