Rishi Majumder stumbles upon a quaint book-shop owner on D N Road who prefers acquiring any book under the sun for his patrons—rather than simply ‘selling’ it
Photographer: Rana Chakraborty
A clueless being walks past an old shop amongst a line of old shops on D N Road. Its signboard reads ‘M M Mukhi And Sons, Philatelists Since 1923’. The person rushes off, to return with his collection of stamp: “You want to buy? I have some rare stamps!” “No,” replies a grey-haired and moustachioed Mukhi, without looking up from the task at hand.
“It was my grandfather’s and father’s business. I stopped dealing with stamps 30 years ago. Am just trying to get rid of what’s left.”
The woebegone visitor glances at an extensive array of books covering old wooden racks. “Show me this,” he points to a book titled Digital Art For The 21st Century. “That is a specialised animation digest, costing Rs 2,000. I’ll show you if you buy it.” Still clueless? Take the hint. Mukhi is not a philatelist (despite the signage). He’s not a bookseller (despite what his shop looks like). He doesn’t even want to be in this article (that makes sense though—the clueless being, yours truly, is writing it).
On topics as diverse as scriptwriting, animation, photography, architecture and history, Mukhi will tell you what to buy, procure rare books for you and keep your purchase a secret. He’s a one-man reference stop for experts anonymous. “I don’t sell books for leisure. I provide books for very specific projects or necessities. My niche buyer circle wouldn’t like their source of creativity to be let out,” he explains, about why he doesn’t name drop his client base spanning architects, scriptwriters, filmmakers and animators. And yet, when asked about a queer book called Coinage During Akbar’s Reign, he reacts, “Oh. That was Jodha…” before clamming up. Take a wild guess. Also take a wild guess as to why he hunted out ultra rare studies of the Taj Mahal for a film client not so long ago: “No one mentions project details. Instead it’ll be ‘Taj Mahal’ or ‘Rajiv Gandhi’.”
In return for these requests, Mukhi will find you books on the subject you’re not likely to find elsewhere: “It’s not that smart bookstores don’t have such books. But they don’t know the value of what they have.” The most insightful book he found on the world’s wonder, for instance, was researched and compiled by an Italian publishing house. “I look for books on websites like Barnes And Noble and Amazon. And I’m in liaison with agents for foreign publishers who keep sending me their latest releases.” Releases which other book stores won’t order because they’re too expensive and are too specialised to be popular—but Mukhi and his clients will.
An agent comes to the shop to show him a book jacket of a new Peter Jackson release. “I don’t want his biography!” Mukhi protests. “I want his ‘tricks of the trade’.” His own tricks of the trade includes risk taking: “I bought that 3000-rupee book on 3D animation when it was big. Now it sells for less than 100.” But these days, his customers take risks with him: “Earlier, people thought the only way to learn something like filmmaking or architecture was by doing it. But why start from the beginning, when you can find that process and idea in eight pages of a book?” And it’s for those lucky eight pages of Writing The Second Act or American Cinematographer magazine that Mukhi’s achieving and aspiring clients are willing to pay. “Though sometimes clients make me promise not to tell competitors about a purchase,” he adds.
And what does he tell them—I’m a philatelist?
This article originally appeared in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/uzfu