Here on Kolkata’s College Street is the biggest book market in the world. Known as Boi Para, or ‘book neighbourhood’, for 125 years it’s been Kolkata’s intellectual heart. Rabrindanath Tagore, Satyajit Ray and many other renowned Bengali cultural figures have wandered through its maze of lanes, savouring its unique blend of culture and shabbiness.
But today this sacred place for book lovers is at risk. India’s first book mall, a controversial seven-storey giant, is being constructed nearby. This film captures the lives of Arabinda Dasgupta, a traditional bookseller; Sandip Dutta, whose mission is to preserve Bengal’s astonishing range of ‘little magazines’ in his private library; and Jayita Ghosh, a young student with a passion for literature. Through their differing responses to the new mall, we glimpse how India is embracing globalisation while trying to hold on to its cultural traditions and identity.
25 mins, Al Jazeera English, 2011