The Bookshop

thebookshop01

The clock screams at me as I hurry up to publish an article that is already delayed by two hours. On top of it are the two minutes of waiting for the Uberpool that hound me, adding to my panic. Yes, two minutes hold much more importance than this unfinished article that looks at me with pleading eyes. Living in Mumbai, my life is constantly moving. I look at my watch or laptop’s clock all the time since my whole day walks hand in hand with the ticking clock. In these two minutes I can loose my precious uber cab that I am sharing with God knows who to save a few bucks, keeping my urban poor image at the back seat for the day. After finding a cab after almost an hour, I cannot afford to lose this one and wait another 60 minutes to reach home.

Home that happens to be a melancholic flat with my cat waiting at top of the refrigerator, convinced that she has a throne of her own, looking above her empire. The article is done and the next thing I realise is my nimble footsteps making through the stairs, reminding my legs of their natural instinct to move and walk, something that my work doesn’t allow anymore. As I pass floors, descending from the fifth floor, a sudden thought strikes my nostrils carrying a familiar fragrance unknown to this city. Books, piles of freshly bound books stacked in the corridors fill my senses with a delicious concoction of fresh paper and glue. The fresh ink on them gushes into my system taking me back to the good old days, when I was a kid and helped Papa in his seasonal sales at his bookshop.

With the spring ushered in a new session, kids promoted to the next class with a happy PT Meet and the teacher accolades showered for a bright future by teachers! Good grades followed a cake and a grand treat. In my family, performance was seldom weighed under marksheets. We as kids were always celebrated for our little achievements. With the end of one class came in new books, the daunting task of standing hours in a queue to get our sets of books from the school’s bookshop, followed by exciting sessions of covering and labeling them with Mama. When kids were busy buying a new bag and uniforms, I happened to get a closer look to other side of the bookshop window, for Papa had his own bookshop in an esteemed school. During the first week, our house would brim with books to copies to stationary.

We would wake up till late helping him cross check his orders before we piled them into neat bundles for every class. Me and my brother would sit down making tiny packets of stationary and munch on free junk food from the empty school canteen. Little breaks rewarded us with the vast playground filled with pretty flowers and we would roam around the empty corridors that echoed our silent comparisons with our respective school! For the conservatives and rationals this might sound like child labor, but that time of the year was equivalent to the hardships of a farmer waiting impatiently for his crops to reap! Two months of endless toil and labour went in to make sure every kid in the school had a fresh batch of books on the first day of his new class. Parents whining over little erasers and mandatory bags taught me patience and communication skills without getting enrolled in any management class. It sometimes took real convincing power to urge a parent in buying school notebooks, which were definitely cheaper than the pizza they would buy every weekend. But, our society has had issues with educations since ages, and I have grown up being used to that.

childhood memories

It was then that I learnt basics of business and resource management, making sure we got appreciable outputs with the little number of helping hands. The bookshop became my classroom where I memorised prices and titles of every book and got a hang of basic margin calculations. The fragrance of the new stationery, cardboards and newly printed books held a place of their own in my heart. Each one of them was close to my heart, as I packed them into batches. At the end of the day, hands bruised in cuts and dirt due to the traditional seba gave me satisfactory looks for doing the hard work that we fortunate kids seldom experienced. After spending the whole day working, sleep never took a second to whisper its lullabies into my ears as soon as I reached home. We were a blessed middle class family where we as kids grew up with demands fulfilled in no amount of time. This was my only chance to see how money was earned, with struggle, sweat and sometimes little bit of blood!

Also it gave me a sense of existence in Papa’s business. As a kid, I adored him for his economic know how and monetary wisdom. He had single handedly started his own business, leaving a well paid settled job, embracing the biggest risk of his life. I, salute his futuristic know how and the patience that must have gone in surviving through initial failures and sleepless nights. In the bookshop, I considered myself a contributor to his daily work, something that I did not see my friends doing. When principal mam appreciated me for helping him around, I swelled in pride for being Papa’s representative in something that bought bread and butter back home! In no time, his work took a front seat in my career options, something I never told him.

At some point I wanted and still do, to be a part of his work, that flows in my bloodstream. A single whiff of his bookshop chokes me with nostalgia, much like a broken heart remembers its long lost love, it didn’t fight for.
Maybe it was the social structure of not letting a daughter take ahead the legacy or my incapabilities to take his business further, I am on a completely different path today.

Some months back owing to the incessant demands of parents over expensive books (in a world of expensive smartphones and gadgets), schools were restricted from entertaining a bookshop in their premises. In no time, our Bookshop was closed. Years of memories and hardwork, forgotten and ignored under the garb of a political decision. Papa had to shift his bookshop into his own shop. The school still stands proudly, students still get their books and parents still pay for it. But, my bookshop is no more there.

The fragrance still takes my heart away when I enter Knowledge House in the bustling markets of Pink Plaza. But uphill battle of standing all day, selling those lovingly packed book sets would never come back.

Yet, the lessons sit deep down in my heart.It’s the bookshop that made me friends with books, paper and pens. Its Pa’s choice of work that makes me the denizen of the luminescent world of expression. I still enter his bookshop and breathe in that magical perfume of paper that nobody thought of bottling ever(the same thought is his Whatsapp DP). The Bookshop is what I carry with me to work, every single day- My father’s legacy of hardwork and sincerity that he silently passed on to me, in his bookshop.

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2 Comments

  1. Your father left a beautiful legacy of knowledge, Shaista. A beautiful story you shared with us and your Dad’s passion for knowledge cum reading. I can empathize with the post and sad that such bookshops with such wealth are being closed.

    1. Hi Vishal,
      Thank you for getting it exactly the way I intended to.
      Bookshops are fading away in our technical world of Kindles and e-commerce. Moreover, the incomparable pleasure of opening a paperback book is slowly paving its way to extinction. Change is always welcome, yet memories stay sweet and intact.

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