An eccentric assortment of paperbacks tied up with string and winding corners that lead to more 50-rupee-books: The Smoker’s Corner in South Bombay is a bookstore unlike any other. Everyone has their own particular taste in bookshops – some prefer the large spacious bookstores with never-ending aisles that you can get lost in, while others have a penchant for smaller stores with that one stool in the corner that they always occupy. Smoker’s Book Corner is an oddity that falls outside of the realm of everyday bookshops.
This grey bookstore sticks out like a sore thumb between the gorgeous buildings next to the RBI office in Fort. Housed in the Botawala Chambers building, this spread-out shop on the ground floor has aisles of obscure books waiting to be dusted off and read from cover to cover. Despite its location, there is no law and order (or rhyme or reason) as to why a book has been placed somewhere, it just is. You may find a 90’s That’s So Raven copy next to a deadly Nora Roberts (as JD Robb) and even thin romance novels for just INR 20 that would put Mills and Boons to shame.
Old and new magazines hang next to each other, from a thin copy of MAD magazine from the early 2000s to a brand new Vogue. We’ll be honest though, we could not recognise more than half the book titles and covers, but that’s where the fun lies, in picking up an author you haven’t heard of or the unexpected joy of discovering a series you may grow to love. Besides, it really doesn’t hurt that most secondhand books here are for a mere fifty rupees. The books and aisles are arranged as per a whim, and when you think that you’ve come to the end of a shop, it twists and turns into a small corner with more books. What’s interesting is that most books are held together by strings (an inventive measure for a bookcase, perhaps).
Legend, or at least that’s what we will call the internet, for now, says that this wasn’t always a bookstore, but rather a shop selling tobacco, cigars and cigarillos to sailors that would once pass by. The sailors may have gone, but the smell of the smoke lingers on, tightly trapped between the pages of the book, or waving around the wooden shelves.