“Take it. Not a problem. But, be careful about the book because it has a long story behind it” I said Tripthi as she borrowed my book 5 Russian Masters a collection of short stories.
Then I started thinking about it. I write the date of buying and the place of buying on every book that I purchase. So if I start going through it, it will take me on a tour to my past life. Let me recollect one or two here. Starting with 5 Russian Masters.
When I was in my first year degree I was reading Ravi Belagere’s Khaas Baat-96 in which I read a short story of a prostitute and her handicapped son by Maxim Gorky. Ravi Belagere had not mentioned the original title of the short story. And I wanted to read the original. So I started searching for the story. I was an Internet illiterate so there was no chance of me searching it on net. And moreover, those days, I dint even know that literature is available on the net.
I started looking for the books of Maxim Gorky everywhere. In all the book shops if I found a short story collection of Gorky, I would glance through the story – the beginning and the end- to confirm if it’s the same story. But sadly in Mangalore (where I was studying then) and in Udupi, in no bookstall could I find that particular story. In all the libraries to which I had access, I started searching for the story and I found it nowhere. I told myself- may be it’s not a very popular story so its not found so easily- but in the process of searching for this story I learnt that MOTHER is the most famous work of Gorky and I read it and fell in love with it.
But I wanted that particular story of a prostitute and her handicapped son. In almost every big city I went, where there were big bookshops I searched for the story and I was disappointed at every place. When I joined for my PG I became familiar with the world of internet and I searched for the story on internet and I found some other short stories of his but not the one I was searching for.
I was in the final semester of my final year post graduation course and to make a documentary I went to Gokarna a small town next to the Arabian Sea in coastal Karnataka. Gokarna is a place known for its Trans-cultural interaction. Gokarna is a holy place where number of Hindu’s visit for the famous Ishwara temple and because of the scenic beauty Gokarna has; foreigners also visit the place and camp there. The east and the west meet and co-exist in Gokarna.
After lunch that afternoon, we (Raviraj, Navendu and I) decided to take a walk towards the beach next to the temple (Gokarna has many a beaches). On our way we found a small library. It couldn’t accommodate more than six members at a time, such a small one. It was next to the temple. I entered the shop just to scan the books. By then my craze had shifted from Gorky to other writers. But in that bookshop I found a book titled 5 Russian Masters. I opened it and saw a few short stories by Gorky too in that collection which had short stories of 5 important writers of Russia. I was not very excited because of all the disappointments that I have had in my search for the short story. I started reading the beginning and the end of the stories and it looked like a disappointment yet again. But the last story of Gorky, by the way it began, appeared like the one I was searching for from years. I flipped the pages and read the ending of it and yes it was the story for which I was searching from 5 years. The story was – the creepy crawlies! Without looking at the price of the book or how much of cash I am carrying I told the owner- I want this book ‘5 Russian Masters’.
One Straw Revolution, wrote Sadanad Menon on my note pad along with many other titles and said “these are must read” in Heggodu. Then I was in my final year degree. I searched for the books almost in every place and had found it nowhere. My friends said- I don’t have but if you get hold of it kindly lend it to me for reading.
I had joined MIC as faculty and that monsoon along with my other friends I went to Trissur for Kavitha’s (my PG classmate) wedding. The wedding was on a Saturday. After the wedding and lunch after it we went back to the lodge to take rest. That evening we went out to explore the place and we found some good bookstalls and some good film libraries. We spent a lot of time there. Coming out of these shops we started moving in a road, which we had not explored. It was quite late by then. We saw a signboard reading ‘Alter-Media book store’. The very name was catchy and I said my friends- come lets go. But to my bad luck the shop had closed by then. I told my friends that the next morning the first thing I am going to do is to visit Alter Media book store. But they punctured my excitement by reminding me that the next day was a Sunday and we were leaving on the Sunday night.
Next day (Sunday) we went to Guruvaayoor and came back by evening. I tried my luck again but there was no luck. I came back to the room and started packing. We went to the railway station and Mukunda told us that the train was late and it would arrive at 12:30. We had to wait for a good three hour but we were fine with it. Some of them in our group waited in the waiting room and some of us were roaming around. As we were roaming Sunil sir stopped for a while looking at the board on which train timings were displayed and said- if its coming tonight at 12:30 they should have written it as 00:30 hrs isn’t it? We all stood there because this observation made us realize that the train was coming on the next afternoon 12:30 pm!!! The train was delayed by 15 hours!!! Recovering from the shock we went back to the same lodge and stayed there that night. Everyone was cursing the railway. Mukund was in full form in cursing the railway and his cursing entertained us and lessened our tension to a large extent.
Next morning I woke up and sat on the bed for long waiting for others to wake up. In that moment of idleness it struck to my mind- it’s Monday and Alter-Media bookstore should be open! I waited for none now. I woke up took a bath and dragged Sunil Sir, Raviraj and Navendu along with me to the bookstore. We had to come back by 12 pm for the train was at 12:30 pm. It was a unique bookstore, which had all the unique books, which popular bookstores wouldn’t have. The quality of the books and titles proved it was no usual bookstore. I found the English version of Totto-Chan and few other good books. I was being asked to get up by my friends but I was still scanning the books. When Sunil Sir yelled at me, I had planted my eyes at the last bookrack. And what my eyes found? One Straw Revolution by Fukoka. The book that Sadanand Menon Sir had asked me to read three years ago. I bought the book and forgot everything and stopped cribbing about the delay of the train.
Likewise, every book has its own story behind it. Every time I hold a book, it takes me back to a phase of life or a junction of life where I had bought the book. Books, unknowingly, has constructed a mental diary!
12 June 2008