Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Book Street’s Back

There are few things as heady as the smell of the sepia-tinted pages of an old book. Perhaps that of first rain on dry earth; perhaps that of a rare Stradivarius to a virtuoso.

After a bitter and prolonged battle with the Mumbai Municipal Corp, which lasted a year almost down to the day, the kitabwallahs of Fort are back. What joy! In this one year what we lost was-
Time. So much could’ve been read, said and done. Well, there’s never any return from that
Books. Thousands of books were damaged as water entered the MCGM warehouses, where the “confiscated” books had been stored, in the aftermath of July 26. (Establishments are insensitive, they’re meant to be)

Ok. So let’s move on now. And its time to stop and look every time you pass, to browse through The Ancient History of Rome, The Kite Runner, Opal Mehta. Well-thumbed copies of Tintins, and Asterixes and Lonely Planets. The Kamasutra, The Rig Veda- side by side. Chronicles of World Wars gone by, and doomsday theories on the next one. Harry Potter and Superman. Memoirs of Nehru, Jinnah. Gable and Garbo. Heroes, Superheroes. Villains and Vamps. Hundreds of Mills & Boons and the one and only Baby and Child Care, Benjamin Spock. The History of The Mercantile Bank and Coffee table books on Bollywood, and Hollywood. Of Cold War, and of everlasting peace. Plays Pleasant. Plays Unpleasant. Through fashion magazines, and then some not quite as fashionable. Whatever floats your boat.

To ruminate over past owners (“To Sheila on her 26 birthday, With Love and Fond Memories, Rohan.”, whatever happened to them?); to ponder over their antecedents -“Rumeila S. Clarke, Port of Spain, 1975” or “Promila Gupta, TYBA, St. Xavier’s College, Class of 87”. To read scribbles between lines, in pencil or fountain pen, to see a book in a new light, discover a new meaning left behind by those who let them go (once I saw scribbled - with arrow and underline-in a juvenile handwriting in pencil along the margin: 'This is what is meant by "To Kill a Mocking Bird"'- and then a whole new realization dawned upon me).
To wonder why people would sell their books.
To speak to the Kitabwallahs, to hear their stories of how they came to this city of dreams with stars in their eyes, and how they ended up on the streets, and how they sold dreams to others instead. To see them clamber, with confidence to find for you that rare Steinbeck. To bargain with them and win or lose, depending on the book, the mood, the time of the day.

So much to read, and yet so little time. Happy days are here again!
Goodbye Crossword, Hello Book Street.


shikha said...

He he this is really nice ya'ar....

But,Piracy in any industry kills that industry..Should WE buy the original ones rather?

dazedandconfused said...

hmmm...T.O. this middle-of-the-week post will sure make some people happy. What happened to your sunday ke sunday thing..? :)

Anonym said...

This sounds really nice :-)

Is Book Street something like College Street in Kolkata ?

Anonymous said...

they have one of street bookseller in NY too maybe you should visit and have a look for yourself....not quite mumbai though