I have done many “different” things but today’s by far was the most “different.” Some of the things that I did was jump onto a lorry (my friends were there, don’t worry they helped me up), get out of the auto from the other side because it was closer to where I was going, and have extended conversations with myself (I have heard this is quite common though I don’t know for sure). Today, in one of those afternoon walks – so that our legs do not become obsolete – AquaM and I went out for lunch and dropped into Aries Books on the way. (Aries books is the bookstore that Mrudula and AquaM discovered in one of the gullies of Mylapore, Chennai.)
When we got to the second floor, some of the books had been toppled over. There were no bookshelves on this floor. It’s just like a storeroom with books stocked along the walls. When the space against the walls were taken up, more books were stocked either against existing books or in new rows in the middle of the undivided room making book walls in the process.
Anyways, I just couldn’t stand there and look at the books some of which were half open, some lopsided, some upside down! So I got to work. There were no fans or windows. It was as I said a storeroom. The only thing that the room had to its advantage was light. Situated high one wall that faces the street were a line of skylights. I can’t think of calling them anything other than skylights. They sure weren’t windows; they couldn’t be opened. To remove the oppressive heat there was a huge pedestal fan, which was earlier, connected to the power socket but not today. The floor was paved with flattened cartons and plastic covering leftover from the packaging (One of the cartons has this stamped on it “Have you ever lived this life before this life? September 1989.”) And all over there was a pervading smell of books and dust.
So AquaM and I sat down amongst the books to set them in order. While AquaM browsed though the books that I handed her from time to time, I made row upon neat row of books. After a while, I was done. but not before I had picked up one more children’s book! John Bellair’s Johnny Dixon in The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder by Brad Strickland was screaming to me to take it out of its hell and let it bask in my attention on my private bookshelf.
Since we were such regular customers the assistant at the shop let me have a book (The Story of the Little Mole) for free.
Aside: If I had the bookstore to my disposal, I really think I can do so many things. For example, there were loads of Christmas books, so a Christmas display would be a great idea.
While sorting the books I realised that the books were all mixed up. The children’s books, fiction, memoirs, biographies were all stocked in one pile. I told AquaM that they need our help. Why don’t we volunteer here to arrange their books? And so we did. On the way out we spoke to the owner of the bookstore and said that we would be happy to volunteer our services. He was so enthusiastic that two people were so interested at all! And since this was all for free, he heartily accepted it! By the way, AquaM is the one who spoke since I was (a) paying for the book that I got and (b) making sure the septuagenarian cashier was not charging me for the book that I got free. There is also the matter that AquaM knows the local language a lot and I don’t.
I was always interested in causes but this sure is one of my off-the-road ones.
*My apologies for the alliteration: it was too tempting. And all credit goes to Lamohan Ganguly who gave me this brilliant idea.