This is ,I hope, what will turn out to be a 4 part series. Lots depends on enthu of course. They are not in chronological order. They work just the way memory works. By strength of association to current runnings in the mind. They will, several years from now, find themselves pushed into dusty bookshelves in the archives of my mind. I need these memories well dusted. For so many reasons.
The Lost Conversations Of Churchgate.
On the overcast evening of the 21st I found myself in Churchgate. After much research. After imposing my hindi on several random shopkeepers in Colaba. I was looking for used books. They dealt in no such thing. In a tone that clearly displayed their distaste for kept books, they directed me to Fountain, Churchgate. They bought and sold the new stuff. To firangs.
A good number of dukanwalas in Colaba were making money off the average firang's sure-to-be shortlived obsession with India.
With the bidding price of nearly everything sold there following a convergence pattern, strangely reminiscent of the bisection method.He says hundred I ll say fifty.
Churchgate. Six neat shops. Welcoming you with the comforting smell of the yellowed page.
Stacks of unsold books acting as abutments. The first among the shopkeepers hid behind his corpulence, a big stack of Reader's Digests. Trying to sell the cheap thrills of Mills and Boon and Shobha De.
From what I could garner(sample), this was the hangout for the erudite Mumbaikar. Couldnt see how De had a place there at all. But that could have been just a bad statistical sample.
A female walks in.But before that be warned. You shall from this point onwards carry the burden of my hindi. I am not called shortage for nothing. This is of course in the second shop.
" Aapke ke paas Albert Camus hai kya?"
"The outsider hain". I was surprised to see him use the more accurate translation of the french title.
"Mein pad chuka hoon". In my vague attempt at cheerful badinage with a fellow existentialist, I told her you ll get most of the stuff as e-books. Quite easily. For free.She told me she prefered books. And then rested her hands on the Indian fiction section.
Ya existentialist females don't exist. Thats true. And I am glad that it is.
I go ahead and ask the dukan wala.." On the road hai kya?". This is in keeping with my strong insistence on buying On the Road off the road. He said" Kerouac nahin hai mere paas. Kaal aayega." This jolted me. This school dropout knew his business. Mumbai does that to you.
i throw in a few more names. The Electric Kool Aid Acid test. Fear and Loathing. Not there.
Suddenly , like it has happened to me a million times before , my mind goes blank.My mind and its incredible ability to take sabbatical only during crucial moments. Hopeless.
In my moment of desperation, I call Sandeep. At rs 1.5 a minute. Thank You Vodafone.
Sandeep's mind faltering just like mine." I cant recommend books under pressure da" he says. Or something to that effect.
" Have you heard of John Steinste...(not clear)".
" John who?"
" John Stein....(nc)"
"Of Mice and Men da"
" Oh Steinbeck!" I told him. That brought down a barrage of names in my head. I thanked him.
The dukawalla, who had been hearing everything with rapt attention, added" Grapes of wrath chaiye?" I nodded. I asked him" Faulkner hai aapke pass".
Faulkner stirred something in him. His eyes lit up. He hadnt sold a faulkner for ages. Fuck grammar. He was obviously excited. He gave me As I lay dying. Good. Then there was the Dostovesky section. I spent quite some time there and bought nothing. He knew his market well. He immediately offered me a book by Woody Allen., because I spent a considerable length of time staring at The Idiot.
Just then a flock of birds walk in. Oozing class. Possessing none of the bawdiness of the average diamond polishing-skoda driving-party hopping Surti.
( To be Continued on Request...)