Turn left from Russel Street on to the busy Middleton Street, walk a bit and you will come across a wall on your left, with a mounted glass case full of books and prints. It grabs your attention, this touch of quirk and good taste on such a noisy, chaotic road. There’s nothing there, no sign or poster, to advertise what this showcase of books is all about. You have to go in through the gate beside it. Walk to the end of the path, and you will see a wooden handpainted door (tall people will have to duck in) with a sign above that says ‘Earthcare Books’.
Inside, the floor is red oxide, the bamboo and rattan furniture lends the space a cosy feel. Books are stocked according to theme in separate areas with arched entry points. Each section has specialised books, fiction and (mostly) non-fiction, on history and philosophy, women and gender, adivasi issues, conservation, architecture, ecology, nature, tree species in cities, snakes, reptiles and other wildlife, health, and much more. On the wall above are framed black and white photos of Kolkata, taken by Thomas Patrick Kiernan who has been capturing the city since the 1990s.
One of the sections has a range of handmade bags, wooden toys, ceramics, and organic skincare. Their children’s section stocks excellent books from Indian publishing houses like Tara, Tulika and Katha. It is one of the best children’s literature sections in the city.
The bookstore is the brainchild of husband and wife duo, Bharat and Vinita Mansata who handpicked the collection here. Dividing a busy life between Kolkata and Mumbai, the duo do not just sell books, they also publish under their own label. The writers under their stable include Jeremy Seabrook, twice an Orwell Prize nominee, and Japanese farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka, who has visited the store.
It’s quiet, and sometimes the staff (Pervez and Noor) will offer you a hot cup of chai in a bhaar (clay cup) in the evening. Take your time browsing, most people say they have never been here without making a wonderful discovery. Every wall is stacked. And you will come across some hidden gems, books you never would have otherwise found and which are not sold in mainstream bookstores.
If you cannot make it to Kolkata, do check out their website. They can also send you the books by courier or Speed Post.
And Kolkata folks, do add yourself to their mailing list because they often host interesting talks, music events, as well as workshops on urban gardening.