At Faqir Chand & Sons booksellers in Khan Market, New Delhi, you can taste the sandalwood at the back of your tongue the moment you draw your first breath. The musty single-room shop is three times as high as it is wide, and five times as long as it is high.
And in this literary warren each and every book is individually wrapped in plastic--likely in defence against the volcanic ash of the incense--and stacked horizontally on the metal shelves, which is to say the books like flat stacked one on top of the other at least eight or ten volumes high per shelf, troublesomely necessitating both hands as well as a bit of stretch and muscle to retrieve any book not on top of a particular stack.
Authors are grouped together in coveys of their work. However, there is no discernible order or organization to the arrangement of the authors (you'll find Salman Rushdie one shelf above Bill Bryson and one shelf below Danielle Steele, e.g.), a result of which the visitor should not expect to spend less than half an hour rummaging through the shelves on tiptoes and haunches looking for great reads, unless of course you ask the plump old woman with the corrugated face sitting behind the desk hogging most of the fanned air; she'll find anything for you in under ten seconds.
With great, ascetic restraint I limited myself to two book purchases: Inhaling the Mahatma by Australian journalist Christopher Kremmer, and Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga, the former a travelogue and catch-up on the last twenty years of Indian news, and the latter a short-story collection by the Man Booker Prize-winning author of The White Tiger.