The Saturday that went by, was my weekly off, the day I prefer to just sit at home, order food in and sleep through most of the day. But this Saturday I was looking forward to do something fun – to attend a ‘book by weights’ sale in Mumbai, where you could buy (as the name suggests) books by their weight. You could buy 1 kg of books for 100 rupees, which means, you could get close to anywhere between 2-5 books for less than 2 dollars! Although, ‘premium authors’ were priced a little more.
Anyway, so me and my friend decided we would attend the book sale, and let me make this clear – we were extremely excited. So despite the fact, that this book sale was in another part of the city and we would have to change trains to get there, and the fact that it was raining and neither of us are fans of monsoon and to top it off, my friend had forgotten her umbrella in her office, so we had just on umbrella between the two of us, yes, despite all these minor first world problems, we decided to go to the book sale.
And when we finally reached the venue, we saw there was a line, a huge serpentine line, waiting to get inside the Fabiani Art Gallery, where the sale was. We couldn’t even see the end of it.
We looked at each other, thinking, “what the fuck” and then started giggling. So, with just one umbrella between the two of us, we huddled up in the line and shared earphones to listen to music. “Please, give up, some of you please give up,” I said out softly, hoping for the queue to get thinner. After about five minutes, of the queue getting no shorter, the girl right in front of us, decided to give up and leave.
“Yay!” we said. “Please, some more people give up,” I exclaimed. The girl who left the queue had a defeated smile on her face.
“She is thinking ‘fuck this shit’, it’s not worth waiting so much,” I told my friend. But we decided to wait it out, we weren’t leaving. A few curious people, kept asking what the queue was about.
“We should tell them they are giving free pregnancy test kits,” I kidded.
A women walked past by us, with a puzzled expression, clearly wondering what the huge line was about.
“They are giving free condoms,” I told her randomly.
“What?” she said and continued to walk past us. My friend and I burst into laughter.
So well, we kept making random jokes and singing out loudly, as it rained softly and we waited for our turn to get into the damn book sale space.
And well, when we finally got in, the place was a chaotic mess and the books were just scattered around and 70% of them were obscure authors. I found one book, that seemed very interesting but it was falling apart (I am guessing all of them were second hand books). There were lots of ancient Barbara Cartlands, some Danielle Steele, many Mills and Boons and a whole lot of other pulp fiction.
People were pushing each other, having screaming matches, I could hear people argue at the billing counter and the rest of us were struggling to find a book of our choice. Me and my friend ended up picking a few books, but when we saw how long the billing queue and then the titles in our hand, we decided it was not worth it. So, well, we giggled again, laughing at ourselves and left the sale.
As we walked around the area and spotted a small second hand book store. It had way more interesting titles than the disappointing sale we had just attended.
I started scanning through titles and saw an interesting title that had won the Man Booker Prize.
“Oh, this book won the Man Booker Prize,” I exclaimed.
“Madam, if you want more Man Booker Prize titles, you can see here,” the owner, a thin man, with oiled hair told me in Hindi.
“Nahi bhaiya, waha maine dekh liya, waise bhi yeh booker prize waalein book mere sar ke upar se jaate hai, nahi chahiye,” I smiled and told him.
(Translation: No, I have already checked the section, besides, these booker prize winners are beyond my understanding, I don’t want them).
“Yeah, I read a book by that Arundhati Roy, I could not understand anything,” he said animatedly.
“Oh, God of Small things,”I said. It had won the booker prize in 1997 and I haven’t read it yet, but of-course, know about it.
“Yeah, that book only, and I tried reading that Russian author’s book, I can’t remember his name, crime and punishment, I read the hindi translation, but could not understand anything,” he said.
” Fyodor Dostoevsky!” I exclaimed
“No, no, I like his books,” I added sheepishly.
“Actually, things get lost in translation no, maybe they are not as good as the original language,” he said.
“Yeah, they lose their essence,” I said.
“Even I have written a book, but the English translation is not that good,” he said.
“You have written a book!,” this time I was genuinely surprised.
“Yeah, this is my book,” he moved a little and pointed to some of the books that were prominently on display on his shop.
“When do you get the time to write”, I blurted out, genuinely intrigued.
“In the night” he said matter of factly and with a smile. He then pulled out a framed copy of an article in one of the local dailies that did a feature story on him and showed it to us with a smile beaming with pride.
It happens only in Mumbai: Std VII-pass goes from selling books on footpath to landing his own novel
Well, that was the bold headline of the article. “While second-hand bookseller Santosh Pandey burned the midnight oil working on his debut novel, his wife thought he was having an affair,” said the description right after it. It made me chuckle but I was filled with so much admiration for this guy.
I asked him how long did it take for him to write the book, which is titled “Karmayan” and is based on the mythical demon king Ravan.
“I finished writing the book four years ago only, but it took me a lot of time to get it translated into English,” he said.
This guy was gold! I mean, here I am, with a regular job, who cannot even find the time to make a blog post and there was this guy, who had a shop to run the whole day, wife and kids to look after and yet he found the time to write an entire novel. It’s safe to say that for an aspiring writer, this guy was an easy idol.
I decided to buy his book of course, anything to encourage a passionate writer. And this post is partly to promote his book too. So if you guys are ever in Mumbai, there is a shop in Vile Parle West, in Irla road, called Santosh books, which is just a stone throw away from the Fabiani Art Gallery.
Oh and Santosh gave me a good discount on his book, I didn’t even ask! And, I obviously made him write something in the book for me, which he sweetly did. I have a token to remember the uncanny author.