Saturday, February 04, 2006

Second Hand,First Class

The Second hand book stalls,commonly called the 'old book stores' line the back roads of the Main Sakchi market in Jamshedpur.

[Photo: courtesy oxytoxic]

Before I came to Bombay and heard of Flora fountains,this was the only place of such kind I was familiar with.After my visit to Flora fountain,I realised that the collection back home wasn't bad afterall.Infact it was much more relevant for me as there is little I can do with books like '50 best interior home decorations' or 'How to dress up you dog (bitch if you are a feminist)' or 'Catalogue for spring/summer collection by Stella McCartney' and the likes in hard bound cover.A bigger,higher society has it's interests to keep.

I can't even recall when my association with these people began.The earliest I can think of is when my dad brought a really old,used version of Robinson Crusoe which itself looked like having weathered and survived the many storms and sea travels that the protagonist had.It was a hard bound copy and when I came to know that such a thick,antique,hard bounded book cost all of 8 bucks to read,I fell in love with that place.Almost everytime we went to the market I made it a point to visit this place and buy Enid Blytons and Hardy Boys and read them to keep pace with my visits.They even had a subscription policy like the libraries where you could rent a book for 50 paise and read and return.What more could a cash starved 10 year old school boy want?

As I grew older,needs grew and the 'old book stalls' didn't disappoint.The adventurous few bought copies of Hustlers and glossy zines of that sort which beacme hot circulation items in the class.The will-do-anything-for-cash sort of people also got an alternate source of income by stealing school books and selling them off to these people.Once my friends who had lost his Atlas went to buy another one from the SH people and to his surprise,and our non-surprise,he was offered a copy which on brown cover had his own name label pasted on top.That was when those tiny locks you see on school bags came into vogue and were pretty useful too.

SH book stores were the lifeline of our school projects.The topics of Geography projects hardly differed from volcanoes and earthquakes those days.We happily bought numerous copies of Nat Geo magazine at some 2-3 bucks apiece and mercilessly tore those amazing pics and pasted them on our project sheets.Since everyone was doing that,the standard of projects was pretty high and the probablity of getting high marks depended on the number of nat-geos you had torn.I won easily,but I had an interest in geography too,something I can't do anything about now.Same held true for the History projects where we would buy reference books by sacrifcing a day's worth of junk food and then tear them apart and proudly display in the projects.

Once interests starting developing,I found myself buying Wisden almanacks,still wonder how they got there.The qualty of novels was not pretty good but still there was a lot of good material I could never finish and never did.I started buying old copies of Reader's Digest at some 5 bucks apiece and it was the most value for money purchase you could ever imagine.With RD,the date on the issue hardly mattered and I exploited that fact to the full.It was in one of those issues that I came across the poem 'If' and it's one of the very few that I can recall lines from.Not the literary bend of mind you see,my favourite column still remained 'Drama in real life'.Probably still does.But since we had already begun buying books other than 'Belorussian Folk Tales' in the Annual Book Fair,the charm of the place slightly died down.

During 10th and beyond these people were like God sent angels.Be it ICSE/ISC test papers,course books,reference books,IIT guides,correspondence course materials-these guys had everything,and at a price that didn't burn a hole in the pocket.Again the fact that edition didn't matter as long as it was quite recent was exploited to the full.The best part was the fact that we could sell off all the books and course materials after JEE at half the prices which gave enough money to celebrate the success so to speak.If I,or anyone from Jsr. had to make an acknowledgement speech after acing the 10th/12th exam or getting through Eng./Med. entrance exams,these folks will hold a pretty high place in the list.

And now,as an essential part of evolution,when I go back home this summer,I will scout this place for any CAT/GRE stuff (who knows maybe UPSC too,nahiiiiiiiiiii) and I'm pretty sure I'll get loads of material.

Lifeline of academia in the city,knowingly or unknowingly.