Anahita Mukherji writes in this morning's Times of India about books by Pakistani authors being pulled from the shelves of Oxford bookstore in Churchgate. An employee of the book store who is a member of Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is apparently responsible for the temporary ban.
The question arises: how did a book seller come to employ a person who clearly has no sympathy for, or understanding of, literature? If you've visited the shop (which is not connected in any way with the university of the same name) you'll know how. I've often joked that the owners of Oxford give prospective employees a test, and if any candidate shows evidence of literacy, s/he is disqualified immediately.
When the place opened (about eight years ago, I think) I visited it enthusiastically a few times. The shelves full of publications on Indian history compensated for clueless staff. Since then, the space reserved for intellectually challenging work has dwindled, replaced by who-moved-my-cheese type stuff.
It says something about Bombay that Oxford couldn't sustain its academic section though surrounded by colleges offering degrees in politics, sociology and history. This city's paucity of good booksellers means that no visit to Delhi is complete for me without a tour of stores in Connaught place and, whenever possible, a trip to Daryaganj for more specialised material. On my first visit to Ansari road, I walked into Manohar's outlet after stopping by Oxford University Press, Macmillan and other better known publishers. I was allowed to browse undisturbed by the two people manning the shop: a portly chap at the desk and an older guy with a large moustache, shirtless, wearing a vest tucked into trousers, who sat on a stool unpacking cartons full of books.
After a long time the man in the vest asked, "are you looking for something specific?" I was a bit surprised to be addressed in this manner by somebody I'd assumed was hired help. I told him I was interested in books about Lord Curzon. He rose, walked up to a shelf and pulled out David Dilks' account of Curzon's time in India. I said, dismissively, that I'd read it, and felt it was very dated (the two volumes had been published in the late 1960s). I don't recall his exact reply, but it was something like, "older historiography still has something to offer if you get beyond its limitations".
He was, of course, the owner of Manohar Publishers and Distributors. I ended up buying David Gilmour's biography of Curzon, and shelling out far more than I should have for a second hand copy of Begley and Khan's Illumined Tomb, mainly because I was so impressed by the gentleman in the ganji.