Yesterday, I had the strong urge to smell books. I do have books at home but the smell in bookshops is something out of the world. So I went to this bookshop near my house. It has the world’s most unromantic name for a bookshop. If someone hadn’t told me that it was a bookshop, I would have missed it out all together. The name is Nagasri Book House.
I walked through a maze of shops selling everything from chats to shoes. And then right next to the Optical store, it stood. The glass door. The book-piled wall. And I breathed. There is always the uncertainty of walking into a new bookshop. I know books. I know bookshops. But a new bookshop is always a challenge. You need to know each bookshop like a person before you can trust it.
I walked inside and found it almost empty. There was a middle-aged man at the counter on my right, a man who read papers at the corner of this one room store and another whom I took to be a customer because he seemed to be looking at the books rather closely. The shop had books on shelves on the four walls plus a middle pillar which had more bookshelves full of books. You could go around the book pillar and look at books on either side. That’s what I did. For a long time, I didn’t feel like picking anything. Finally, I decided that I wanted another Eva Ibbotson. I had just finished reading A Song for Summer and wanted to read more of Ibbotson’s books. I approached the man at the counter and he asked his other guy whom I took to be customer to a shelf. Immediately, the guy pounced upon the kid shelf and started searching. The really amazing thing was he was wearing glasses and peering into each book as though he was going to gobble it up. The book was on his nose as he read the title. Finally, he sifted through the rest to give me my book. I had found Monster Mission which was the UK (or is it US?) version of Island of the Aunts (the UK or US version?). The other Eva Ibbotsons, he showed me, I had already read.
I went around to the other side and touched a book which was stacked way into a pile. I was startled. The man who was pretending to read the paper in the corner jumped up and offered to help me take the book out. I breathed easy again.
I asked the owner sitting at the cash counter for a book I have been searching for a long time. Yvonne Roberts’ The History of Insects (Fiction). He remembered the book but didn’t have it. While paying for my Eva Ibbotson, I spotted a biography of François Truffaut, which I wanted to get badly. I read the price, sighed, and told the owner, “I will come again.” He looked at me and knew why I was not buying the book.