Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lotus, Danai: Memories Of Mumbai's Bookshops

Today's Sunday Guardian column.

I miss a time when I didn't have to be informed that rents were too high for bookshops to survive.

I miss having an oasis to break journey in on the trek back home from work.

I miss the serendipity of discovering just the book I always wanted to read on the shelf without knowing that it ever existed.

I miss reading a glowing review of a new novel in the morning and finding it on the shelves that very evening.

I miss the manager running up to me and saying breathlessly: "You should check out these short stories by this writer called David Foster Wallace, he's really very good".

I miss scanning the new arrivals section to discover that the title I couldn't afford in hardback was now available in paperback.

I miss feeling deliciously guilty -- and broke -- when I went ahead and bought the unaffordable hardback.

I miss receiving a call to inform me that the book I'd enquired about is now in stock. And that the book felt all the more precious because of the long wait for the call.

I miss bumping into a friend and scanning the books he held in his hand while he examined the ones in mine.

I miss settling into the tattered sofa chair in the corner with a selected pile of books on my lap and wondering which ones to buy.

I miss deciding to buy all of them.

I miss the sales. (Not, however, the ones that announced: ‘Closing Down’.)

I miss the aroma.

I miss the bookmarks.

I miss the silence. (I miss glaring at those who persisted in conducting loud conversations on their cellphones or with each other.)

I miss the time there was an unexpected power cut that plunged the bookshop into darkness, upon which the person next to me pulled out a torch and coolly continued to examine the shelves.

I miss looking at the unopened pile of cartons containing new books in the corner and wondering whether I ought to ask the attendant to open them just so I could see what was in store.

I miss gingerly turning to the back jacket to see whether the price would give me a jolt. I miss not getting a jolt because of a sticker that said: 'Special Indian Price’.

I miss cradling the parcel of newly-purchased titles all the way home.

I miss adding the contents of the parcel to the tottering pile of unread books.

I miss rushing into the store five minutes before closing time and cursing the traffic.

I miss looking up to find I was the only person in the store apart from a long-suffering attendant who patiently informed me that it was past closing time but if I needed some minutes more, that was fine.

I miss returning to the bookshop after a year away to find the manager holding out a book to me and saying that I'd inadvertently left it behind on my last visit.

I miss the times I walked in without the need to or intention of buying anything, but just to spend some time in the company of books.

I miss being unable to make up my mind about buying a book and returning again and again to see it in the same place on the shelf and then kicking myself one day to find it gone.

I miss being so familiar with the arrangement of titles on a shelf that, with a quick scan, I could immediately tell if something had been added or re-arranged.

I miss living in a city that had space for books.


Anonymous said...

Get over it.

Ashna said...

Love this post. I've been buying books online so much that now I'm into this guilt mode that's making me want to go find a 'real' bookstore and spend some time there. Trouble is, they are so few :|

Unknown said...

Anon: You're a real estate broker, aren't you?
AB: Yes, it's a pity.