Do you know where I love hanging out most in the world? (Oh alright! Besides snuggled between my two munchkins of course!) Bookshops!
They are my most favourite places in the whole wide world! No shop can ever be too big, or too small for me. I’ll elaborate on this point a bit later.
First of all, the why. And there are many becauses. The waiting-to-be-inhaled, soul filling, smell of books. The fragrance of ink, printing press and triumphant-joy emanating from a freshly published book. The brilliant mish-mash of colours. The unusual, sometimes beautiful and sometimes strange, titles that seem to call out to you with their different voices. The always-tempting blurbs that make you want to find an empty snatch of floor-space so that you can tuck your legs under you and start reading then and there. The satisfying feeling that you are in good-company…fellow readers, word lovers, spirits of dead authors, thoughts of the new ones, all right there, swirling around you.
When I am in such august company I experience either of two, distinct feelings. Either I am overwhelmed by the talent and genius that I am surrounded by, drowning in, gasping at and feel small and insignificant; or I am inspired enough to try my hand at it and I want to grab the opportunity, start searching the very core of me so that I may spill my guts and bleed my soul and write something of fantastic, take-your-breath-away proportions and I want to do it there and then!
But of course I can’t, I don’t. I come home and do either one of two things. I either start feeling stupid and silly at all my grandiose notions and so I shake my head, a little sadly, a little self-deprecatingly; or I sit down and reach for my notebook and start to churn out feeble poems which should never see the light of day!
Occasionally, when I do manage to write something that I would be more than proud to take credit of, I feel like showing off a bit. I do a little jig and I want to read it out immediately to someone. That feeling soon passes when I realize that there’s nobody I can call who cares enough, or is interested enough in poetry, to listen. So I switch that feeling off, and reread my newest poem for my hopefully sometime-to-be-published collection of poems.
Which brings me back to bookstores. I love to hang out in the poetry section, the children’s fiction section (the mythology segment especially) and amongst the Indian writing in English. Shows you my tastes, huh? Yes, it runs from the lyrical to the juvenile to the phantasmagorical to the happening. I spend time going through cookbooks, sometimes salivating and often storing a tip away in the corner of my mind. I leaf through the classics that I haven’t yet read but promised to myself that I will…eventually.
Yes, I’m a happy person in a bookstore. A free spirit in her element. It’s like a pub for me, where I can drown my sorrows in a tome of Eliot, or at least chuckle them away while admiring the whimsical drawings of Beatrix Potter.
In Bangalore, I used to love walking down M.G. Road, just so that I could pop into Gangaram’s…three floors of book-happy bliss! Another favourite was this tiny little shop, tucked away between other shops, looking dusty and innocuous, but full of precious treasures and an owner who knew just where to find what; Premier Book Shop. Soon opened Strand in Manipal Centre, and I loved the openness of the shop as mush as the openness of the always-there smile on the owner’s face. I left Bangalore before Crosswords opened on Residency Road and Landmark in Forum. Of course I visited both places and came back on full high.
Here in Calcutta, I was first introduced to Oxford, on Park Street and it still happens to by my favourite in the city. I used to go to Crosswords on Elgin Road but the staff there is rude, uninformed and unfriendly…yanking away from the whole experience and I so hate leaving a bookshop sad and disgruntled. The first Landmark, now of course renamed Starmark, is in Emami Building on Lord Sinha Road and it still rocks! I sort of feel lost there…but in a very, very satisfying and not-at-all frightening way. And the latest Starmark to open in South City Mall has the pleasure of my company at least twice a week. I just walk amongst the books as if they’re all my own, dear friends. There’s a new gigantic bookstore that’s opened recently, on Prince Anwar Shah Road, very near South City, and it’s called Odyssey…and I’m sure that’s what awaits me there! It’s big and huge and is calling out to me whenever I pass by. I’ve just managed a very quick stopover and I can truly say, I’m impressed!
So, now you know some of my favourite hangouts. What about yours?
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