The last few days have been quite remarkable in that I found few books which I had wanted to own. I also found a couple of bookstores I had long wanted to visit.
The IPL was a generous tour, as one might expect. When it began, I had decided that a bound Tinkle collection I was carrying would be all that I’d read. It didn’t quite happen. I didn’t even read that. Some of the crew members spent lavishly on new books and I did recommend the Glass Bead Game to Dave, my Aussie colleague. I am not sure he read it. He claimed to have some speed-reading ability, which is precisely what you don’t need with the Glass Bead Game. Anyway, I didn’t buy any new books till we reached Mumbai (which was towards the end of the tour). This is when I went in search of the New and Secondhand bookshop (NSB).
There is a peculiar image of NSB that I have. I’d read in some vague internet article about how good it was and how, along with the Central Street in Kolkata, it was a dream-come-true for book searchers. For some reason, we had not explored Central Street enough (I had come back with a couple of notebooks which still hold the expenses we incurred on the north-east trip). I felt it necessary to find NSB and thanks to IPL, I was staying right opposite the Gateway of India. It is a completely different matter that we were put up in the Taj Towers, a place I always looked at with awe (more than the Gateway, maybe). I did wonder at times as to who stayed in these places. Now I knew.
I remembered from the article that the NSB was somewhere close to the Gateway and also to a single-screen cinema theater. The two theaters close enough that I could recall were Regal and Metro. Regal is very close to the Taj Towers.
The first couple of days, I loitered the streets around the place in the hope that the NSB was close to Regal. It wasn’t. Some of my crew colleagues also walked around. They settled down at the Leopold cafe after some time.
The next off-day though, I went towards Metro. On the way, I bought a couple of books on the roadside. They were Satyajit Ray’s The Golden Fortress and Stephen Hawkings’ Brief History of Time. I was probably overcharged by some 40 rupees, I think. But I could afford it, since the IPL had been so generous!
A slew of sports shops line the road to Metro. In one of these shops, I was to buy a floppy hat the next day, and which I was to lose that same day. At Metro, I remembered that the NSB was actually next to a cinema called Edward. Luckily, this was very close to Metro. In fact, I didn’t have to find Edward. NSB was right there, getting itself ready for its evening customers. There weren’t any when I walked in. Stickers of “30% off” were everywhere. It isn’t a big place. There are some book-shelves lined up in a smallish room. A narrow staircase leads to the upper-floor which is quite dusty and could get hot as well because it is so cramped. But all these really do not matter. Its a bloody good place to find rare books. I found Henry Miller’s The Books in My Life. To make matters better, people there are knowledgeable and very helpful.
I managed to read two chapters of the Henry Miller book, mainly because some of these places while touring are extremely boring. I was however fascinated by Burma Bazaar in Chennai – a one-stop area for pirated CDs and DVDs. They were selling stuff like Rosemary’s Baby for 25 rupees, less that half of what it costs in Bangalore. These mini-shops lineup against the Beach railway station’s wall and sell like hot cakes, maybe they sell better than hot cakes. To this convoluted ambiance add the building opposite to these shops, which just says, Jesus Calls. Amazing! Even more amazed was a friend of mine who bought a DVD on Che Guevara and found that it was dubbed in Tamil!
Back to books, and the next lucky ones that would get their share of rest in my impromptu book-shelves were to be found in Blossoms. How strange that all these book stores are close to cricket stadiums? Blossoms is closer to the Chinnaswamy than the NSB is to the Wankhede. I have no idea why I’d never been to Blossoms. Its unbelievable. Actually, what led me there was a street seller who had some lousy American comics. I wanted to annoy some of my friends in the crew by gifting them these (Fantastic Four, X-men….). The guy selling them told me I could find many more at Blossoms.
The Blossoms is quite simply the best bookstore I’ve visited. It has quite a lot of stuff which you might call rare. The guys there know their books. It is a big bookstore which also houses a lot of comics. And unlike the arbitrary pricing at the Select, there are price tags on each book. Most importantly, I found two books I read immediately. Trier on von Trier and Herzog on Herzog (the latter after pursuing it for a few days as it had been “booked” by a regular customer).
Werner Herzog talks about the difference between fact and truth in film making. I can’t promise I understand everything he says in the book, but let me use it for my convenience here. The fact is, books are a great source of enlightenment. The truth is, looking for them might be more enlightening than reading them.