Delhiwale: Death of bookstore pioneer

Warm, genial, easy-going, with a husky voice, it’s easier to imagine him spending his waking hours with his grandchildren, or cheerful pigeons. But his life is closely related to books.

Mirza Yaseen Baig, one of the iconic pioneers of the Delhi book world who founded Midland Bookstore, died at 2pm on Thursday at the age of 94.

Before the pandemic started in 2020, despite his advanced age and even his deafness, he had to reduce his interactions with customers, but he would come to his bookstore in Aurobindo Market every day without exception. He would sit on a chair outside the bookstore all day, facing the shelves full of classic books. The store itself was and continues to be run by one of his sons, Afsar. Sometimes he can be found taking short naps.

Baig’s connection to Derry may resonate with many of us in Derry – many of us with roots elsewhere. He is from Hyderabad and runs a bookstall on Sultan Bazaar Road. In 1970, he gave up his business and moved to Derry. In the capital, he set up a similar stand outside the Indian Coffee House on Connaught Place, which later became known as the Books Selection Center. Eight years later, he opened New Book Land, his first bookshop in Delhi NCR, outside the Janpath flea market. It is managed by his son Salim. In 1985, he opened the first Midland in the brand new Aurobindo Market. Two other branches in South Extension I and Gurugram opened later.

Like nearly every established bookstore in town, Midland Books has a cult following. The one in Aurobindo Market is a favorite of many well-known authors such as Namita Gokhale who lives near the SDA Colony. A few weeks ago, reporters spotted historian Ramachandra Guha while browsing the mezzanine.

Other booksellers in the city may not cherish one of Berg’s legacy as much as his patron. Midland was one of the first stores in Derry to sell books at a 20% discount, a scheme that has led to spoiled customers demanding similar discounts elsewhere.

In an interview with reporters many years ago, Baig said that he shied away from the fun of retirement because “it’s my habit to come to the store. Here, I watch people and watch the world go back and forth around me. I feel good.” .”

Baig will be buried on Friday at the Panj Peeran Cemetery near Lodhi Road. He is survived by his wife, Sardar Begum, five daughters, four sons and four bookstores.

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