Heavy Loss, Damaged Books: Kolkata’s College St Vendors on Amphan

Booksellers at Kolkata’s College Street are scrambling to pick up pieces after cyclone Amphan wreaked havoc.

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Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui

In the aftermath of cyclone Amphan, thousands of books were found drenched and floating in Kolkata’s iconic College Street, worsening the financial condition of booksellers.

What was once a buzzing street with students thronging book stalls – offering everything from school textbooks, research journals, and a wide range of fiction and non-fiction – is now a vacant stretch as shops remain shut.

“Many books have been destroyed, and these books are not usable anymore. They will have to be thrown away.”
Book stall owner

Most book stall owners say sales were already dipping in the wake of the pandemic, and the cyclone made matters worse.

“The day after Amphan, when I came here, I saw a big tree lying uprooted. When I opened my shop it was flooded. All the books that were piled up, were scattered all over as the tree fell near it. They were wet and destroyed.”
Chirogali, Bookseller

‘Will Have to Discard Damp Books’

Left with no other choice but to discard all the damp books, an aggrieved bookseller said, “I suffered a loss of at least Rs 40,000- 45,000. We had to throw away maximum books and I don'y know whether anyone will buy the books that we are drying up.”

A bookseller in college streetm, trying to dry damp books.
A bookseller in college streetm, trying to dry damp books.
(Photo: Sanjoy Deb/The Quint)

Another bookseller, covering his face, sitting outside his small shop said it wasn’t just him but many other vendors in the street who incurred massive losses.

“This was the season; we had stocks of books for all the exama. There would have been sessions after ICSE and CBSE exams. We had already stocked books. All those books remain unsold. Now, we don’t know how people have arranged books, whether anyone would come to buy books or not. It’s been two and a half to three months now. All this is just loss.”

‘Lockdown Added More Misery’

Some also blamed the lockdown for their distress. They said that the lockdown didn’t allow them to come back and safeguard their books before Amphan hit the city. It’s because of this that they are now left to suffer bigger losses.

“We had prior information about the cyclone, but we could not remove the books due to the lockdown. 70-80 percent of the books have been damaged.”
Tanmay Chandra, Bookseller

A symbol of Kolkata’s literary legacy, the iconic College Street is battling to survive today.

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