It was one of those sultry days towards the end of July, when the most of monsoon is supposed to have passed away. Sun often cheated the clouds to appear, the drizzle persisted intermittently however. Real rain now occurred sporadically only for a few hours during nights or early mornings.
Heat and humidity sapped the vigour, leaving one craving for the cooler and drier autumnal days, when weather no more added to the agitation the daily life entailed.
Held up due to one such episode of drizzle at New Road one late morning, under the awning of a jewelry shop not open yet, a seller was selling books at the same place. Obviously his shop had to move as soon the shop opened.
I scanned the Nepali, English and Hindi titles available with him. In English he was selling Jeffry Archer, Chetan Bhagat, Amish Tripathi, Poulo Coelho,– and strangely, Khalid Husseini, too — among many others. The Self-help books of Shiv Khera were available in all three languages. It hinted at how most readers sought guidance or wisdom out of a book.
I thought Husseini did not belong there. Thinking if I could bargain a deal I checked its price. The seller carefully turned the plastic-covered book to show me its price in Dollars and Sterling-pounds.
I was not impressed but he said, “It is actually seven hundred rupees on conversion but I will give you a discount to do my “Boni”. You can pay six-hundred only.”
I thought distastefully if he was going for an over-kill. Books sold like that on a foot-path are mostly pirated copies of successful books or those that the seller would not mind selling at a junk price if they remain unsold with him.
The sad face of Khalid Husseini came to my mind. Since a writer was being plundered so freely, I decided I will partake in the loot, for being a fan and a reader I had bigger claims on the author than this tawdry book seller.
This thought angered a bit to me as I closely watched the unshaven, shabby face of the seller. I saw the latent anxiety on his face as any time now the shop we were standing in front of could open and he will have to move putting all his books in a sack.
It was my time to make the Kill.
“I will pay only two hundred rupees. Everyone knows these books you are selling are pirated copies. So showing me its price in Dollars is of no use,” I said.
“OK sir. You pay two-hundred fifty rupees and the book is your,” He said.
Before I paid the money I opened the plastic cover of it to make sure that the book was not ridden with spelling mistakes like one such book I purchased in Bombay a long time ago. Then the information technology was not so ubiquitous and pirates retyped a book word-by-word before printing it. One could only have reverence towards their tenacity in making pirated copies of a book. They worked harder than the present generation of the book pirates but were not literate enough to omit the spelling mistakes.
Thankfully, this Husseini’s book was a scanned and then printed copy. I paid the money and left the place as the drizzle had stopped now and a bright sun was making things gloomier due to its heat.
K. C. Bhatt
G.P.O. Box 20460