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Thursday, June 13, 2024

KitabKhana, A Treasure Trove Of Books, Keeps The Habit Of Reading Alive

The Book Store Reopened After It Was Gutted In Fire

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Raju Vernekar
Raju Vernekar
Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

INDIA.Mumbai: The “Kitab Khana” an iconic book store located in the Fort area of south Mumbai, which was gutted in fire in December last, has now been reopened and ready to offer a treasure of books in different languages on variety of subjects by national and international authors.

Read also: Amrut Deshmukh On A Mission To Cultivate Reading Habit Among Indian Youth

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The book store was reopened on the auspicious occasion of “Mahashivratri”, in presence of a sizable number of book lovers including students and guests, after its founders- Amrita Somaiya and her husband Samir Somaiya lit the traditional lamp heralding new innings of the store after a brief spell of closure. 

The “Kitab Khanna” located on the ground floor of the four-story “Somaiya Bhavan” building near Flora Fountain is now buzzing with activities, with by book lovers and guests indicating that the habit of reading has not died down and the Bibliophiles have much to aspire for.

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On the reopening Amrita Somaiya, said, “Kitab Khana is a labour of love for Samir and me. The fire was devastating – we had poured our heart and soul into the store. The love, affection, and support of so many people who reached out to us after the incident drove us to recreate KitabKhana. It will continue to be an oasis of calm and provide citizens the joy of reading in an otherwise bustling city.”

About the loss suffered due to the fire, she said the building is a heritage structure and anything worse could have been devastating if the fire brigade was not reached within few minutes, after the mishap. Yet nearly 45,000 books were damaged. We suffered a loss of Rs two crore with the books and furniture, part of the mezzanine, kitchen area affected by the fire.

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“The people step into the bookstore to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, get a sense of warmth. One can walk into “Kitab Khana” and browse without being pressured into buying a book. We have a cross-section of customers. Now the bookstore is planning to provide WiFi.” The store has a collection of 50,000 books and used to see a daily footfall of 400-odd people. However, that number came down during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the store permits about 10 people to sit and read books while maintaining social distance.

E-books have not replaced physical books

Amrita and Samir Somaiya lighting a traditional lamp on the occasion of the reopening of “KitabKhana” (left). The young book lover glancing through books (right).

“ We felt that the Kindle e-books will replace physical books. But it did not happen. People use the Kindle mostly while travelling. I hope people will support local independent bookstores and read a lot. In this last year of the lockdown, we lost the experience of the touch and feel of things. I think this will lead to a resurgence of bookstores. People are tired of looking at electronic screens and would prefer the tactile feel of a book, the smell of its pages”. Amrita Somaiya said. 

Books in abundance

With an abundance of books focused not only on best-sellers but also on those that will be instrumental in satiating and enriching the flair for reading, “KitabKhana” is a book lover’s delight. It is not only offering bestsellers but for the connoisseurs of regional literature, it offers a vast range of Hindi, Gujarati, and Marathi books.

Some of the favourite books adorning the shelves are: “Ashtavakra Geeta”, a lucid dialogue between Rajarshi Janak and Astavakra (by Maharishi Vyasa), “The Gift of Asher Lev”, (Chaim Potok), “Ashana”(E.P.Roesch), “Pamela” ( Samuel Richardson), “Na Bhuto Na Bhavishyati” ( Narendra Kohli), “Pehla Girmitiya” (Giriraj Kishore), “Being Nobody Going Nowhere” (Ayya khema), “Musashi” (Elji Yoshikawa), “The Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts: A Graphic Novel”(Issai Chozanshi), “Rang Bhoomi” ( Premchand) and “Behind The Beautiful Forevers, life, death and hope in a Mumbai under the city” ( Katherine Boo). “Travelling to Infinity: The True Story Behind the Theory of Everything”(by Jane Hawking), is one of the latest arrivals. Its list of recommendation includes: “Lost Children Archive”(Valeria Luiselli), “The Tale of Despereaux”( Kate DiCamillo) and “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”( Kate DiCamillo).

The store is open between 1030 am to 7.30 pm throughout the year except for four days: Republic Day, Maharashtra/ Labour Day (First May), Independence Day, and Mahatma Gandhi Jayanti( and October 02).


  • Raju Vernekar

    Raju Vermekar is a senior Mumbai-based journalist who have worked with many daily newspapers. Raju contributes on versatile topics.

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