A bookstore that believes in giving the booklover an experience and not merely enabling a transaction. A bookstore set up more than twenty years ago, which became a pit stop for many a book lover.
Those were the days when bookstores catered to the safe and time tested needs of the regular book lovers. There wasn’t anyone who considered keeping books on unusual and unconventional topics like mind-body and spirit as there wasn’t a great demand for them. Nonetheless, some readers wanted these books. So Poonam Malhotra decided to do something about it. She set up a store that housed these books and more.
Full Circle was established in 1998 in the beautiful Santushti complex in the heart of New Delhi. From there, it moved to Khan market in 2000.
I discovered the store only about ten years ago. And the thing that drew me to it was that there was a café inside a bookstore. Till that point, I was used to bookstores from where one bought books and then rushed home to read them. But now I could buy the book and start reading it there and then. So this possibility made me want to check it out.
And when I walked in after asking my way around as it was located in one of the bylanes of Khan market, I just fell in love with it. The first thing that I loved was the blue and green décor. And as I explored the store, I discovered that they had a vast and extensive collection of books that included fiction, non-fiction, Indian authors, international titles and books in Hindi, and the mind-body-spirit collection. They even had a bright and cheerful section for the kids, and I remember having picked up many books for my boys from there [though they weren’t much of book readers}.
The staff there was not only polite and helpful but extremely knowledgeable about the books. Whenever I had a problem looking for a book, they would patiently help me look for it, and if not available at that point, they would try and source it for me.
Added to this was the music collection and the gift items. I remember picking up some beautiful bookmarks from there. On my first visit, I remember that I picked up a Jeffrey Archer and then went up to Café Turtle to read the book and try their coffee. When I walked up, I was in for a pleasant surprise. The café wasn’t a regular coffee shop, but another dream come true of Poonam Malhotra. Poonam, an avid baker, had decided to give an outlet to her culinary skills in the cafe with the result that the coffee and tea had some delectable accompaniments in the form of cakes and cookies.
Though I loved the place, I could not visit it very often because it was very far from where I lived, but I did visit it whenever I was in that part of the town.
And then last year, during the lockdown, one got to know that the owners had decided to close down the store as they were running into financial losses. It was heartbreaking for a book lover like me, but there wasn’t anything that one could do about it. With the advent of various online platforms, indie stores, as it is, had been finding it challenging to keep their head above water, and the lockdown had added fuel to the fire.
Like with most disappointments, one learned to take another one in stride, but then like they say, miracles do happen!! This year on the 5th of February, I was in Khan Market to run an errand. I was busy browsing when I saw the familiar blue-green colour. Since it was the same lane where Full Circle used to be, I thought I was hallucinating. But actually, I wasn’t.
I found myself talking to a guard sitting in front of a staircase that looked all too familiar. On checking with him, I discovered that the store had been reopened, and that day was the first day.
I couldn’t believe it!! Was this a gift from the universe to a book lover? Well apparently!!
I went up and was greeted by the familiar sight of the books and the polite and courteous staff. I inspected the whole place and, once comforted by the fact that it was still the same, if not better, I picked up a book and went up to Cafe Turtle. They were still setting it up, I could smell the fresh paint, but it was so beautiful. I was once again in the middle of the city but far away from the maddening crowd doing what I love doing – reading,
Ever since that day till this second lockdown, I made it a point to visit the store every week. I don’t know why I did it. Was it nostalgia, was it the intention to support indie bookstores as much as possible or was it simply the desire to enjoy a book with a cup of coffee? I don’t know.
What do you think?