This leaves us with the small but delightful Minerva. The intellectual heart of a commercial district. A bibliophile's oasis in a desert land of synthetic ready-made clothes, branded monstrosities and kitschy souvenirs for tourists.
Funny thing is, in all my years of visiting this establishment and chatting with its delightful owners, I must acknowledge that, to this date, I only know them as "Rahul" and "Rahul's father". This is possible because the conversation rarely strays from the topic of books. At worst, it may go into the history of shimla. Or very reticently, that of Minerva. Some insistent questioning reveals that the present owners acquired Minerva in 1972. Rahul's father belongs to a family of grain merchants, but says "his heart wasn't in it". He seems happy as a cricket occupying his vantage point behind the counter, viewing the passing scenery. He is able to climb into the skin of the people who walk into his shop by studying their expression, their clothes, or shoes. He chats you up, asks you questions and listens to your answers carefully.
In a sense, Rahul and his father are great match-makers, for they are able to - more often than not - find the right book for every reader who walks in through Minerva's door. Rahul's father seems to derive particular pleasure in pairing a book with a reader! You will never find him handing a Harry Potter to a matriarch, or a coffee table tome of architecture of the British Raj to the svelte young lady aglitter in (tasteful) baubles.