Monday, April 20, 2009

Drawing a Blank

Buying a book is one of the greatest pleasures in my life but I don’t think that it is going to remain so for long. The reason is simple. I like to leisurely browse through the books before I make a choice and for that I need to visit one of those new age bookstores.

The problem begins when I need a specific title. I walk up to one of those smart, young assistants who eye me suspiciously as I approach them. I hesitantly name my request and I am greeted first with an absolutely blank stare and then an expression that breathes fire on the fact that I dare to ask for something that calls for some legwork and the exercise of some grey cells. I hold my ground with persistence. They realize that I am serious and then a mad rush to the computer. Some rapid staccatos on the keyboard follow with much shaking of heads before I am sheepishly asked to spell either the book’s title or the author’s name. As this is now the norm rather than the exception, I have taken my custom to the online bookshops….and yet I find myself dragged into bookshops just to feel myself surrounded by the smell of new paper and the possibilities of the words that the pages hold.

I remember one pleasantly plump assistant at a prominent bookstore in Kolkata and she was a pleasure to deal with. She knew all about the books, authors, and basic storylines in both English and Bengali. In fact, she was the one who encouraged me to try reading Bengali literature and when I hesitantly told her that I was an extremely slow reader in Bengali she gave me Ashapurna Devi’s “Prothom Pratistruti” and had me hooked. The other thing that I remember about her ( For the life of me I can’t remember her name) was the passion that she brought with her, her face glowed every time she made a recommendation or when she sought out a title that the patron wanted. I interacted with her during four or five visits and then like all good things in life she disappeared and I was back to dealing with blank faces.

I too moonlighted as a bookseller’s assistant many years ago in a bid to escape the bullying bosses and two-faced colleagues at the “shitty-bank” that I worked for …but that’s a story I’ll save for another day.

8 comments:

Sucharita Sarkar said...

I totally avoid any assistant in the new-fangled bookshops, prefering to take out books on my own....in Mumbai, the old-fashioned type of assistant exists in Strand Book Stall. The new-age shops like Crossword and Landmark (my fave hunting grounds) are for solitary reapers like me....

SGD said...

I too buy books online...but as you rightly pointed out, it isnt half as fun as actually visiting a bookshop, browsing for hours and then making your choice...I just love the smell of new books...
The sales persons are clueless about what they are doing! Why ONLY bookshops...all the fancy malls and supermarkets of today have these uniformed girls & boys, who are just smiling statues...ask them something...either they'll redirect you to someone else or in the guise of searching for the thing, JUST disappear!!

teahouse said...

Oh, I love books! I love the way they smell, the way they feel, their titles, their pretty covers, EVERYTHING about them. I love libraries and bookstores! My apartment is filled with books - to the point that my Husband has forbidden me from bringing any more home unless I get rid of some!

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