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Mall Road

Bus Addey, Maal Rode, Camp, Madal Toun, Ajadpur, Shalimaar...

What did the books do to you?

A nice column by Lindsay Pereira.

The last time, there was Michel Houellebecq's Atomised. A fairly new Zadie Smith's The Autograph Man. A faded edition of Khushwant Singh's Delhi. And James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late. I remember buying everything but Delhi, telling him I had a copy.

Mahesh knew exactly what to tempt his buyer with. He managed, as he often had before, to surprise me with his suggestions. When a young woman approached, he would reach out for Paulo Coelho without batting an eyelid. She would pay and leave. No words were exchanged, and the transaction would last little more than a minute.

"How do you do it?" I asked him. "Do you know these authors?" He laughed wildly, telling me he had never been to school. He couldn't read the alphabet, attempted one Hindi paperback every six months, and wrote a monthly letter to his mother who lived in Chhapra. That, for him, was all the contact with reading or writing of any kind.

He managed solely by paying a great deal of attention to his customers. With one eye firmly on the crowd passing by (he insisted on calling out to regular or potential buyers every five minutes), he told me about his "system" -- Paperback thrillers in the top and lowest rows. Penguin paperbacks in the second row, current pirated bestsellers in the third, everything else spread across the fourth.


And then what happened?

Mahesh doesn't sit there anymore. He -- and the others like him -- have been asked to leave. Selling books at that public space is now illegal. The pathways are easier to navigate now, apparently. Nothing stands between Flora Fountain and the railway station anymore, except people, and a few more people. Nothing shocking like Vladimir Nabokov, Emile Zola, Gunter Grass or William Shakespeare to stop you from reaching that train on time. Nothing but a piece of dirty cardboard, propped up against a railing near Churchgate, with the words: 'What did the books do to you?'







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-- Blogger tilotamma, 5/28/2005 12:02:00 AM

Look - why drag the bargirls into this??? ANd now they are gone too - are you happy? I didn't think so

There is absolutley no correlation.I am annoyed because an otherwise 'nice' article has been botched up by this misplaced moral-value funda

MsPereira - what men? why are yu acting like the shivsena now?

(This is for her in case she goes ego-surfing)

Pissed off.........    



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