Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul. ― Neil Gaiman, American Gods

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The quaint interiors of the indie bookstore Kitab Khana at Fort, Mumbai.

Bookstores have been my places of refuge. They have always been reliable dates who never stood me up. Here’s my second episode of a bookstore saving my day. 🙂

Last month, I went for a job interview at one of the biggest national newspapers. I had to travel for at least an hour to get to their office. Five minutes through the interview, the HR lady says, “We are still short listing people.”

I looked at her and mumbled like an idiot, “So I will leave now?”

“We will let you know when we decide.” She smiled. A little too politely for my comfort.

Wait.

What?

I traveled one frigging hour for this preliminary interview? You could have asked me these questions over the phone too! For someone seeking employment prospects, I could not afford to be sassy. I swallowed my pride and left. What a waste of a day.

Or maybe not.

Seeing that I had no other plans after this, I realized I had the entire day to myself. I was in the hippest part of the city.

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My haul of poetry books from Kitab Khana

Perhaps I won’t end up working for the country’s largest broadsheet newspaper, but I can definitely have a tiny little adventure for myself. So I walked among the old Gothic structures of south Bombay. That early summer afternoon, I thought about all the writers and poets taking solitary walks around the cities they called home and imagined myself as a wandering soul looking for inspiration. (Well, what can I say, having my head in books all the time gives me such glorious fantasies.)

I walked all the way to the indie bookstore, Kitab Khana. They were celebrating their 5th anniversary. The store was dappled with bright festoons. In the midst of the polished wooden decor, the muted lighting, the dapper ambiance and the kind and ever helpful staff, my disaster of an interview fizzled out to oblivion. I sought out the poetry section and picked up a translated work of Hindi lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar’s Quiver and fiction writer and poet Rochelle Potkar’s Four Degrees of Separation. I escaped to the world of verse.

A week ago, while going through my Instagram feed, I happened see theguywiththebook‘s photo of his trip to Bangkok.

 

capturetheguywiththebook Well spent day, visited Chatuchak weekend market, Siam Paragon and went to have some fish with my Italian and Spanish friends who are also visiting.
Bought this book from the Indie bookstore we went to yesterday at Khao San Road.

(The pizza and the fries look delectable, no? Do check out theguywiththebook‘s Instagram account for more such lovely photographs of books with an occasional appearance by his cutesie precious cat, Gatsby @gatsbysaysmeow )

This reminded of my family vacation to Singapore and Malaysia last year. I ahd a tentative plan to bring home books of local authors or just locally published books or translations. But this plan vanished in the midst of all the touristy activities. I lost out on an opportunity to explore indie bookstores of the two countries. I am sure it would have been a wonderful experience. If you want to know the literary culture of a place, you ought to visit their independent bookstores.

Tell me, do you have a favorite bookstore? Have you ever stumbled upon a bookstore while wandering around? What has been your most memorable day at a bookstore? I would love to read your stories. 🙂

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