“It began with around 1500 books and a dream” says Mayi Gowda with a beaming smile surrounded by books, neatly stacked, rising to the ceiling.
Occupying one of Bangalore’s most prized addresses, today Blossom Book House has close to over 6 lakh books within its four walls. For the past twenty years, the bookstore has thrived on Bangalore’s church street and caters to the need of quite a diverse audience – from rare collectible first editions to copies fresh out of the press, they seem to have it all.
Mayi Gowda founded Blossom Book House in 2002 in a smaller space not far from where the current bookstore stands today. Shortly after having moved from Mysuru in 1995 to study engineering in Bangalore he found himself assisting booksellers on the pavement before deciding to take the plunge in 2002 and start his own store.
‘After having moved to Bangalore I was assisting a few booksellers who sold books on the pavement and after a while I thought of trying to sell a small collection of books myself’. In due course, Mayi Gowda found himself opening a small store on Church Street with a rather lean collection of around 1500 books. “The first book I sold was How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie” he recollects.
From conversations with readers who flock to the bookstore regularly you realise that for most of its clientele, the journey to the bookstore is more of a pilgrimage. Losing track of time is easy here, there are no distractions – it’s simply a place that is just about the books and nothing else.
“When you go to Blossoms you don’t just go there to buy a book. You can do that sitting at home. You go to Blossoms to get lost in the world of books, discover books and to be overwhelmed by how much there is to read and how little time you have” says a long time customer of the bookstore.
Within its walls, in narrow aisles in between sections cordoning off poets from playwrights you often see groups of three or four sitting on the floor engaged in conversation. This atmosphere, a kind of sanctuary from the everyday banal, is something Mayi Gowda has been able to establish in the past two decades of running the bookstore and readers in Bangalore love him for it.
When the store was shut for close to three months during the lockdown in 2020, a customer telephoned me, recalls Mayi Gowda. “Just before hanging up, he added that if we needed any support financially we could reach out to him.” The kind of love and generosity many of the patrons have shown the bookstore has been extremely moving according to Mayi Gowda.
“I’ve never gone to Blossoms and walked out with just the book I wanted to buy. It’s hard not to discover other titles that you wouldn’t have otherwise found out about. The non-intrusive staff there are not hovering over your shoulders, they let you discover books unless you need their help.” was another response I got for what makes every visit special from another long time patron.
When the bookstore started back in 2002, it sold just pre-owned books. Today it is no longer the case but the majority of their sales are in pre-owned books. This has been a great benefit for its patrons. The books are nominally priced and there’s a wealth of titles in store that are no longer in print.
Books that get handed down from one reader to another have their own charm and once you spend some time leafing through old copies of books it’s not hard to find little notes from the original owners of the books. Going through these little sentimental inscriptions from strangers separated by time and space makes the act of acquiring a book rather special.
In a way visiting Blossom Book House, picking something up to read and going through those yellow pages stained with time puts you in conversation not just with the book’s author but also its past owners – a conversation beyond time. And Bangalore as a city, seems to be bustling with these conversations!