Initially Mr. Sharma sold newspapers and magazines at his store. His customers demanded that he carry books for sale. As a result, he expanded his store. Today, he believes that the Internet age has caused a drop in the sales of books — he sells a third of what he used to a few years ago. Apart from books, CD's and DVD's, Mr. Sharma also sells Indian handicrafts and toys. According to him his store has become more of an exhibition space where parents of Indian origin bring their kids to give them a feel of what an Indian bookstore looks like.
This is in line with the general transformation of the Devon Avenue that Sharma talks about. With the shift to online buying and technological changes that have occurred in the past two decades or so, Sharma believes that the traditional music and DVD stores have become redundant. In the early 1990s there used to be 15 or more music stores within a few blocks on Devon Avenue. Now there are very few left. On the other hand, the number of clothing boutiques has increased dramatically. Contemporary Devon Avenue attracts lesser number of out of state patrons. In the past, Devon Avenue used to be so packed with traffic that parking became a major issue. This, Mr. Sharma say, was addressed to some extent by the construction of a multistory parking lot. But due to the changing clientele and nature of commerce there is lesser need for parking now than before. Mr. Sharma says that this should not lead us to think that the hustle and bustle generally associated with Devon Avenue is gone. He describes that on festivals, such as the Eid, the street is packed. There is hardly any standing room and some businesses stay open the entire night.
Text by Holland Dvorak, Niyati Naik, and Salman Hussain.
Memories of Delhi and Chandigarh
On transformations on Devon AvenueO
On festivals on Devon Avenue