Thursday, July 30, 2009

continuity and change

back in the city of my birth and quite vela for a change. thumbs up for the people, weather, time, sleep and FOOD; thumbs down for the roads, traffic, howling wolves at night, asshole shopkeeper who only wanted firangs in his stupid handicraft shop (please do not ever go to Habitat on Infantry Road, Bangalore 560001 - why the fuck am i shopping for handicrafts anyway: gifts for blasted firangs), OBLIGATIONS (both self- and other-imposed). not sure whether i am missing the frisson of transgression, but i could swear that the heavens opened up and a host of heavenly angels sang triumphant hosannas when newly recognised rights were vindicated (my protestant education reasserts itself strongly in this city of my birth). it's interesting what changes and what doesn't. ugly ass building up right next to the house we used to live in, almost touching my bedroom wall - such a grotesque sight. k. c. das still serves the best mishti dohi in the world and ALL the same people work there, but they've gone all international in the foyer: the name of the shop is in bengali, hindi, gujarati, kannada, tamil, telugu, hebrew, russian, chinese, arabic. koshy's is the same, even the same people (thank god - there would be no point coming back if it wasn't). the magazine man recognised me. but premier bookshop has gone and THAT has changed the landscape of the city of my birth irretrievably. this was the first bookshop i ever developed any sort of relationship with. not just me, but four generations of my family. it was down the road from the house we lived in. all the kids in the family treated it like a library, and when we did buy, we got totally random 20% discounts. i'm not sure if mr. shanbagh had a system, but he would just look at you and scribble a completely arbitrary figure on the receipt, well below the marked price. to the best of my knowledge, he never overcharged anyone, so it was never clear to me how the place ran. it had all the best books in the WORLD that were ever worth having and didn't seem to lose any business to the much bigger but less exciting gangarams or higgenbothams just around the corner. the shop itself was the most chaotic store ever known to MAN, WOMAN or SILVERFISH. you would never find anything you wanted (you had to ask mr. shanbagh, who invariably knew exactly where it was), but you often chanced upon things you didn't know you wanted. when that happened, you had to ask mr. shanbagh because if you tried to pull a book out of a PILE (this was possibly the only bookshop on the planet where, for the most part, the books were not arranged on shelves: they were piled up on the ground), so anyway, if you tried to pull a book out of a pile, thirty-seven would come crashing down and people would turn to stare at you. it would have been wonderful to see my book hidden in one of those piles, but that is not to be. a small part of the universe has shut down forever.

Aww. As a fellow book-shop-lover, I feel your pain!
am jealous of the fun you're having while i'm slaving at the BL.

minor point, can't help it: it's mishti DOI. not dohi. i was part of the first ever print campaign for mishti doi (which I must have mentioned before but feel obliged to do so again) and therefore must offer this minor corrective.
oops sorry! like most non-bengalis, i tend to assume that your language is essentially a badly mangled version of hindi. i shall retain the error in this post for posterity, but will never repeat it again. no you have not told me about your involvement in the print campaign, so please recount.
1. I love it when you write like this, like the best emails of yore, with CAPITALS and asides and many commas and general effusive opinionated delight. More please.

2. The loss of a bookshop like that is heartbreaking.

3. Buchu, you HAVE to tell that story, here or on your blog. Now.
(3a. I miss mishti doi.)

4. I am hoping the hosannas and vindications mean what I am guessing they do.

5. Vela kya hai?
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