Posted in culture, Romance

Shop Around The Corner

It is the wardrobe to Narnia, the brick wall before Diagon Alley, the gate to Avalon and the portal to the City of Glass all rolled it one. No prizes for guessing, it is none other than your closest bookshop!

IMG_20180211_185503_265In a world driven by space, time and cash crunches Ebooks are becoming the norm and print books a privilege. Any bibliophiles reading this will protest, “No! Nothing can replace the feel of hardbound book and the smell of its pages!” There are also other readers who will agree that yes, ebooks have made it easy to tote around hundreds of books everywhere and anywhere without worrying about heavy boxes and the cost of movers and packers.

But in this drama of print versus kilobytes, the ones who truly suffer are not the traditional book lovers waiting for a hit of the “old book smell”; but the traditional book seller. The “Shop Around the Corner” as Nora and Delia Ephron referred to the David of the world of book shops, struggling to survive amidst Goliaths like “Fox Books”.

This was the story at the turn of the century, but coming into the second decade of the twenty first online sellers and ebooks are the new enemy. With Landmark closing down and Crossword stocking more and more stationary and toys over quality books, you can imagine what David book shops must be doing when even Goliath has bowed down before the Automatons and Androids.

Don’t worry I am not going preach to you all the virtues of paperbacks over Kindles and Kobos, what I’m going to offer is a slice of my life and the role of this little place called “Book World”. This place of magic located on Fergusson College Road in a basement shop is loved by the hundreds of college students that mill around Pune City. My tryst with the same started back in 2012 when my friends and I were looking for a shop recommended to my roommate for cheap purses, bored of my companions struggling to decide what they would like to buy, I wandered down to the basement of the shopping arcade to be welcomed by a hidden book shop aptly called “Book World”.

Book World was the place where I could indulge my guilty pleasure of Mills and Boons that were sold second hand, it was also where I could build my collection of Nora Roberts books, other mystery/ fantasy authors and admire the various types of Tarot decks and their companion books.  Of course I was not a very frequent buyer but anytime I did,  it was a special treat that had me in a good mood for days. Whenever I was in the area I would end up browsing the store, touching the bookshelves wishing I could read all of them my osmosis. Imagine those actresses in old Hindi movies walking in a garden with their fingertips trailing across the blooming flowers, yep that’s the look I was going for but it probably came across more like Gollum hissing “My precious…!”

Such is the draw of the book store that when I reached a little early for my first date I decided to browse the book store and release the nervous energy rather than stand chewing my nails anxiously. On one of my random trips to the store last year I discovered that they had decided to shut shop and started the process of cleaning out the stock by selling them at discounted rates. Sad as the cause was, the middle class shopper in my could not resist the lure of a Sale and dragged my friend to Book World, armed with our New Adult salary account debit cards. After multiple trips where my friends walked away with lighter pockets and heavier bag-packs, I finally could make up my mind. What a book haul it was, being able to buy these books from my salary is one of the few things that makes it tolerable to have a job that is draining my creativity with every Excel cell that I populate.

I don’t know what is the story of the people behind this store,  I’ve never been the kind to strike up conversations with strangers you see. But I like to imagine what must be the stories behind all the books that reside there, especially the pre-owned ones.  Goosebumps by R.L. Stine which I imagine were read in torchlight hidden under the blanket the night before school. The First Edition Harry Potters for which some child waited with baited breathe in an early morning line perhaps? Romance novels which were secretly read by disillusioned housewives to spirit them away from the monotony of loveless domestic lives. The myriad classics, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Thomas Hardy, Austen and the Brontes being discussed by literature students from the neighboring colleges over canteen Chai and maggi, passionate discussions over character development over which passionate romances developed.

With every visit to the store I see the stock diminishing bit by bit, bringing the inevitable closer, and as a person who abhors change it’s going to be a change that I will crib over till I’m old a grey. I’ll tell my grandchildren how there was this little cave that could take me to places beyond imagination and how till date I haven’t found a replacement. Of course, all I need to do is go to The Bookworm or Blossoms Bookstore in namma Bengaluru and I’ll have same experience of mountains of books, old and new surrounding me.

But Book World will hold a special place in my heart for the mere fact that it was there in my life when I was just a little lonely in my first year of college, and walking down to the store in the afternoons after class was the reprieve I needed after feeling lost in the social structure of law school. I don’t know about diamonds, but I guess books will always be this girls best friend…

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Posted in Romance, Uncategorized

Romance Reader’s take on Valentine’s Day

“I think the single gals, anti-Valentine’s Day thing is a little played out. The romantic Valentine’s thing is a little played out too.”

It was these wise words of the actress, comedienne and all around boss ass bish Anna Kendrick that made me realise what my opinion of the “day of love” truly was. I am not what you would call a hater, nor am I like my mother who has made adorable heart  shaped edible goodies in honour of 14th of February.

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That being said, I am also absolutely addicted to all forms of Romantic fiction and no, Fifty Shades of Grey is not even in my top 500 books in terms of romance or good sex scenes. Let me give you a little background, my journey with romance novels started in the summer of 2010, during the long vacation post Class 10 board exams when I discovered my mother’s old Penny Jordan Mills and Boons. Mind you these books my mother read only after she got married, now that we have the hawwww factor out of the way, let’s get back on topic.

Starting with Penny Jordans, moving onto the online Harlequin reads and then graduating onto the wide world of the internet which has scores of eBooks of the romantic nature to be devoured,where I read all kinds of sci-fi and supernatural beings in love. Outside the paranormal genre I discovered the numerous contemporary and historical romance, but the best of all are the Young Adult and New Adult romances, because nothing can beat the hopefulness of 15-25 year olds who think love can conquer all. Mind you a lot of these books sought to describe how love can’t exactly conquer all and life gets in the way, so do jobs, and geographical distance.

By now you get the idea of just how many such books I have read, according to my laptop memory I have read double digit GBs of eBooks since I joined Law School so go figure. My take away from all these books is not unrealistic standards of romance and dramatic trysts or explosive lovemaking, sorry but that’s not it. What I have imbibed from these books is the fact that love brings happiness, you don’t have to be in love to appreciate the concept of love and sheer joy that it can bring. Some say it is the tragic nature of love that is beautiful or that no love is devoid of pain. I agree to an extent, life cannot be devoid of harsh truths and negativity and hence we can’t expect love to be all about puppy kisses and kitten purrs. It will be difficult, but ultimately it will be worth the smile your loved one puts on your face. It is the fluttery feeling inside your tummy and the crazy anticipation to see them which makes people go searching for love, the comfortable companionship and (pardon me for the cliche) the feeling of being home.

Now how does my opinion of Valentine’s Day figure into this? Well as I sat struggling to work on a paper about Financial Fraud I had an epiphany. Why is that when I read novels about other people in love, it just makes me so happy while immediately uplifting my mood; but the whole hullabaloo around Valentine’s Day leaves me feeling vaguely embarrassed, lonely and grumpy? If we can appreciate RomComs and novels, why can’t we just accept that people need a particular day to represent one of the nicest things about being human: The emotion of Love.

All the arguments about it being a commercial gimmick for capitalists to sell more cards, roses, teddy bears and chocolates are valid of course, but that doesn’t mean we need to boycott the whole event, let’s just take their idea and own it. Ideas can’t be copyrighted, so why not re-purpose this day and make it about the feeling of all kinds of love rather than being all about Hetero-normative Couples. Without supporting the whole mandatory on giving your special someone a gift angle, why can’t we just celebrate the fact that there are people in our lives who love us? Romantic love, filial love, love for your animal and human friends, the key is to celebrate this wonderful and probably chemical phenomenon to the fullest. In the rat race of life we often forget to make people feel special, and here is this day reminding us to do so by waving red heart balloons in our faces and saying, “Hey! If not before, you can express your love and appreciation today!”

Just because you aren’t currently in love or can’t have the person you want doesn’t mean you have to be glum about the V-day, let it give you hope that there is so much love going into the universe, sometime, somewhere it will get back to you. And no, it will not get back through those impulsive text messages to your crush or your ex; that my friend will only leave you sad because you’re likely be ignored, pitied, patronised or rebuffed. Just hold on to your horses, the reasons that made you decide to be unattached and single will continue to exist on 15th of February, or maybe sometime soon that status quo will change.

But you know what won’t change? The fact that you are a good person who has an immense capacity to love and care. The other 364/5 days of the year you will learn a little more about life and living, use that wisdom to bring happiness in the lives of the people around you, and in the bargain you might find the person who wants to do the same for you…