Yesterday, I was at the Book Fair at Pragati Maidan. It had always been a childhood dream to see books piled up in huge mountains – and not clean stacks – all around me, and yesterday was the day when my wish came true. I had to plan a battery of tactics and strategies to convince Rohit to accompany me to the book fair, and he agreed eventually as we didn’t have AECC lecture, and they were selling 3 books for 100 bucks.
After passing the struggle Delhi metro throws you at Kashmiri Gate and Rajeev Chowk, we reached Pragati Maidan. Rohit ate sandwich for the first time in his life on my recommendation and declared it the worst thing he’d ever put in his mouth. He didn’t leave the hair of a crumb in the plate, though.
We ambled towards the book fair as I started preparing a list of books I’ll buy. I had 1000 bucks, that meant 30 books. I could open a goddamn library with that money!
I had never felt so rich before. I couldn’t let my eyes off the books. The glossy covers, the sexy fonts, and the smell of paper – it was so enchanting that it felt like love. I spent 15 minutes in the first stall, scanned through each and every cover, clocked The Fault in Our Stars and William Shakespeare sitting together and wondered if Shakespeare would ever know what he has bequeathed. I saw classics, Dan Brown, hardcover, Encyclopaedias and whatnot and I’d have stayed there for another century but Rohit dragged me out.
“We don’t have all the time in the world. “He said, evidently not interested in Shakespeare or his legacy.
I saw novels all around me and the sight was so tantalising that I could give up sex for this. There were people browsing through the heaps, pulling out paperbacks, scanning through the back cover, some making distorted faces while some giving triumphant smiles. Half the girls were buying either Twilight Saga or Fifty Shades of Grey. The other half were looking for something to gift their boyfriends, or to help themselves cook better food for their husbands, or Dan Brown because, well, everybody reads Dan Brown. It seemed like I was the only guy on the planet looking for both – Jane Eyre and Shopaholic to the Stars. Unfortunately, they didn’t keep those books.
I kept looking for 3 for 100 stall, and finally spotted one a few yards ahead. Opposite to that, they were selling Kindles and Rohit keeps a keen interest in Kindle so he went there. I was disappointed to find that none of the books in my mind could make it to 3 for 100 stalls. That clearly meant I wasn’t going to open my goddamn library. After 30 minutes, I found Sophie Kinsella’s books buried inside mystery tomes. Had they heard of a term called “categorization” they’d have given us a lot less pain in the ass. I would keep jumping from one stall to the other, asking the owners for Catch 22, and they all would shake their head like stupid, claiming it was sold out already.
“Catch 22? We don’t sell spices here. “One of the stall-owner said and dissolved into hysterical laughters. Other people joined in. They all had “101 ways to improve your mind. ” book in their hands. They really needed that book.
I got Catch 22 at one store, finally, however the guy at the counter broke my heart with three words.
“Two Hundred rupees. ”
I went out and carried on my search. I had just bought Atonement at 50 bucks from the stall nearby, there was no way I was paying 200 for any goddamn book. I mean even the Hardcover of The lost Symbol cost me just 150.
I found the Book Thief, priced at 450. When I asked the price, the guy at the counter pulled out his calculator, did some spectacular calculations and said to me, politely,
“Four Hundred Forty. ”
You can shove that calculator in your ass, I muttered. He didn’t understand English and so gave me a polite smile.
I met Rohit at self-help section. He had a copy of “101 ways to improve your mind ” in his hands. At self-help section, there were plenty of sex guides with sultry covers, but none of them had great interiors. I asked the guy at the counter if they kept Kamasutra and he eyed me like you eye a crushed pumpkin on the sidewalk and asked,
“How old are you? ”
So old that I have flushed one billion children of mine already!
We would have kept on moving, however, Rohit got tired and plonked his ass in the armchair where all the north-Indians hogged the place. I ran out of money after buying Great Expectations and Micro. And so we stomped out the book fair, clicked selfies and reached home running in the rain, carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.