This afternoon, I went to Blossom Book House on Church Street after a gap of some months. Felt like visiting an old love, but it was an effort to rekindle the old magic. Has the book-buying experience changed? Or have my circumstances changed?
|Blossom Book House, Church Street, a sanctuary once, an old love now|
I first discovered this bookstore about 13 years ago, in 2002, when it was a small one-room store in Brigade Gardens. When I was working as a sub-editor in a newspaper on MG Road, I'd end up at Blossom during the famed 5-6 pm 'thindi' break. Blossom was a sanctuary for me. I didn't have too much money to spend, but would end up buying a nice second-hand one for about Rs 50, and come back to the desk, in time for the post 6 pm rush. Work on the State Desk was dull and dreary sometimes, and we had to edit poorly written copies or make page after page on old systems that often hung! And the endless translations from Kannada to English. Going to Blossom became a ritual, a bright spot in an otherwise dull day.
I discovered several authors, revisited old favourites and generally enjoyed taking a deep breath, and smelling the smell of old books stacked haphazardly.
But today, I realised that the book-buying experience has changed. Thanks to social media and access to so much information online, I realised I have forgotten the joy of serendipity. What it feels like to discover an author...What it feels like to buy a book 'just like that'...Today, I whip out my smartphone and look for lists. Wishlists on ecommerce sites, Booker lists, FB pages of famed authors, New Yorker, the Guardian website. Not that we didn't access to the Internet in 2002/2003. Just that we didn't have smartphones, apps, social media, sample pages...whole new game.
So, today, when I looked at stacks of 'The Year of the Runaways', I felt nothing. Because I already knew it was written by Sunjeev Sahota; I have read his interviews, and I know why it is displayed prominently. The Booker. The Indian-Origin.
Today, going to Blossom is the cool thing to do. People get self-conscious as they carry baskets of books, go to the billing with their stacks and look around as if to say, "See, have been to Blossom! And see, that big bag of books is mine!"
Anyway, am drifting. I wanted to linger on and just browse, but unfortunately, I already knew I'd gone there to pick up Anjum Hasan's 'The Cosmpolitans', an invite to the book launch of which stared at me on my FB wall. I went in, looked at the new Salman Rushdie title, the Anuradha Roy title...but because I had already decided it was Anjum's book I wanted to buy, I didn't linger on. Was it because it was no longer a sanctuary from dreary work that I didn't linger on? Was it because I didn't have the time for serendipity?
I am yearning for that aha! moment, when I randomly walk around, pick up a book, come back home and find that this was the one I had been waiting for! Maybe I should just give my old love a little more time.