Weathering a Pandemic
Is there life after death? Yes, there is, but it is not the same. Do we believe in coming back from the dead? Yes, we do. You would too, if you had friends like we have.
Seven years ago, we were forced to down the shutters of Eureka! – Delhi’s first children’s-only bookstore (back in 2003, it was probably India’s first too, but that is based on anecdotal evidence, we do not have the data). As an emotional decision, it was shattering. As a financial decision, it was wise and practical. But it wasn’t easy. Emotionally, it left us scarred for life – well, at least for six years. You can read all about our life story here. Moving on without further ado, this story is about how the renewed, rejuvenated, refreshed, relocated and-all-the-other-words-in-the-thesaurus Eureka weathered a pandemic.
2020 began on an exciting note for us - a second chance and a second coming for a bookstore that had almost given up. To cut a long story short, we got an offer from CMYK Bookstore to share space with them and set up Eureka once more. It was January 2020 and we grabbed at the opportunity. Plans went into overdrive for us to launch by April 2020.
The universe conspires, and how! Only this time, it conspired only to stop the world in its tracks. Two months into the renovation work came the first of the interruptions that made 2020 and 2021 so unpredictable.
The door for stepping out of home was well and truly shut by the deadly second wave that engulfed one and all in April 2021. We lost young Sushil, our tech head, to it. It was a difficult time and we were close to breaking point more than once. But life had to go on, however abnormal it became. The 59-day nightmare that began in mid-April is something that will never be forgotten. As far as lockdowns go, we sincerely hope it is the last.
For any independent bookstore to lose two months just eight months into the business would have been nothing short of catastrophic. Especially when things were not hot enough to begin with. Forget about shopping, people were understandably not too keen on even fraternising much before the second wave hit.
It all began at home. Our partner, Roli Books, led by the ever-considerate Pramod Kapoor, stood by us every inch of the way from Day One. His son Kapil has backed us up all through. Financial tweaks were made to ease the situation for us. Come what may, they would not let us sink. It was just the tonic we needed to hang on.wave hit. But survive we did. It would have been impossible had it not been for some developments that Eureka will forever be grateful for.
Secondly, the book industry closed ranks around us. When we wrote to publishers and suppliers after the 59-day hibernation, they listened. Concessions were requested for and agreed to. Suppliers across the board, big and small, rose to the occasion. Some of them even made calls to say that we ought to focus on getting the business back on its feet rather than think of how to pay back outstanding bills. Generous credit extensions were made. In the end, books and the booklover were the winners.
Then came the third heartening development. The customers started trickling back, slowly. No call from us went unanswered. They were ready and willing to drop by at Eureka to stop a floundering independent store going down.
It was the saving grace in our stop-start existence. And that is when we began to hope once again. Nothing warms the heart more than when you receive a message like this on your phone: “Do share some books for A*.* to read. I have nothing left from my last purchase.”