The tale of Trilogy: How an indie Bandra bookstore builds its reader community

“Two couples who met here got married,” reveals Ahalya Momaya, co-founder of Bandra-based Trilogy, an independently curated bookstore and library. “We know of this couple who were longing for a baby, and now their baby is a member here,” she adds, gleefully. That’s the kind of community and relationships the bookstore situated in Chimbai village near Jogger’s Park has managed to cultivate, ever since it was started by Bandra-based couple Meethil and Ahalya Momaya in 2014. While many came to read and buy books, they have now become lifelong friends. 

Mumbai has a thriving reading culture that has been buoyed by bookstores in various areas of the city. Over the years, while some of the iconic ones have disappeared, a few smaller ones have encouragingly cropped up. In a relatively short time, these independent bookstores have managed to build a huge reader base, and Trilogy is among them. 

While it was earlier situated in Lower Parel at the Raghuvanshi Mills compound, they moved to their current location which also happens to be closer to home, just as their lease was about to end in 2019. The bookstore is packed with titles, which aren’t necessarily famous but are handpicked by Meethil and Ahalya themselves, who don’t only rely on the popularity of the author but also what the books can offer to local readers. “As a curated bookshop, it is important to know what our readers asking for,” she says. In both their locations, they have seen a lot of people who are curious about the city and its history. “A lot of books in the academic space brought out by independent publishers like Orient Blackswan or self-published books need to be presented together. One can never know if people want to read a collection of short stories of the city, its political history, about mill workers or even the monuments,” she shares, citing books on Shivaji Park by Shanta Gokhale, and on Colaba by Shabnam Minwalla.

Even though the pandemic struck in 2020 few months after shifting, their loyal visitors and reader base still made it a point to stay in touch. As soon as the bookshop, which also functions as a library, reopened in November 2021, they came and also brought along new visitors with them.

“When we opened in November, we were meeting some of our members after two years. Some of them had had babies and these two-year-olds were standing outside the door looking in at a bookshop for the first time – I still have goosebumps .Seeing them encounter a space filled with books was just so good,” she explains. It wasn’t only the new addition to the families but also older children, who were previously reading Enid Blyton but now asked where the murder mysteries are, that made Momaya realised how much changed in two years. 

Visitors at the Trilogy Bookstore (left) often leave notes (right) for owners Meethil and Ahalya Momaya, who greet them every day. Photo: Nascimento Pinto 

Creating a space for readers
Interestingly, when Ahalya, a former freelance book editor and Meethil, a wildlife photographer, decided to open a bookstore in the city eight years ago, it was to fill the gap in access to different book titles for readers in the city. They had seen the existing vacuum after spending time in Delhi while pursuing degrees in publishing. While the city’s bookstores stocked books by popular authors, readers didn’t have access to better reading material across genres, according to them. While Delhi had a wide variety of non-fiction, Mumbai did not have enough available to readers at the time. For example, books on Indian nature writing, art, poetry and history and different subjects by Indian writers that were understocked in the city. In books for children, there were fewer options in the number of publishers being presented to the city`s kids.  

“Mumbai was seriously underserved when it came to books,” says the former book editor. Seeing the scope in the reading space, the Mumbai duo decided to open a bookstore rather than publishing books – a decision that has certainly paid off. “We were children who grew up that way, we were children of libraries. We always had a membership of three-four libraries running at the same time,” she adds.  

In their eight years of existence, they are happy to have cultivated a community of dedicated readers, who stroll in and out of the two-floor bookstore, which also functions as a library. It was busy even on a Thursday afternoon when we visited. Ahalya says that is thanks to the onset of summer vacations. While children scanned titles, even adults took their time to browse through the endless bookshelves at the bookstore. “Considering the number of people we have who love reading, the city definitely has a lot of room for more – especially libraries,” explains Ahalya, who grew up in Mulund. 

“I think there is something very special about libraries for those of us who have grown up with that we would really know and acknowledge because they really do a lot to nurture your reading habit.” She believes that it is also libraries that help people explore new genres, especially when one is on a limited budget. “You don’t have to finish a book if you don’t like it, you can just change the book the next day,” she reminds.

The two-floor bookshop not only lets readers buy books but also lets members spend time in their library on the top floor. Photo: Nascimento Pinto/Mid-day file pic

Covid-19 pandemic and indie bookstores
The couple was not daunted by the prospect of opening and running a bookstore in the digital age. The former book editor doesn’t believe in getting into a debate about reading physical books versus e-books because she has a much bigger motive. “The idea is to not debate about reading the physical book or the e-book. It is about – are we reading, are you letting your mind explore, where does your next book come from? Look at a bookshelf and say ‘this looks interesting’. That’s where we come in to curate a collection for people who don’t have time,” she explains. They want people to simply explore and not stick to one genre. In fact, even when people want to gift books for birthdays or Secret Santa, Momaya says they first ask them about the person so that they can understand the kind of reader they are to help them gift the right book. 

So, what are the titles that people are looking for these days? Two years after the pandemic, they have also seen a change in the way people read. She adds, “There was a definite turn towards reading lighter books, reading books that were not heavy on the dystopia, gory, medical problems discussed in great detail.” People weren’t opting to read the likes of Albert Camus ‘The Plague’ or Robin Cook’s medical thrillers, or books about a pandemic. 

Ask her if children today are reading less and she immediately says that’s a clear misconception. “Children are not reading any less than we did – in fact they are reading equal amounts if not more. They are now given more time to read than we got.” Even though she feels they could be introduced to more genres so that they can enjoy diverse reading, she gives credit to encouraging parents who had access to books early on and others who didn’t but have realised the importance of reading books over time.  

A thriving community 
Over the years, it is this relationship they have built with their patrons that has helped bind the community together. It is also an aspect that keeps the Momayas busy every single day, who along with their team of four, interact with readers to help them pick the right book and even nudge them to explore something new always. The fact that the bookstore is in Bandra is an added advantage, she feels, because the suburb is frequented by people interested in supporting independent businesses. She says, “We all want to put down our roots somewhere and belong. Here, it happens so naturally that people who come here, we are on a first name basis when they come the second time. Like a gentleman who walked in some time back, we hadn’t seen him in two years but we remember each other.  We remember reading tastes too and that says a lot about a person.” 

For Ahalya, it is also such experiences that make it the best part of running a bookstore – the people, books and interactions that come along with it. The fact that people value it and come back, and value it enough to tell other people about it is what makes it worth it for her.  “So many people who were members, got in touch with me when I lost my dad to say take care. They didn’t want a book or hadn’t met my dad, and that outpouring of support was something I wouldn’t have got, if I didn’t have this,” she says.

For all the latest Sports News Click Here 

Read original article here

Denial of responsibility! Technocharger is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Comments are closed.