Today started with missing home, which I do almost every single day. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of Bombay. Not a day goes by when I do think about the sea. And not to forget all the places where I shopped for books and soaked myself in those places.
Today’s story, “New and Second-Hand” by Altaf Tyrewala just brought back those memories – of school and college, when I would scrounge the streets for great literature and not to forget the very famous store, “New and Second-Hand Book Store” at Dhobi Talao (after which this story is named and dedicated to) which shut in 2011.
“New and Second-Hand” is a story of decline of a bookstore. It is the decline of literature and it is most vividly and bitingly told by Tyrewala. The language hits the spot. He speaks of a time gone by and that which is slowly declining. For me, growing up and being a Bombay boy meant to a large extent books being sold on pavements and those shops that one went to every weekend. The story is of a bookstore owner and how he knows that it is all going to end, given the times he lives in. He is bitter, lonely and loves books (contrary to what he says). He wants a companion and has given up on finding one. He lives in despair in Bombay, waiting for the bookstore to be sold.
The story is brilliantly told and I urge all of you to read it. It is a beautiful ode to the city and the times that were. I could not help but cry.
My favourite parts from the story:
“Reading used to be a step away from renunciation. Now it is another excuse to pick up unattractive lovers.”
“Such are the incidental joys of browsing. It takes a particular sort of personality to delight in the unexpected find, to take relish in stumbling upon something while seeking something else. I am sad to report that such a personality, receptive to serendipity, is now on the wane.”