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May Day: Bookstore in Review

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A glimpse into Delhi’s only ‘Leftist bookstore’ and what truly makes it one of its kind…

As you step out of a crowded metro coach on the blue line of the metro at a little station called Shadipur, you will see nothing significant out of the blue. At Shadipur, a settlement nestled in the folds of West Delhi, plain good ole Delhi shops and residential areas will greet your eyes. But if the explorer side in you is awakened and you look deeper, you will find an amusing art space. The mundane streets of this area hide a unique bookstore whose sign reads the word ‘May Day’ in Devanagari and English.

The May Day Bookstore is a joint for bibliophiles with a different touch. Right from its location and a look at its door (which reads ‘8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest, 8 hours for book and coffee’), you will get a breath of fresh air. This is no big shot book retailer’s outlet and neither is it a shack of pirated paperbacks. May Day can be referred to as a CCCP, which was the same Russian abbreviation used to denote Soviet Union. In May Day’s case, CCCP can stand for a Cultural Communist Coffee Space and that’s what it is. As the name suggests, the store was founded about six years back on the first of May, the worker’s day celebrated by Socialists and Communists worldwide.

The store’s pages and its wall’s faces bleed out the red shades of the Leftist school of thought. This becomes evident from the fact that it is managed by Leftword Books, which has been producing books that emphasise the views and issues of the Left in India and South Asia. So naturally, you can find racks here filled with books on peasant movements, trade unions, tribal activists and many other such themes. You can scan through these paperbacks under the watchful eyes of painted murals of Marx and Che Guevara, feminist posters and handbags featuring the faces of Bhagat Singh and BR Ambedkar. Within the bookstore, there is also a performance space for theatre, dance, talks and other cultural activities, called Studio Safdar.

The approach and setting of this place hence make it a spot worth exploring. It’s still funny if you think it out in your head if today a Right-wing bookstore also opens up in some corner of the city. What controversy would that brew! Well, that can be a debate for some other day. Till then freedom of speech for all!

But apart from the looks and books, it is not exclusively meant for Leftists and is open for readers of all types. Second hand books, classic bestsellers and works by up and coming writers from small independent publishers are also available at May Day. So, it is not necessary if red is your favourite shade or if you believe Karl Marx is Santa Claus to be a part of the May Day family. Therefore, if you are a bookworm in Delhi looking for a new store to raid, or if you are plain bored and wish to explore a spot with artsy aesthetics for your Instagram stories, or if you are a passionate Delhiite trying to run away from the capitalist malls on the lookout for a humbler milieu, then you may like to pay a visit to May Day…

Feature Image Credits: May Day Bookstore

Shaurya Thapa

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