It had been a while since I had visited a bookshop. In Mumbai, I just buy books online, or visit one of the many book sales to fill up my quota of books. I can’t remember the last time I went to bookshop here and spent hours browsing through the titles. Or better still, finished an entire book over multiple visits.
So when I was roaming around the streets of Thimpu, Bhutan, I came across a bookshop named ‘Junction’. It was guarded by furry dogs, and looked quite inviting with its door stuck with pages from books forgotten. Located just off the main traffic signal in Thimpu, Junction really was one of the most attractive bookshops I’d been to in a long time. Unlike franchises such as Oxford and Crossword that I see in Mumbai, this one was a lot more cosy, personal and a place where a book-lover would feel at home.
Everywhere I looked around, there was some stamp or the other, of a certified bibliophile. Be it the pages from old books made into origami birds, or snapshots of authors with some famous lines from their books to the apparent appreciation of the Game of Thrones books/series that was on display all over the bookshop or even the chilled out dogs hanging around the bookstore; this was one place which could give an instant high to any book-lover.
The elegantly dressed Mui, the partner of the bookshop, who (wo)manned the reception/bill payment counter and always had something to give away — in the form of a calendar celebrating Bhutan’s indigenous weaving art forms to milk chocolates brought from a trip abroad. She is the kind of bookshop owner with whom you could chat for hours, without even making a purchase. The store was also managed by her friend, who seemed like a reserved fellow despite the lengthy dreads he was sporting.
I asked her if she actually was the owner of all the dogs hanging around the bookshop?
“I have only one dog, the other 5 are strays who hang around the shop. I use all the money in this box (pointing to the donation box) to get food for these guys every evening,” she said. Dogs and cats make my heart melt. So naturally, out came the money.
Junction had a good collection of books. I was naturally attracted to the books on Bhutanese culture and spent a good amount of time checking out a photo book, which I could obviously not afford. On the top floor of the bookshop, was a section of second hand books, a la the second hand bookshops you come across in expat tourist-heavy destinations such as Rishikesh. I noticed flyers of book club meetings, which happen regularly in the shop. I was even invited to one, but I would have to spend another fortnight to be able to attend it.
Apart from books, the shop also sold a lot of local Bhutan-made artefacts such as bookmarks, books made from recycled paper, book covers woven from wool and so on. I picked up one book cover for a friend who still prefers physical books over ebooks.
If you love books and happen to be in Thimpu, you should really check out ‘Junction’. Just take the right from the main traffic signal check post on the Norzim Lam. Walk around 50 metres and you will come across the bookshop on your left. There probably will be some dogs around the place.
Say hello to Mui, if she’s around. And pet that black shaggy dog on my behalf.