By Rajeshwari Sahay

After looking for the bookstore in question in the crowded, narrow lanes of Shadi Khampur in West Delhi for half an hour, we had given up on finding it. Much misled by Google maps, we finally spotted a red signboard that read ‘May Day Bookstore’. Situated in a spot one wouldn’t ordinarily expect to find a store of its kind, May Day calls itself a Marxist collective. In keeping with this theme, the store has no single owner. They sell books to customers at a minimum profit, so that reading as a hobby is not commercialised.

The store derives its name from the International Labour Day, which is celebrated on the 1st of May every year, an initiative started by the working classes, socialists and communists alike. The most unique feature about May Day is the great bargain offer on the purchase of new books and second-hand books. Say, if a customer purchases new books worth INR. 700, then he/she can purchase 700 rupees worth of second hand books, at half the rates! That’s a LOT of books, considering the prices of second hand books range from anywhere between  INR 20 –  INR 100. The aim of this store is to facilitate as much buying of books as possible.

Any bibliophile is bound to find something they like here. From popular fiction, drama, children’s books and poetry, to sociological texts, graphic novels, and CDs of Indian documentaries on social issues, there is something for everyone. The bookstore also houses progressive books from lesser known publications like Navajana, Women Unlimited, and their own publishing unit, Leftword Books. Apart from books, they sell merchandise like jute bags and coffee mugs, and offbeat magazines.

May Day Bookstore, alongwith Leftword Books, runs a Book Club for readers and its customers. The membership fee is INR. 1500 for a lifetime! They even have special discount offers for their members. They also have a book collection drive running through the year, and you can walk in anytime to donate old books.

Inside the bookstore, there is a large indoor theater space called Studio Safdar, after the famous communist playwright and activist Safdar Hashmi. Here, they host street plays, film screenings, and interactive sessions with speakers from the field of dramatics and literature. The studio belongs to the popular left-wing street play group Jana Natya Manch. Peformances here are free of cost for those who want to attend. Audience members can donate a small amount if they want to, at the end of the play. Watching plays here comes with the added benefit of freshly brewed tea, that the store makes in its cosy kitchen.

Notes in Our Little Black Book |

May Day Bookstore and Café is an eclectic mix of the mainstream and the edgy. It’s a brilliant space for book lovers and theatre enthusiasts, all complimented by a cafe. For all of us who have grown up with books as our best friends, this avant-garde place is a must visit!

Where: 2254/2A, Ground Floor, Shadi Khampur, West Patel Nagar, New Delhi

Contact: 011 25709456