May Day Cafe & Bookstore – Shadipur’s Hidden Gem

In times marked by the rise of the political right wing, it is places like the May Day book store and café which provide the much needed solace, especially to the leftists of the world. From its location to the principles on which the store functions, this book store is beyond the conventional in more ways than one. Located in Shadipur in west Delhi this shop is not quite at the centre of Delhi’s cultural hub like the many book stores that one finds in different parts of South Delhi and Connaught Place. Named after the international worker’s day, the Mayday bookstore offers a niche space meant for cultivating a love for reading and leftist ideology amongst Dilli-walas. Besides finding the usual suspects like Lenin, Marx and Che Guevara, one also finds quite a range of interesting authors like Utpal Dutt and Tariq Ali, speculative fictions, campus romance novels, old journals on music and folklore and children’s books. They sell both new and second hand books, giving the store a hint of the feeling one gets while browsing through books in the markets of Daryaganj.

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Run by a collaboration between Leftword books (a publishing house) and Jan Natya Manch (a radical street theater group since 1973), the idea behind opening this store was to create an alternative space where people could think. The key person on ground who takes care of the bookstore and helps in the café is Sudhavana Deshpande, the editor at Leftword books. Apart from books one can also find other interesting merchandise like coffee mugs and jute bags. In a spacious room adjacent to the bookstore is Studio Safdar, which often hosts theater, dance and music performances.

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Practitioners of the maxim ‘Small is beautiful’, the Mayday book store shows a strong commitment towards the local economy. It sources most of its coffee and other materials for daily use from shops located within the locality. They also provide free water to all the rickshaw drivers who come to their doors. What helps the most in sustaining themselves as a thriving community space is their interesting pricing policy. They do not believe in putting in ‘price’ on anything they offer in their café as they are not driven by profit making motives. Showing faith in the general goodness of human beings, they believe people, by nature are fair in all their dealings. Usually they expect around Rs. 250 from anyone who wishes to drink coffee and have snacks in their café. When it comes to books, they have an even more amazing policy. They welcome everyone to read their books for as long as possible, the only condition being the reader should be respectful towards the book. For anyone who buys new books at the store, they offer additional discounts for that person on all their second hand books!

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Where: 2254/2A Ground Floor, Shadi-Khampur, New Ranjit Nagar

Nearest Metro Station: Shadipur (A ten minute rickshaw ride from the station, ask your driver to take you to ‘bayasi’ number, it is the alias by which the store is popular amongst the locals!)

Follow them on Facebook  here.

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