Browse Books, Buy A Tote Or Stationery, And Have Tea From Japan At Oxford Bookstore

Upasana posted on 24 August

What Is It?

It is one of the oldest bookstores in the city, and another one of those iconic places on Park Street. Established in 1920, Oxford has been a hub for book-lovers for 97 years now. Look out for the charming red sign hanging outside which says: “By Appointment to HE Lord Mountbatten.”

Not many people know that the bookstore features in many memoirs of prominent British and Indian figures of the twentieth century. Apart from this it was also used as a meeting point for 1970 Naxalites who snuck messages into books that would be picked up by other members of the group. To say that it continues to be a pivotal part of Kolkata culture would be an understatement.

Who Is It For?

With shelves and tables heaving with books, a friendly staff, and a cafe above, this place is perfect for anyone who loves books, chai-coffee and food.

Oxford Bookstore is often mistaken to have some connection with Oxford University Press; however that is not the case at all. In fact in 1912, Oxford University Press arrived in India, and so when the store was launched eight years later, there was a big legal tussle that played out in the Bookstore’s favour. During the days of British colonial rule, the bookstore was a landmark in the city and stocked other daily goods apart from books such as toys, perfumes, photo frames etc. Anyone who has visited Oxford will know that it continues to be the tradition today.

Apart from books, you can stock up on funky totes, gifts and stationery. The most popular items are the series of postcards by city artist Samir Biswas – Kolkata cityscapes in ink and a wash of watercolours.

We really miss the presence of Satram Gunomal Motwani who passed away last year after working here for 68 years. He was a friendly face who would greet us and help find our favourite books. He was also quick to recommend reads which often turned out to be gems.

Tell Me More

Oxford has so much variety. The books are catalogued really well based on genre and authorship. On entering, you’ll find writers like Italo Calvino, Kafka and Truman Capote stacked neatly on your left. If you’re lucky you might also chance upon some Jorge Luis Borges.

There is a great section on theology, photography, and their children’s books section always stands out. Almost always flocking with parents getting ready to start their kids on the world of reading, this section has many old classics like Wizard of Oz retold as popup books which look like a world of their own. They also stock new books by publishers like Tara, Katha and Pratham Books.

Their French corner has over 100 titles, curated by the French Book Office, including translations of Indian and specifically Bengali literature. You should definitely check out the small graphic novel section which has some rare books including an anthology of work by the anonymous writer, illustrator duo, Crocodile in Water, Tiger on Land.

A narrow staircase leads upstairs to their café – the Cha Bar, a light-filled, airy place with large windows overlooking the street. You can chill here after you’re done shopping for all those books you wanted. The ambience is perfect for meeting friends or sitting quietly with your book, a cup of tea {or a shake}, sandwiches, and brownies. Their range of tea is huge – Nilgiri, Assam, Darjeeling, Chinese, Japanese, herbal, organic and Ayurvedic. We order the genmaicha team lot, a fermented Japanese liquor – very smelly, yet absolutely wonderful!

Anything Else?

Watch out for the regular book launches, readings and events. They also organise poetry slams. If you have a free weekend, it’s always good to call them up or check out their Facebook page for upcoming events.