Memories of a lifetime of book lust. An ever-growing urge to escape the visible boundaries of my dross, uneventful existence and plunge headlong into the infinitely exciting and unbounded lives of others – men, women, children, Indian, foreign, of all races and classes and colors and aspirations. Plunging into their strange hearts and minds and souls. Using them as looking glasses to examine and make some sense of my own existence.
Staring in open eyed wonder at the old-style glass cabinets in my dark basement school library. That was the place that opened up a whole new world to me. A world far more interesting and personal than the glossy, too perfect to be true world shown by television. Once books entered my life, television took a backseat. Cinema faded into the background, only to emerge as a more powerful influencer in later years.
I still remember feeling my pulse quicken reading about the Hardy boys rushing downtown to solve a case. Or half-comprehending the mental prowess of Sherlock Holmes brooding over a new case while staring out of the window of his 221B Baker Street apartment. All these pleasures came to me in that barely lit underground library with gargantuan wooden tables and red plastic chairs. Shy student that I was, I would sneak into the library by bunking academic classes and carefully place a novel in the middle of my textbook, appearing suitably engrossed in science or maths.
I discovered bookshops really late in life, only once I started earning. The sweetest memory that comes to mind is buying Orhan Pamuk’’s Snow from a Crossword store in GIP, Noida from my first salary. It was the kind of impulsive purchase middle class people engage in when they feel like being lavish after getting their first salary. Had only heard of My Name is Red from Nobel laureate Pamuk till then, but the pristine white cover of Snow, with Ka smoking a cigeratte had me hooked instantly. And what an amazing purchase it turned out to be. A strange, dream-like tale set in a cold, faraway land with a poet as protagonist. A poet who doesn’t write deliberately, but to whom poems “come” in a feverish state during his journeys in an unfamiliar town. Peppered with themes of politics, religion and spirituality.
That first purchase from a bookstore was preceded by 3 long and miserly years as a college student satiating his hunger for the written word from books borrowed from friends and the British Council Library in CP. Funnily enough, the membership fees for that library was gathered by shrewdly coaxing two college friends to join as silent co-members. As I expected, they hardly borrowed their quota of books and I ended up reading their quota as well by paying just 33% of the fee.
Returning to bookstores, before I could allow myself to get addicted to them came the e-commerce revolution and affordability and convenience made Flipkart my new best friend.
To be continued as I have lost interest in this post for now....back to that book I was reading for now...