A week after marriage, Diksha and I had gone to the Oxford store on Park Street, Kolkata. Mostly for its nostalgia value, I had really wanted to visit the place. The last time I went in there- I ended up purchasing a lot of Dicken’s newspaper novels and a DK Atlas. I never found the time to start with those mammoth novels- but I do still page through the Atlas- and it was a delight during the UPSC days. A much cleaner presentation than the darling of students- Oxford Atlases.
The problem with an aimless drop-in at a bookstore is selecting a few. Even in the age of internet abundance, books bring a journey that stop-and-go search of the internet cannot offer. Thanks to the relatively large literature population in Kolkata, you don’t risk being called names while just browsing through a shelf. I liked Kissinger’s book, Diplomacy, which was placed in one of the entry displays. I had heard about it a lot for many years, but never took the trouble of reading it. That was the first book I wanted to buy before I left the shop.
The next one was hidden in the back shelves of royalty-free books. It seems Oxford has released some of the classics in beautiful leatherback and very clean fonts. It’s difficult to find that quality with Indian presses. The Huckfinn and Moby Dick looked beautiful and lay unnoticed in the dark aisle. The trouble was- I would probably never put in the effort to read HuckFinn again, and Moby Dick is too big an epitome for my present life luxuries. Crossed off the list.
The last one I liked was a hardbound 17th edition of “Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable”. The book was being sold at discounted price of Rs 1,000. For a huge hardbound, that was a bargain I didn’t want to miss. Besides, I really loved the page quality and content. It was an encyclopedia of words that the digital dictionary could not replace. The only trouble was, we were carrying alot of weight for our flight back to Bangalore. And a book of that size and weight would not fit-in well.
As was to be, we came out of the shop with nothing in our hands. I had already packed some books from Jamshedpur for the MBA coursework, and any more additions to the pack would not justify the price-to-weight fees that airlines charge you. We ended up paying almost Rs 6,000 extra for the weight we were carrying despite the books we liked in Oxford.
Two week after we reached Bangalore, Diksha wanted to go visit the Blossoms bookshop on Church Street in Bangalore. We reached there early in the evening with plenty of time on our hand. Blossoms is the kind of bookstore where you are pretty much lost and on your own. Having the afternoon or evening dedicated just for browsing usually helps. Right outside the store, the Brewer’s dictionary was lying on a bench. Now, I had never heard of the book before I saw it in Park Street that evening. Later in the days following, I had discovered that it was, in fact, a very popular title being published for almost a century. I was happy that Blossoms exists in Bangalore.
We ended up buying a lot of books. Diksha calls it her quota for the year 2022.