‘Thanks for the memories’: Hyderabad’s Walden bookstore closes

Walden shut its flagship store last year and was running two other branches, both of which have now been shut.
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This past Sunday, Hyderabad silently bid goodbye to a bookstore that had been a part of the lives of many residents in the 90s and 2000s. Independent bookstores had already been battered by online giants and many had shut, but the pandemic has now sounded the death knell for Walden, taking with it the memories of a generation of Hyderabadis, and one of the only bookstores in the city where the staff could recommend books to its patrons. 

Started in 1990, Walden was one of the rare ones in the business, rivalled only by a few independent bookstores in the city, and later on, chains such as Crossword and Landmark (Landmark was a Chennai-based bookstore chain at the time, and it was only in 2005 that the Tata group acquired a controlling stake and later on, 100%). 

A couple, Shobha and Ram Prasad, launched Walden in Somajiguda on June 28, 1990. Walden was named after author Henry David Thoreau’s seminal work. Besides books, it also sold stationery, toys, a good collection of magazines and greeting cards as well. At one point, (the now defunct) Music World used to have a dedicated spot inside the flagship store, and the store even had a popcorn counter. Given its proximity to Hyderabad’s old airport, it wasn’t uncommon for celebrities to drop in either. 

This flagship store, situated right next to the Chief Minister’s office, closed down last year in July, leaving the two branches in Gachibowli and Banjara Hills running. While the Somajiguda store was shut because it wasn’t sustainable cost-wise, the pandemic ensured that the other two branches shut as well. 

Speaking to TNM, proprietor Shobha said, “When we launched Walden, it was like a Landmark for everybody. It was a mall before malls came into existence in the city. Landmark was the inspiration behind Walden. We didn’t have a huge bookstore in Hyderabad, and Walden emerged as a popular bookstore. Though we were selling toys, stationery and other things, our USP was books. We sold books of all kinds,” she says.

And sell they did. It’s where a lot of children bought their first Enid Blyton novels, Agatha Christie novels, stood in line on the day of release of the Harry Potter books and more. 

Thanking the patrons, Shobha said, “We are happy that Walden customers supported us in our journey. They made our journey beautiful. They made the bookstore what it is.”

Shobha said that before the pandemic, they saw an influx of NRIs. “These NRIs grew up reading books from Walden, so they would visit our store whenever they came to the city. We are very grateful to them for supporting our business,” she added. 

For many, a weekend outing involved browsing books at the store and buying new stationery. The bookstore’s popularity may have waned in recent times due to more choices, but several Hyderabad residents shared their memories online about the store and how it shaped their childhood.

“The books from your store helped me become a fashion photographer, a script writer and a director.. in a way, your store helped me become what i am today.. will miss your store andi.. good luck  sir.. Thank you.. thank all your wonderful staff andi..” wrote Satish, expressing his love for the store. 

“I can't put in words what Walden meant to me as a kid. This is Hyderabad's loss - losing bookstores is a sure sign of decline,” tweeted Pramod. 

With inputs from Balakrishna Ganeshan

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