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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Older The Better





As we stepped into March, the first thing I did was to rush to my favourite book-place and get a set of new books. I had been craving to buy more books for a long time now. Its kind of an obsession with me, sorting through hundreds of titles, running my hand over the cover and through the pages, checking out the cover image, and of course, that one thing that all us booklovers all over the world always do (and make others think we are kind of nuts), smelling the pages......aaaahhhh....I love that for sure.

I was on a kind of book-shopping ban by my hubby...and he had requested me to not buy any more books till March...you see, I have 200+ books in my collection and of course I am always bringing home more to stay with me. And not that I have a dearth of new books to read. So as soon as the calendar turned from Feb to March I was at my favourite joint.

There's this wonderful old place near where I live. It has a huge collection of books and is a very unassuming kind of place. What I really like about it is that it is NOT in a mall for a change....I find that really uninteresting...having a bookstore inside a glitzy mall, filled with too much show and pomp....I feel that somehow, amidst all that noise and branding and big names, the books tend to lose their own charm and that is not fair at all...atleast not to my taste.

So this book place that I love has all kinds of books. And the best part is that they have a huuuuuuuuuuge, and I mean huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge collection of old books, books that have been used once, twice, thrice, even more times, have been passed on from one reader to another, and are now waiting for their new friend...And unlike many people, but again, like many book lovers I know, I always like to bring home a book that is old, that has been used many times, that has travelled through many hands and families and places, before it finally settles in with me. And in my search for these books, I have many times come across such amazing books that I would generally not find in a 'regular' 'fresh-off-the-press' bookstore.

Whenever I visit this place I make sure I have ample time on hand. Coz one thing that I really don't like to do is browse through books in a rush. I need my own sweet time to spend with my books.

So, coming back to the interesting books that I keep picking up from this joint of mine, in college I had done a paper on the evil practice of witch-craft in the old American times and the real story behind it. It was something of an eye-opener. Now, I found a very interesting book at this place, the cover was torn with age, and the pages all yellow, but the book was a masterpiece in the understanding of the 'witch' story of ancient America. I brought it home for a mere INR 10/- !!!!! An original USA print.

Another book I have has a letter scrawled on it...Just a 'L'..but by the handwriting I know its not from someone in India. Of course, the book too is not an Indian book, its from France, and has even been printed in France...so I assume that beautiful cursive 'L' is from the hands of a pretty French girl...

One book I found had some interesting scribbling inside. It was mostly notes that had been scribbled in the margins. Again it was quite interesting, as I could visualise an earlier reader leafing through the pages at night by a bedside lamp, the shade illuminating the page, while the reader pored over with a pencil in hand, scribbling notes as he/she read. Yes, the notes were in pencil, another interesting point....

I once found a book that had a name scrawled in fountain pen and a beautiful hand. It was the names of two children, as the book was a children's book that I wanted to read (even though I am officially an adult). Underneath were the words...with love, your granny....beautiful memories from another place again...

I love bringing home books that have a story, a past...it always lends more character to a book. Of course I like fresh new prints too, but nothing like those yellowed books from age-old places, especially the ones that have come from places afar and unknown...and the best thing I love to do here...to smell those pages and get a whiff of that unknown in my life....


- Debolina Raja Gupta