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On Wednesday, February 28, Strand Book Stall downed its shutters for the last time. The iconic bookstore started by TN Shanbhag, stood the test of time for 70 years before succumbing to the pressures of online delivery portals and digital reading. Shanbhag’s daughter Vidya Virkar, who had been handling the store ever since her father passed away in 2009, was overwhelmed with all the love bestowed on them by the store’s patrons, especially in the last few days.

“The response, specially in the last two days has been wonderful. We have managed to sell almost all the books. That’s something I had been praying for, for every book to find a home,” she told us, just a few hours before the store shut for the last time.

Thousands of visitors thronged the store, with many of them recounting nostalgic stories of their connection with it. “Almost everyone had a story to tell about how they bought a book when they were young and have been buying over the years and interacted with my father. I have decided to just tuck away the stories in my heart,” she said.

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Shanbhag’s son, Arun, supplied many fabulous books to the Strand Book Festival. In this picture, he stands with his mother Asha Shanbhag and his father as they inaugurate the festival at Sundarbai Hall.

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TN Shanbhag was awarded the Padmashri in 2003 by the Government of India. Here he is, accepting the award from APJ Abdul Kalam.

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A cult festival that started in 1998, the Strand Book Festival was held every year except for the last three years. “I conducted the festival in Bangalore for a couple of years, after which my father asked me to organise it here in Mumbai as well,” said Vidya.

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What started as a small kiosk near Strand Cinema in 1948, was shifted later to a larger space in Fort in 1953.

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Strand was the first bookstore to offer 20 per cent discount on published prices. That was in addition to the cosy nooks and corners and the personalised care undertaken by the owner — enough reasons for bibliophiles to keep coming back to the store.

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