AMID groceries and edibles sold in Chowrasta Market, lies havens of books with the purpose to instill the love of reading in its visitors. These second-hand books stores may look disorganised from the outside, but inside lie oases of knowledge.
One of these secluded stores belong to 80-year-old Wong Chin Poh, who developed a love for reading since he was a young boy. As his book collection grew vast, he had to make the decision most book lovers loath – to keep or give a way the books.
“I don’t want to waste good books when there are still people who can benefit from them,” he said.
Wong intially worked odd jobs in the market – from selling shoes to shirts and fish. But as time passed, he found a better way to earn his living, that is by selling second-hand books.
“Establishing my business wasn’t something difficult compared to the hardships my generation has gone through”.
These hurdles, however, did not affect his business, as Wong stated that he relies on regular customers rather than new ones. After 20 years in this line of business, Wong has built up quite a strong base of loyal customers who frequent his store.
These frequent customers are allowed to “rent” books that pique their interest. They have to pay a small deposit to borrow a book, and the money is reimbursed upon its return.
There are mostly Chinese books in Wong’s collection, but it also includes English and reference books. All the books sold in his store are at much cheaper prices compared to other more established bookstores. Besides encouraging a larger amount of people to read, people, especially students who can’t afford to buy new reference books can actually own them with the help of this shop.
Another intriguing bookstore at Chowrasta is located on the second floor of the market. The 58-year-old owner’s collection, ranging from reference to even European history books were either collected personally or donated by fellow avid readers.
“Every book is my favourite book,” he said, not wanting to single out any book from the collection. Some aren’t even published any more, while most come at far higher prices in other bookstores.
With a smile, he expressed that he likes the healthy competition with other booksellers. His business was originally owned by his uncle, who had passed away and Gulam took over the business to spread the joy of reading.
Gulam sells most of his books at half the original price, some even cheaper, as the bookstore didn’t start on the thought of making money but to share the passion for reading.