An Island Of Books

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Sitting on an island in the idyllic Dal Lake, drinking your favourite coffee and reading your favourite book away from the hustle and bustle of a chaotic city- What more can a book lover ask for?
Books and coffee have always been the perfect combination but add to it the mesmerising view of Dal Lake and it becomes every reader’s paradise. Spread over an area of 900 sq feet, Gulshan Books’ Dal Lake bookshop and café cum reading room has fulfilled every reader’s wish.
The café cum reading room which was inaugurated by the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on May 11, is the first of its kind in the region. Set up on an island, named as Nehru Park and surrounded by an enchanting view of Koh-e-Suleiman, Zabarwan range and of course the famous Dal Lake, the store offers a wide range of books on Kashmir’s history, heritage, travelogues, Sufism followed by English classics and current affairs.
The Gulshan Book store is accredited with having first traced, located, consolidated and subsequently published the scattered historical literature on Kashmir, thus making available a variety of rare books and pieces of literature to scholars, intellectuals, academicians as well as common book lovers. 
Beginning its journey in 1950’s, under the name of Sheikh Mohammad Usman and Sons,  Gulshan Books was first located at Maharaj Gunj Srinagar, then considered as the heart of city.
The book store, under the dynamic leadership of its present day owner, Mr Sheikh Aijaz, is already running a chain of stores in three commercial zones, Residency Road, Gaw Kadal and Srinagar airport, of Srinagar city.
“At present we have around 80,000 books available but we will soon be making more books available to our readers. The intricately designed Reading Room cum Cafe houses nearly 1,500 books in English and Urdu, mostly on Kashmir’s history, culture, poetry, tourism and Sufism. Mirza Waheed’s novel Collaborator and a collection of poems The Veiled Suite by another Kashmiri-American poet late Agha Shahid Ali – each with a ‘not for sale’ tag on it can be seen on the shelves.

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“In this Dal Lake area, I don’t think anyone has ever opened a bookshop, though the lake has remained a focal point in almost every book that is written on Kashmir, whether by foreigners or local authors,” Ajaz said. 
“We will also be making professional cameras available for our selfie loving generation,” Ajaz said.
The coffee prices have been kept at minimum with the starting price at just Rs 20. The book store cum café also has a free, although erratic, Wi-Fi connection. 
“Our main aim to open a book shop here is to increase the reading habits among our youth. With its beautiful and serene view, this place will attract younger people as well as tourists to read about our history, heritage and literature. Even though most people prefer reading e-books today, I believe that a view like this will definitely attract readers and will help to revive the traditional reading culture once again”, Mr Ajaz said.
“Even if people don’t buy books, they can still enjoy a little bit of free time reading some of the best books on Kashmir here. I will also be keeping shikaras which will ferry the visitors to the shop for free”, he added.
Chief Minister, who was clearly impressed by the décor and ambience of the bookstore cum café, had also expressed her desire to see more and more people reading about Kashmir’s history and heritage. While inaugurating the store, the Chief Minister in her opening speech had also mentioned the need for such a place to cater to the youth. “We don’t have any healthy activities available for the youth of our valley, so this platform will engage them in book reading and other healthy discussions”, she said.  

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