Situated on a busy stretch in Panaji, Varsha Book Stall, although small, has a variety of books and has been catering to the customers’ needs since 1963, discovers NT BUZZ
Long before the internet made newspapers and other publications freely available at the click of a mouse, there was the friendly neighbourhood newspaper stall. Back in the day, Varsha Book Stall, the quaint little outlet in Panaji, would be bustling with customers every morning and evening, eager to grab their copy of the latest news, hot of the press. It was a common sight to see them, standing in front of the stall, engrossed in the newspaper, and even indulging in discussions on the news, especially when the air was rife with political activity. In fact, Varsha Book Stall was more than a shop; it was a meeting place of sorts, frequented by people from all walks of life.
Started in 1963 by late M N Bhate, his nephew V V Bhate, who previously helped out in the stall, took over the reins in 1970. Today, he has the assistance of his nephew in the stall. Although, only dealing with newspapers and magazines initially, the stall slowly began developing a book line. At present, other than text books, the stall has a wide collection of books in English and Hindi and also in regional languages like Marathi and Konkani. In fact, says V V Bhate, they specialise in rare Marathi religious books. “We also have special section for books on Goa, health, art, children, travel etc,” he adds.
Even so, their main focus is still newspapers and magazines. “We get about 160 different magazines in languages like English, Marathi, and Hindi. We also have 32 newspapers (local and national) in Marathi, Hindi, English, and Kannada,” says V V Bhate. Their publishers are from Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Chennai.
As they work with newspapers, the stall is opened from 5:30 a.m. onwards. Handling different generations of customers for years now, V V Bhate says that earlier they used to get a good demand for the books; however, it is not the same anymore. “Nowadays books are available online. Also, the reading habit is also declining to some extent. People’s choice too is different now. Previously only novels were sold but now novels have reduced and self-help books get more demand,” he says.
For newspapers and magazines there are regular buyers on monthly basis. V V Bhate also distributes magazines to places like Panaji, Bicholim, Sankhali, Mapusa, and Margao. And, in case one wants old newspapers, you can find it here as they keep one month old newspapers as well.
If one wants to start a book stall, says V V Bhate, there is need for proper space and a little knowledge about books. “Our shop is little small, so we cannot display the books properly which affects the sale otherwise we would get very good sales,” he says, adding that turnover wise, there has been no change, but there is no growth.