Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hyderabad, Bangalore, Poona, Tirupati.
Kanchipuram saris and gold jewelry.
Sweat, sweat. Mehndi and makeup.
Piping hot coffee in a double steel cup.
Relatives and friends, faces and smiles.
Pats on the back for crossing the miles.
Good smells from the kitchen
Before getting out of bed
"Burgundy in your hair
And none on your forehead!!!"

Shopping, shopping, shopping
Talking, talking, talking
Eating, eating, eating
and then some more.
An Indian summer wedding
Has come knocking on my door.

Off to the Mothership. Will be back in a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Unequal Substitutions

And Book Tags

Kashinath’s store was a favorite haunt of mine. He had scores and scores of metal tins lined up at the back of his store and when you asked for GoodDay Cashew or Britannia Bourbon he would know exactly which opaque metal tin to go to, and sometimes he would take a detour and fish out a Salty Krackjack just to startle me. I would giggle and discover that I did have a sudden craving for that too and he would then throw in a couple of free ones among the lot, a pleasant surprise for later on. Going to his store was the ritual that kept me accompanying my Mom to the market and holding heavy grocery bags laden with greens and cooking oil and the most unappealing stuff for many, many years. The familiar old man behind the old counter welcomed me always with a twinkle in his eye and if not with a surprise up his sleeve every time, at least with the confidence of knowing his customers and anticipating their needs. “Go get something from Kashinath” while handing out a 50 Rupee note was a familiar phrase at home and it meant goodies from the old opaque tins. Until Kashinath disappeared suddenly one day and the guys who took over his store changed pretty much everything except its location. It was bigger, glitzier and so damn new....and the metal tins were replaced by shiny glass cases and there was no time for surprises and extras. It was ‘Business, Business and Move Along Now!’ They kept a whole range of stuff and there were shiny posters of young girls and boys eating Ruffles Lays everywhere, the aisles were lined with hundreds of imported products and there were customers aplenty! But the customers were all new too...the familiar faces of Kashinath’s patrons were no longer to be seen. Loyalty couldn't be blueprinted, of course.

When I heard about WordsWorth Books in Cambridge closing it's doors for the last time late last year, I flinched, but in all honesty it didn’t bother me for long as I’ve not spent too much time there. But on Saturday morning when I stopped at my favorite Rodney’s to browse till Mr.Gabby got done with his haircut, I stopped at the door suddenly and wondered if this would disappear too someday. Rodney’s was one of our earliest finds and if you ever want to find out more about the face behind this handle called Gratisgab, just hang around there often enough and chances are we will meet very soon. Though the guy who looks after the store at this location seems too unbothered to talk to anybody, prod him a bit and you will find out the most delightful tidbits about Boston, about authors from this area, and book signing events that did not quite go as they were supposed to. After one particular visit there Mr.Gabby felt an intense need to hang out at “The Last Drop” – a bar in the neighborhood, every chance he got. Apparently the “Mystic River” author Dennis Lehane bartends there some Fridays just to relax and tell some stories. You never know which Friday will be your lucky day! Now the Barnes and Noble across the street or your tycoon online bookstore will never give you a scoop like that, will it? Rodney’s is also a great place to find books that are no longer in publication or even stuff that’s not quite on the shelves of a regular store. This time I got the uncorrected proof version of the same author’s work “Shutter Island” for the hubby. Somebody is now eating out of somebody’s hand and somebody is making full use of that :)

It’s a downward spiraling battle for the Rodneys and Kashinaths of the world. The glitzy-cased guys are swooping in and swallowing them whole and I’m terrified that our sons and daughters will never know the joy of discovering an old classic in a wonderful condition that has been out of print for decades or of being surprised with a Krackjack between GoodDays. And most importantly, they won’t have the stories that are the priceless upgrade to the shopping experience, that make the customer-merchant interaction a relationship, way more than a mere transaction of commodities. I wish I could do more than just blog about this....I will go pick up some more books after work today and if you’re ever in Boston please do the same. It's so neat and so beautifully organized, it’ll always be a pleasure. Meanwhile please patronize your local stores, if you can, and while we still can. I wonder where Kashinath’s loyals went...and how long before they succumbed to the glitzy place. And I wonder how long before we cross the street to Barnes and Noble if something happens to dear Rodney’s....but let’s at least fight it for as long as we can...


While on the topic of books, Ashwin, Patrix and Suhail have tagged me with these book questions and I will oblige them now. And later on, in my yet-to-come sequel about griping on friends, they will all be given lead roles.

Total books I own: Hmmm...maybe 400 or 500. I notice people are counting the first Tinkle they bought too...so maybe even more actually.

Last book I bought:
The Pearl Diver. Written in a refreshing style and very moving. It’s about a young girl diagnosed with leprosy in Japan in the 1940s. The diver is exiled to Nagashima, an island leprosarium that hosted all known patients and is instructed to forget her past. And though the disease never progresses beyond the very, very early stages, she lives her entire life in exile and can no longer fit in the real world even after she is free to go.

Last book I read: The Ha-Ha Not bad.

Books that mean a lot to me (five at least):

• The Asterix Series, the Enid Blytons (especially the ones with the Faraway Tree) and Raggity and the Cloud – Nothing like magic potions, lands that arrived at the top of the tree in a magical forest and a runaway cloud to keep a child’s imagination alive I say!
Lust for Life – Made me realize how safe I play...but also how 'average' is not such a bad thing.
Anna Karenina – Loved it, loved it, loved it.
God of Small Things – Of course
Roots – Wow
The Good Earth – My first serious author was Pearl S. Buck. And she remains a favorite.
Love Story – When I have to pause from my reading because I can’t see though my tears any more, I know the sentimental sucker inside of me has been fed, very well.
The Fountainhead – Causes me trouble, constantly.
The Golden Gate – How Did He Do It??!
Pigs Have Wings – My first Wodehouse, suggested to me by a very special person. Pigs, aunts and butlers lost their blandness forever.

A book that's on its way out of your house as you write this:
There are definitely some I’ve regretted picking up...but they’ll never leave the house. Just not in me to orphan a book. I’m a total wuss that way.

Update - I've just realized that I'm supposed to tag another 5 people. The first 5 commentors on this piece can please do the honours. I know some of you don't have blogs yourself so you can spread the love right here on my comment box. I've also realized that Ashwin had tagged me with a movie thing and not a book thing. Maaaan! So the tag mutated while passing through my blog, Ashwin!