The Book Nook

Yesterday was a day full of chores. Most of the important people in life were away and I had all the time that I needed to work on some chores of my own.

I went to the saloon for a haircut only to know that the regular professional wasn’t there. Since I didn’t know if I’d be able to get away anytime soon, I went to a different parlour and got fleeced royally. So much for the occasional saloon visit.

On my way home, I decided to casually check if this tiny old book shop was still up and running.

What a delight it was to see that not only was the shop standing the test of time, the owner was pacing about the shop and instantly recognised me. He enquired about my welfare and whether I was back to the Garden City. We spoke about my stay away and the move back. It was nice to know that he remembered my journey.

It’s been about three odd years since the shop began. I enquired about his business ventures and our common interest, the books around. I was saddened to know that the building that he’s currently housed in was going to be demolished soon. Hence he was going to wrap up from here and move the bulk of his business to the online model.

He wistfully added that he’d look into opening out a similar nook at his residence, if he succeeded in getting a house of his own.

During the course of our conversation, we discussed work, life, balance and emotions. We talked about how it’s sometimes difficult to explain your choices to people, especially when they’re not just exactly rational yet you know that it makes you a happy person.

There was not one moment of awkwardness while discussing so much at a personal and professional level. This connect I personally believe is quite hard to establish even among people you know quite well.

The highlight of the conversation actually occurred when he handed over a printed bookmark with a QR code and explained that he had compiled a series of short poems and had been persuaded by his daughter to publish it as an ebook. He remarked that his wife may have been a little skeptical as those poems were on the romantic front, but he was honestly happy to be showcasing his work after so many years of effort.

He handed the bookmark to me and said that this was the first time he’d given it to someone apart from family and that I was welcome to review, purchase, and share feedback if I wanted to.

I could see the sense of achievement shine out of his shy demeanour and I was both touched and inspired by him.

Here’s a man who’s unconventional by the world’s standards. ( He is part-time owner of the bookshop and part time freelancer as a transcriptionist while his wife works a full-time position. He’s got his own struggles and is slowly emerging victorious.)

I just purchased the ebook and I’m enjoying the verses. More than that, I’m just happy that he’s happy.

Art maketh Men, eh?

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The one without a title.

Suffice to say he led a magnanimous life. I don’t normally write eulogies. I haven’t written one for someone really close to me, my grandma – perhaps I feel there are too many conflicting emotions there that I can’t do justice to it. But here’s a moment of thought for a man I barely knew. I’ve only heard about his quirks and idiosyncrasies. Yet, I write of him because of an insignificantly little thing that he did, which left a significantly lasting impact on me.

It was ninth grade and English class was on. My favourite teacher (it sounds so clichéd, but I owe a lot to Ma’am because she believed in my words and she made English come alive for me) was doing something different in class. We were playing with words, trying to write an article or short story on ‘Teenage’. Something sparked and with the help of another classmate, I came up with a funny little poem that actually went on to get published in the student edition of TOI (those of you who have studied in CBSE/ICSE might be familiar with the times NIE newsletter). There was a flock of visiting relatives at home around this time. Yes, they were everywhere, preening creatures with hawk-like features, extremely interested in the happenings of the house. And when I happened to mention the not-so-impossible feat of having my poem published, there was a whole lot of zeal and cheer. Among all these people, there was one person who stood out because he was so hearty and had a pleasant take on everything. Devdas Uncle was a cheerful sport. Many months later, when grandma had gone to Mumbai, Devdas Uncle sent with her what he called – a gift. I was genuinely surprised to receive a black and mustard, slightly tattered copy of ‘A Selection of Great Poems’. It clearly didn’t look new. But Uncle had remembered that I wrote poems and he sent me a small souvenir of encouragement. The poems were pretty deep and went over my head at that time. I didn’t think much of it, thanked him for his graciousness and kept it in the hope of reading it. I didn’t write much poetry anymore.

I met Uncle exactly a month ago. He was completely unlike the large, jovial, bundle of energy that I had seen 7 years ago. It took me a few hard moments to accept that age had really played havoc with his health, rendering him into a state of terrible weakness. He was slightly temperamental yet his wit was about him. He kept talking about the next great adventure and said he was ready to go anytime. Everyone would get hassled at this and tell him to chill, he could pull off a century in a few years. Who know the intensity of a person’s feelings at such stages of life? I’m sure that it’s not up to us to ridicule or attempt to soothe. They know the truth and they’re ready to face it, head on.

I searched for that little book of poems and I showed it to him that day, thanking him. His wife remarked that Uncle always encouraged anyone with talent. Now, he didn’t remember, he just wished me the best. At that moment, I could comprehend and appreciate the kindness behind that gesture more than I had done on the day I received it. It is among my treasured books and yes, the poems make me think and it is a gem of a collection.

I just got off the phone with Dad a few minutes ago and I was momentarily saddened to hear that Uncle had moved on. But as I remember it, he was certain that he had no regrets in life. Cheers to a man who lived with his heart on his sleeve.

Adios. May your soul rest in peace.