WAYWORD & WISE IS A READERS’ PARADISE
Wayword & Wise is an independent bookstore in Fort that, unlike many other bookstores in the city, is about books and books alone. Authors available here range from the popular (Philip Roth, Ruth Ware) to the niche (Han Kang, Bohumil Hrabal) and everything in between.
Wayword & Wise, Strategic house, 44, Mint Road, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai 400 001. Phone: 022 6634 9946
I don't know what I can attribute my voracious appetite for books to. Parents, who read widely and deeply, perhaps. A childhood fettered by constant visits to hospitals, maybe. Complete antipathy to any physical activity (still true). A pantheon of lunchbox friends in school whose relationships with me never quite tightened to closeness. Whichever it was, the corridors of my mind were always constructed from the swashbuckling worlds of my books.
My books. The shared ownership of a copy was not for me; it had to be mine, to have and to hold, to pluck out of my library and peruse whenever the fancy struck. They were solid things, both enclosing and mirroring me, armouring me against shadowed days, their infinite realms lifting me past the tedium of my days. Naturally, half my life unspooled in bookshops; and so, when one by one, Danai, Lotus, Landmark, and then Strand shut down, I felt an icy wipe of fear.
Thankfully, there is now Wayword & Wise set up by bibliophiles Atul Sud (investment banker who runs a food importing business) and Virat Chandok (once the manager of the long-lamented Lotus)—a little cubbyhole, intimate, yielder of a small harvest but a rich one that I spend hours reaping. Chandok and Sud are connoisseurs of stories, of authors both vanished and new, of knowledge they are eager to share. Once I name my favourites, Chandok gently coaxes me to new texts that seem at once familiar and unknown. Not all books are for all eyes, after all.
Unlike its peers, the store does away entirely with the pap and pabulum of bestseller lists, stocking everything from food and travel writing to music, literary theory to poetry, philosophy to graphic novels, science fiction to history, a delightfully offbeat children's section to a fiction section that unfurls all the way down the room. Even better, it stocks no gewgaws, no toys, and no tchotchkes to lure the dithering customer. Just books, rows upon glorious rows of books.
Its shelves carry many titles I'd like to pilfer (I cannot possibly afford them all): everything from Bohumil Hrabal's palavering, fantasist, sorrowful novels to Caridad Svich's savagely political plays; Alain de Botton's popular philosophy to Andrés Neuman's Latin American narratives; David Lebovitz's warm adventures of baking in France to Lucia Berlin who fashioned her rich life into forensically candid short fiction; Clarice Lispector's oeuvre to the incisive yet mannered texts by that other underrated genius Barbara Pym. It is as Jorge Carrión writes in his marvellous Bookshops—"Every bookshop is a condensed version of the world".
Wayword is an exuberant labyrinth of paper and ink in which I happily lose myself, sifting through manuscripts, turning pages, greedily looting the shelves, then going home thick with thought and concepts. But it is never enough. Always, there is something else to be read, and it is usually to be found at Wayword.
Photographs by Suruchi Maira