Wednesday, 4 August 2004

The road of books

Large sections of our bookshelves originally came from the pavement book sellers that line the roads between Fountain and Churchgate, dating back from college days, when we couldn't even afford Mr Shanbagh's famous standard discounts at Strand.
The books we own that we didn't buy there were all gifts, or purchased from the not-so-well-known New & Secondhand at Dhobi Talao - cramped, stuffy, dim and oh so wonderful. Despite the space constraints (if you were between two shelves and someone wanted to pass, you had to come all the way out, and no, we were much less wide then, so it's not that), the management encouraged browsing. Which, when you love books and the twenty rupees in your pocket is your allowance for the whole month, is a Very Good Thing. Many happy hours were spent scouring the shelves, lifting down entire piles of books and dipping through every one, weighing the merits of a matinee show against a hardcover Wodehouse.
Books are still our only real vice and extravagance - we're ignoring the weed here - and Bombay now has almost as many spacious, well-lit, A/Ced mega-bookstores as it has bowling alleys. Most of them are browsing-friendly, and we have spent many happy hours at them, ambling down the aisles, sipping here and there, and buying NEW books that are packed into large carry-bags with the store's name on them. We mark our calendar with the big book sales, where, in the past, we have staggered out weighed down with an entire backseat's worth of books, and discounts notwithstanding, having spent at least three times what we meant to when we went in.
But we still like to spend time at N&S when we're in the area, and frequently plan our rare town trips so that we get an hour or two to stroll down Fountain way and replenish the trusty haversack. So we shed a tear and are moved to a longer post than normal when we read in today's TOI (wonders will never cease, more book news in the TOI) that those pavement stalls may soon be a thing of the past. "Veer Nariman Road ... has been identified as a no-hawking zone under the BMC's hawking plan for the city."
The ray of hope is in what happened to Fashion Street. When the authorities cleared the clothes vendors off the pavement near the museum, they were relocated en masse to the sidewalk near Cross Maidan. Hopefully, the booksellers will, at worst, meet a similar fate. We suggest the inner pavement of Marine Drive. We'd also like to personally invite them to our favourite road in the entire extended metropolis, Palm Beach Road, just a ten-minute cycle ride away from this keyboard.

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