'(The Blog) With No Name', perhaps best described as a stream of notes and thoughts - 'remembered, recovered and (sometimes) invented'.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Two Precious Things"

The other day, I went scouting for books among the pavement shops around Churchgate, Mumbai. It was largely a disappointing affair, there are far fewer shops around these days than there probably used to be and they quote absurd prices (for example, a Naguib Mahfouz novel, obviously second hand and heavily thumbed, was listed at 325 bucks, only approx a third less than a brand new copy would cost).

I had given up and was walking back to catch my 'local' when I saw a very small wayside stall, exclusively for obviously pirated books and approached. The owner looked Parsi (or Gujju Muslim?).

There were a few Wodehouses (pirated) in his collection. I picked one up and asked the price in Hindi. The propreitor said: "50 bucks!". That sounded fairly okay. I was about to select one of those when I saw, just beside the Wodehouse pile, a recent bestseller, a fat bestseller. I picked it up and asked: "Yeh kitna?". "125 bucks!".

Not bad at all, I mused; 125 is hugely less than the book's 'sherief' price. I picked up a Wodehouse and the Bombay bestseller and asked: "Donon milake, dedh sau chalega?" ("Can I have these two for 150?"). The owner replies, in firm English: "Sorry, no bargaining here! I begin with a very reasonable price unlike other chaps. And, once I quote the price, it is fixed!"

I admit, in English: "The prices you quoted are certainly reasonable. But I thought, since I am taking two books..."

He cut in: "If I give you a discount over what I quoted, I won't make any money in this deal. I need to, right?"

I pause in thought. He continues: "As you can see, every book here is good. I stock no obscenities(*)!... And believe me, I have been in this trade for 40 years!"

I look up (perhaps disbelievingly) and he continues: "And I also give a guarantee on the books I sell. If (there are) pages missing etc., just bring it back and I will replace it. You will find me right here, whole day, seven days a week!"

I desperately need something meaty to last me a few days (and I am not very smart bargainer anyways), so I give in and say: "Okay, I will take only this (the recent bestseller; I am no Wodehouse fan, yet). And here is the dough". I hand him 125 bucks.

He gives me 10 bucks back and says: "Look here Sir, There are two things that are precious in life - good books and good people. I keep good books, so good people automatically come to buy them!"

I say "Thanks!" and offer him my hand. He grips it with surprising vigor and says: "Have a good day Sir, and hope to see you again!"

(*) - but there was a 'God of Small Things' on show.


  • At 9:13 PM, Blogger Jam said…

    Hi there,

    This particular book seller sounds like he's in this business for the long run and he's decided that the only way to survive is to keep his customers happy and keep them coming back to him.

    I somehow get the feeling that you ll go back to this guy the next time you think of picking up a book, what say?


  • At 5:46 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said…

    thanks jam, for visiting.

    yes, i am likely to go back to the same place in the next 48 hours or so!


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