Books Over Coffee

Other day I discovered the biblical pleasures of Oxford Bookstore standing in the heart of the city at Cannaught Place. It was a dear friend who, well aware of my love for books, took me there.

We browsed for hours looking for books of our choice. More than buying the book, it was more important to discover a book that would satiate that unquenching thirst to delve into the world of interesting unknown. Unknown to us, even if the rest of the world was well aware about it.

We browsed through books recounting exceptional stories of Mukhtar Mai, the courageous Pakistani gang-rape victim; Umarao Jaan Ada, famous courtesan of Lucknow whose life has several times been retold by both writers and film-makers; Feluda, a literary creation by Oscar-winning Indian director Satyajit Ray and so on. We discovered more works of Robin Sharma, packing another cognitive inspirational dose into his book; Mark Tully, celebrated ex-BBC journalist who has described India like no other; Willaim Dalrymple, who has recently emerged as one of the most authentic historians who have captured India; Manju Kapoor, an English Professor at a Delhi college who rose to fame when her maiden book Difficult Daughters won the Commonwealth award. There was English journalist Jessica Hines’s Looking for Big B: Bollywood, Bachchan, and Me. Jessica recently hogged the news for allegedly being mother of Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s child, Jaan. The reviews of her book hit media a week later than I discovered the book. There wasn’t anything notable in reviews, though.

Then there were latest books on Gandhi written by some of his clan. Not to mention coffee-tablers from Khushwant Singh, whose work more or less seems to be restricted to these coffee-tablers and columns in his now senile age. Not to mention books by various chefs bartenders listing their recipes for all kinds of imaginable cuisine and cocktails. There were several other writers who extolled their knowledge on every possible discipline—photography, painting, paper craft, gift wrapping, job hunting, and what-not. 🙄

My first tentative selections were Mark Tully’s India in Slow Motion, Khushwant Singh’s translation of Umrao Jaan Ada, Sarnath Banerjee’s The Barn Owl’s Wondrous Capers—much-hyped graphic novel, and Satyajit Ray’s Speaking of Films. We carried our books to the coffee table in the bookstore and placed our order. It gave me enough time to devour few chapters of Sarnath’s comic book. I quickly followed the quirky cartoon stories set in Bengal. Having spent considerable time in this state, I could identify with the story. I remember one comic story about “Milk of Magnesia” that Bengalis often need due to their heavy consumption of Hilsa fish. Though I appreciate the comic sense and realism in the stories, I fail to recall the drawings in the book. I regret this because it was after all a comic book. Perhaps it has got more to do with lack of my taste for drawing or imaging or maybe there weren’t any extra-ordinary sketches that merited the memory. I will let the experts decide it.

It was then my friend decided to take charge of the situation. I was quickly reminded that the idea was to spend some ‘quality time’ together and not to immerse completely in book. Observing my dilemma over the subject of buying book, my final decision was quickly expedited after following advisory retorts:

“You don’t need to buy India in Slow Motion. I have it at my place and I have already read it. I will give it to you”

“Why do you want to read a translation of Umrao Jaan Ada? Read it in Hindi when you know the language” 😐 (Though the original is written in Urdu, I believe)

“Buy this Satyajit Ray. It should be good. You will like it.”

It made sense, we had been talking about making a film little while ago. Decision was made. Sorry Mark Tully. Sorry William Dalrymple. Perhaps, next time. 😉

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