Covid Crisis: Buzz gone missing at book bazaars | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 13, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:35 AM, July 13, 2020

Covid Crisis: Buzz gone missing at book bazaars

As the coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on almost every business in some way or another, bookstores and book cafes in the capital are no exception.

Although the book markets in Nilkhet and Banglabazar, along with the book cafes in different areas of the capital, reopened in early June, they have been seeing a very few number of visitors, which has forced many owners to give up on their businesses.

Bookworms expressed their heartache on social media after the recent closure of Nilkhet's age-old Mostofa Boighor.

Fifty-five-year-old popular bookseller Golam Mostofa, who never tried his hand at any profession except selling books, had to sell his 30-year-old book store in the last week of June. He was not being able to pay the rent of Tk 45,000 as for his small shop with five depots.

"I thought the reopening after three months might help us to survive. But I was wrong. Our business is linked with the presence of students, especially university students. But you see, everyone is now in their village home, the nearby halls are empty, and we don't know when the educational institutions will be opened," said Mostofa.

He said it was getting impossible for him to wait for the uncertainty to end as his sales dropped to Tk 1,500 per day in June as opposed to the regular daily sales of Tk 15,000-20,000.

Mostofa sold his store with around 15,000 books at Tk 14,50,000 and is now planning to go to his village home.

Staffers at these stores were pitchforked into an even more difficult situation as many of them are facing salary cuts and fearing job losses in the coming days.

For example, Rafiqul Islam, who has been working at the Barnali Boighor of Nilkhet Islamia Market for the past 25 years, is already facing a pay cut.

"We sell guides for BCS and other recruitment tests. I don't find more than two to three customers every day since the reopening of the market," he said, adding "I don't know how long the owner will pay the rent and give our salaries."

The situation is quite similar at the wholesale bookstores in Banglabazar.

For instance, Mojibur Rahman, owner of Muna Book Depot, is not opening his stores regularly for the last few days due to the decrease in sales. He supplies books to almost 30 book stores of Nilkhet every day. But he hardly received an order after reopening this time.

Reopening couldn't help the popular bookshop cafes like Dipanpur, Nalonda or Kobita Café as well, although these places used to be a favourite hub for the literature aficionados a few months ago. Every evening, people would come to read books and have talks while sipping on their coffee.

The owners of these cafes, however, said customers hardly visited their shops after the shutdown.

Dipanpur was established on July 12, 2017, on the eve of the 45th birth anniversary of the slain publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan, and after three years of successful operation, Dipan's wife Dr Razia Rahman Jolly and his friends were planning to put an end to their endeavour last month, as the revenue plummeted to zero during and after the shutdown.

But as the news of the closure spread, some literary minds and friends gave Jolly a hand to continue to the venture. The Book shop opened on a limited scale on July 10.

Nahida Ashrafi, the owner of Kobita Café, too was about to shut her shop last month but changed her mind after being assured by the cultural affairs ministry about a stimulation package allotted for her business to survive.

"Since we got assurance from the ministry, we are hoping to open the café again in the first week of August, but I don't know how long we could survive," she said.

Jewel Redwanur, the owner of Café Nalonda, could not afford the continuous loss and closed the shop the last month.

"I applied for the stimulation package from the cultural affairs ministry, but I've heard they are providing only Tk one lakh. We need more than this amount every month to keep the café open," he said.

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