January 9, 2010

INDIA: Timeless in Delhi

. NEW DELHI, India / Business Standard / Weekend / January 9, 2010 Come into my parlour By BS Weekend Team Space, says Raavi Sabharwal, is “opportunity”, “challenge” and, most importantly, “fun”. Sabharwal, 63, is the publisher of Timeless Books and owner of Timeless — The Art Book Studio, tucked away in one of the many bylanes of Kotla Mubarakpur, one of the many “asides” of the Capital, cheek by jowl with the upmarket South Extension shopping centre. The 1,600 sq ft space, which you stumble into after you’ve taken a few wrong turns, is quiet and peaceful, a refuge from the chaos that surrounds it. Inside, there’s no cha bar, no whiff of coffee, or Darjeeling tea for that matter, and not much seating for those who would like to experience the joy of relaxing with a book. But this bookstore does come complete with luxurious Kashmiri carpets, Martin Audio speakers and LCD screens. A queen-size bed, covered with a rich Benarsi patchwork bedcover, makes you want to grab a book, get a cup of steaming, frothy, coffee (yes, there is a modest pantry here) and jump onto it instantly. Sabharwal laughs heartily: “Well, if it helps, we do have people walking in and staying on for hours together.” Photo by Mayank Austen Soofi: Raavi Sabharwal - Living with books and bipolar disorder Not surprising, I think, as I glance around the space, complete with cove lighting. The bookstore feels like a personal library, a private den where, according to Sabharwal, one can find “peace and tranquillity”. For someone who has designed bookstores earlier (“I am good with design and spaces, even if I say so myself, and each store gets better than the previous one”), his latest offering is the result of a failed relationship, “ a divorce after 18 years of married life”. These are personal details which one would presume unnecessary in a story that deals with design and space, but Sabharwal explains that “it’s about [the] closing [of] one door and the opening of another”. Perhaps that’s why the bookstore’s interior design and aesthetic appeal are intensely personal. What Sabharwal has created is in essence a private space filled with shelves, wooden racks and many expensive — sometimes, even rare — books. His Harley Davidson (“I gifted it to myself on my 60th birthday”) is the pièce de résistance and gets pride of place in a corner under a spotlight. There are several seating areas in the bookstore. You can choose a rocking chair, sprawl on the bed or find a cosy corner near the clear glass window on a couch. I choose the couch for a few minutes of browsing, and find myself gazing dreamily around while the sunlight streams in generously. “I could’ve blocked this window to accommodate more racks and shelves for books but I loved the sunlight,” smiles Sabharwal. Other personal touches include the furniture — most of it is 30 years old, for instance. Some of the posters on the pillars, with Sabharwal’s favourite poem, “If”, by Rudyard Kipling, are interposed with photographs of his two sons Siddharth and Dhruv. Water colour paintings by artist Mark Rothko adorn one corner of a brick-tiled wall. “This store is for our children who should be able to go back to their pristine worlds,” he says, offering fresh aloevera juice from one of the plants in the bookstore. And what does the space mean to him? “It’s my heaven,” he grins. [rc] Business Standard Ltd. Copyright 2008