"Maktub!" thought the old man sitting amidst the works of all the great men and women. He was thinking of the times before he had put up this shop; when he was living his life full of ambition and all the verve in the world. "Haider, I fail to understand why you are here, doing what you are doing, when you don't have to?" remarked Govind. “Govind, a lifetime is never enough to experience all that life can offer!" replied Haider. "And as to why we all do what we do..." Haider smiled and asked "Who is John Galt?”
Radheyji sold paper by the kilo. Like his father before him. He built his hulking frame hauling kilos of paper, both bound and unbound, day in and day out, throughout his childhood. He was determined to not let the weight of poverty bring him down. Entered a weightlifting competition. And won. He kept winning. District. State. Nationals. The Asiad. He was the toast of the nation. He was promised laurels and a government job. He was promised a better life. 30 years ago. Radheyji still sells paper by the kilo. Both bound and unbound. Like his father before him.
F**k! One more frame! One more story! "What do I write?" "How about a failed writer selling used books? Fairy-tale of moonlit sky and enraged wolves? Caterpillars and Bats? Feminist twist?" "Done & dusted” "Maybe, let's wait. Think!" "Yeah right, as if you can. Duh! A man of limited vocabulary and imagination" "A bookie’s secret code book?" “Cliché” “No? Ummm...How about the Satan disguised as a book-keeper of souls? "Gory!” "Now what?" "Don't worry! Even top 4 will land here one day! Maybe yours will be wrapped around hot samosas and theirs will be covered in chutney.”
''Age?'' ''Sixty Seven'' ''Means of livelihood?'' ''I am a Kabaadiwala'' ''Who do you think robbed a kabaadiwala, that you are?'' ''Allah!'' ''What???'' ''He came out of Madina from the second last page of last year's newspaper during Muharram, covered my mouth forcibly and before I could realize, he robbed my ninety seven rupees and vanished. ''I demand justice, Vakeel Saab! File my complaint against Allah.'' If he wasn't trapped by a Fakeer Baba, and got the right medicines for his schizophrenia; Hasan Kabaadiwala wouldn't be collecting newspaper cuttings to blame Allah for his empty stomach and widowed daughter.
It was a brilliant shot but it was never destined to reach the boundary. Such was his fielding. Cricket was in his blood and breath. Diving, leaping and doing whatever it took to stop the ball from going past him, much to the delight of his fans. He sighed as he arranged the yellowing stacks of newspapers to be weighed and recycled. A seemingly ordinary photograph on the sports page had unleashed a torrent of childhood memories. His dreams of becoming a cricketer had been smothered by the harsh reality of poverty and an ailing father.
The world slowly became so scary that I came and hid here. I am glad I did. Now I can be a part of this world. I sell books by weight, reducing the quality to mere quantity. I loathe those who try to go through the dump as if they'll find some treasure here. I quote such high price to them for a single book that they almost never buy it. At night I read them, alone.
He looked far in oblivion, where he could still clearly picture his son narrating stories of his reporting days. He loved interacting with the war heroes, up ahead at the border where the free floating patriotic vibes toyed with every present soul. "Baba, you have to buy this newspaper. My first story got published," he was ecstatic. Every day since his son was mistakenly shot, he goes door to door collecting newspapers, arranging them neatly besides his chair; for every page and every little trace of ink reflects a part of his departed soul.
The sleeping scrap dealer awoke with a start. “Set it on fire!” said the leader of the mob pointing at the small scrap shop. The rioters were in marauding mood finding new targets. Suddenly, one of the mob members saw the shop on the “other side of curtain” and gasped and rushed to his chief. He said “Chief, the shop on other side belongs to a man of our community, if we destroy this side of shop, other side too will get destroyed too”. The chief, realizing the truth, instructed his gang to move on to the next street.
"Even I want to go to school pappa. I also want to become a Policewala like Mahendra kaka" Ali exclaimed. "What will you do with all the schooling. I'll teach you something better. I'll teach you to make money. You will look after our shop .You tell me, you want to study and work for someone, or be your own boss?" "I do want to be my own boss Pappa" Ali mumbled. Today he sat there starring at the emptiness, recollecting the dreadful choice that he made blindly 50 years back, wishing if he could go back in time.
Baba had a big library and he used to read stories to us. I remember, he wanted me to love books like he did. And one night of 1947 August, we had to leave . He cried when he saw his library in flames .I was too small to understand “Partition”. Baba could not board the train, He was lost in the crowd of broken dreams. I think he loved his books too much to leave. Baba would be proud of me today, I've a lot of books now. All Used. I wonder, if baba uses the ‘Kindle’ now.
His wife had an OCD for cleanliness while he loved mess. “Cemeteries are organised. This mess around makes me feel alive. This chaos, just like life, is the sign of a living world,” he would often exclaim. Until one day when she stumbled on scattered newspaper and slipped into coma. Now he keeps his things neatly arranged, hoping that someday she will come out of the coma to see a changed man, though a little late but maybe not too late.
I was 18, young and fearless. I didn't care about the world. All day long, I scuffled, fought, beat up people. She was 16, pretty and fragile. She cared more about the world than about herself. All day long, she would help everyone who asked her for any. We were as different as the sun and the moon. Perhaps it was the difference, perhaps it was the silence between us. But we were definitely in love. My ego never allowed me to go and tell her this. Her innocence never allowed her to let me know her feelings. Today I am 60, calmer, wiser but still in love. But the only thing I could do now is stare at her as she sells vegetables in the shop opposite to mine. With her husband.
He saw the mother and son duo leave his shop, carelessly throwing the books that they had come to sell. He sat there, his eyes misting over. Surrounded by all these books, and he couldn't read a word. Some of the days, he would run his hands along the papers, feel its coarseness. He would smell the unique smell that only books had. He would pretend, may be just for a minute, that he could understand the black lines that decorated these pages. Illiterate, and surrounded by knowledge. Irony sure had a strange sense of humour.
Raheem kept looking at Mehar with blank eyes, till she disappeared at the corner of street. 25 years ago, at the same corner, they had vowed to be with each other for the rest of their lives. Next morning he left for the city to pursue his studies for a better life for both of them, but week later, his father passes away, crashing his dreams to study and marry Mehar, leaving him a shop and family to take care... But he keeps his promises of staying with her, her memories for rest of his life…
Like every other day, he was waiting for people to arrive. With books. Magazines. Paper. Anything. But no one seemed to be coming his way. Again. Ranganna had told him, nowadays people are reading on big phones. Tablets they were calling it. And one could read anything on it, even newspaper. If people continue to read on that, it would not be good for his business. 'Good that I have only few years left on this planet', he thought to himself and sighed as he sorted what was left in front of him.
He dusted the piles, mopped the floor and presented God with a customary incense. Buying and selling old newspapers was his major source of income and information. He picked up a newspaper with interesting pictures and browsed through it. It was an edition with news on the upcoming elections. His village was in the news due to a high profile visit. He smirked at the promises listed down. It had been three years, even the road leading to his shop has not been mended. '' Everything is weighed'' he says, '' like my newspapers''. Next elections will reveal the price.
The aroma; the faded hue of old, orphaned books reminded him of childhood. His dream was to possess countless books. Today he had it all but only to trade them for a day's meal; still wishing to see a child make these books a part of his life. Footsteps brought him out from engrossing thoughts. His vulnerable eyes saw a man taking few magazines from the huge stacks, “kaka, how much for this?” The man, a bhelpuri vendor, paid quickly and left. In his gloomy eyes, the wait continued for another buyer in whom he could see his childhood.
The movie crew had paid him good money to be in the background of a violent street scene. He had one condition though: the neat stacked magazines were not to be touched! Done deal. And now here she was: the golden lady of his heart. Right in the middle of cameras and microphones, make-up artists and screaming assistants. The actress he had loved in silence since he was a teenager. The woman for whom he became a paper collector. The goddess who had no idea her entire life was locked up within glossy images. "Camera...action...pack up!" Broken happy heart.
He was sitting in the midst of heavy silence and used newspapers. His eyes remained fixed on the street. He was reliving that laughter, superlative time which flew away in a blink of an eye. When he was surrounded with kids, he brought used books to them where these things mattered most. He spent time with those pleasant companions. They were addressing him as “Kitaab Wale Uncle” Irony is that he was unable to decipher those comprehensive books, for the first time in life he relished his existence with this elegant identity. He is more than a kabaadiwala now.
Then, he couldn't sleep because his dream laden twinkling eyes never let him. He couldn't rest till he filled sheaves of blank pages with those dreams. He waited, in an eternal wait, to translate them into reality. He grew tired and one day, he dozed off....in a dream devoid slumber. When he woke up, he found his Social Responsibilities staring at him. He couldn't look away. Now, he sells them, dream variations. His dimming eyes lazily skim the buyers, hoping to catch sight of at least one, who'd look fortunate enough to live them!
He had been alone before, but never lonely. It had been six months since she had passed away. And this was the hour when she'd carry in the "chai" everyday. The scent of the ginger and extra sugar still lingered, but no cups or love in sight. With loss of all hunger for life, he stared at the door. Hoping that the only thing of worth in his life full of scrap would walk in again. And she never did. Knowing they won't meet anytime soon, now he waits to go meet her on his own.
He was sitting there looking at the old papers. Once his pictures used to come in papers, people used to be scared of him, he ruled the whole Chowdipur. He wasn’t sad now though, rather he was happy, he was a changed man. At least now his children had a house to sleep without being woken up by the police. He was glad that his family was safe. He saw a picture in the paper of the new don held by police and felt happy that he had chosen a different life.
"What's the latest news, sir?" enquired the beggar dragging his sack of rubbish. "How does it matter to you?" replied the stern faced kabaadiwalla. "True, sir. Everything is rubbish these days" he said putting his sack of old pile on the weighing scale. Looking towards the towering newspaper rack around, he wondered when he would have enough old papers to sell, to buy himself a decent meal.
I was 9 when I met Raymond uncle, the only scrap paper dealer in our area. I asked him if he would lend me newspapers and books. He smiled, “didn't know these unwanted books would be of help.” He let me use his store room to study; gave me tea and rusks while I studied. Today, after 21 years, when I went to meet him, I noticed he had grown very old, however his eyes flickered with instant recognition. “Collector Sir, how about some tea and rusks?” he asked, with the same love he always had for this orphan.
He did not want to waste his life like his father, diligently sorting out heaps of old magazines and newspapers and stacking them into piles. Something died within Baba, when he learnt of it. The dream-run of pursuing a degree was interrupted midway, to take on the mantle of running the shop and the family, with Baba’s sudden demise. Now a Baba himself, he picked up the paper and saw his son’s photograph with the caption, “City Boy Qualifies Civil Services.” The dormant dream of a white collared job had just germinated, after several decades. Memories came flooding.
Amidst the pile of ageing magazines and papers as he sat, a million random thoughts tugged at his mind in every possible direction. Wandering aimlessly in that minefield, one particular thought captivated him. Thus far he existed by assigning worth to the old refuse that people brought to him. Will there come a day, when he will be assigned a worth for his existence? A sudden cool breeze blew across the doorway as the smell of ageing paper brought him out of his reverie. 'Has his time already come’ he wondered, as he stared into the distance.
A half-mutilated banner in front of the shop read Bansilal Vilasrao Wanghare and Sons. Inside sat an aged Bansilal. Sipping tea, he read the newspaper and kept it in a delectable fashion, adding one to the heap of dozens. Others called it a garbage shop, he called it a World of Souvenirs. His son had settled in Australia never came to visit after Bansilal lost both his legs in an accident. As for Bansilal, he was contented to be in this world and travel, meet people, share their happiness and tragedies all in one place.
He sat there watching the time go by. The faded yellow pages of aged newspapers, old, discarded second hand books that contained within them washed out memories of times gone by, magazines that did not exist anymore. Everything that reminded him of when life was good. When he mattered. When he too, was relevant. Somewhere amidst the forgotten pages was his name too. He played with words, once upon a time. In the stacks of these elapsed books he tried to remember the smell of when his book got published. Now, Hindi didn't exist in popularity. Neither did he.
People of all kind come to me when they are done extracting so called knowledge out of these junk I am surrounded with. Sometimes I take a bulky book in hand and wonder why do they have to read this? Don't they have enough problems to solve in life than reading this? But then on second thought these books only help me to earn my bread. I sell to recycle so that an another story can be printed. I don't care what's written in there.
The desiderium eyes waited for his childhood lover. The girl he once saw at a second hand books' store. Years passed by, her image is afresh in his eyes. Those twinkling eyes and dimpled smile. In a quest to find her, someday, he opened a second hand books' store in that same lane.
Popularly known as Ramesh kaka, once a proud owner of small book shop where you can find any book, newspaper and magazine. He was a silent viewer of technology change. He saw how ebook took over paperback, how shops once being crowded with buyers went on to selling books by weight. His eyes now searched for someone truly enthusiastic for books. He always said books are to be treasured and not just downloaded-read-deleted. Separating old and new newspaper he realized nothing can replace newspaper, smiled and said life goes on…
No one gave him a second glance. Raghu glanced at the street, where young people mixed with the foreigners who came to wander the colourful streets of this colonial leftover tucked away in this city aspiring to be a metro. But even as the greedy city leaped ahead, some things remained stuck in time. Like his shop, it was a mix of the archaic and the cutting-edge. Raghu never felt young these days. Except when sultry, bodacious Latha touched him. After he had thrust crisp notes down her blouse, of course.
I notice how this man hasn't changed a bit from the time I was a kid. I have always seen him waiting for something. Waiting like a hungry man for pages dressed up in words. Walking by.. I think to myself how he never lets the words be it rough or suave bother him. It is the pages that made him happy. Isn't that how we all are? Materialistic just like him? I wonder passing by his shop unable to answer the question I asked myself.
I pass by his store everyday. Everyone addresses him as 'chacha' but he hardly speaks nor responds. All I do is smile at him, expecting a smile back. One day, on the way back home, I got so drenched in the rain, started shivering. That was when I heard a voice, "Andar aajao". I went in, this misunderstood kind soul handed over a towel and a few minutes later, a cup of tea. That was the best 'chai' I've had in ages followed by an enduring conversation.
I came across a small bookshop, a young boy sitting in it. He was about my age 24-25. He welcomed me in. As I entered, I was mesmerised by the stock of books this tiny shop had. I was like a child left alone in the Disneyland. I was drawn to one particular book about Time Travel. I started turning pages; soon I decided to buy it. As I went out I was surprised to see an old man sitting at the same place, he said, “Oh finally you are out, I was about to close the shop.”
I took over this business from my father and now my son is a Doctor settled in New York. My hard work paid such rich dividends. I was wealthy, I had a successful son! I always dreamt that one day my son would proudly claim "I am the son of a ‘raddiwalla’!" He has stopped visiting us. He last visited us four years ago. Only phone calls. Yesterday, in a moment of weakness, his mother asked him why he has stopped coming home. He said, “I don’t want my friends to know I am the son of a raddiwalla.”
He stared at the dusty pages, glaring at their condition and occasionally staring at the people as they walked by his shop. Sitting on a mountain of knowledge, he drove his days by flitting flies and selling old books, often wondering what lay in these browned pages. He loved the ones with pictures for the letters made no sense to him. He had everything from black and white colouring books to magazines with naked women. And yet he sold knowledge, by the kilo. Never gained any of it for him. The benighted and his world of books.
I was six when he was gifted his first book "Little Miss Sunbeam Comics", a signed edition. Afzal never read books and gifted it to me, for I loved reading. I lost that book. Since then, I have been searching for that. I set up my library in search of that. In these 43 years I've bought more than 500 copies. This rugged, torn and vintage copy that I bought today for just 8 anaas put a smile to my face. Afzal, you live right here in my memories.
The Sun scorched through the Monday afternoon, as I sauntered in and out of my house. Even a minute of heat, was unbearable. "Go, sell these books to that old man at the corner of the road." Mum said. "Uncle, take this." "Thank you, child. Anything else?" "Why do you collect so many books and resell them?" "I think, I didn't have the right of educating myself, but I do have the right of educating everyone else." Never in my life, I had felt my heart soar in response, as it did listening to him.
Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life. Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author's words reverberating in your head. Books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life. If you have a library, you have everything you need.
"Look at these brats with their colourful pants and earphones drilled into their deaf ears. Nothing to do with education or learning. Books are just toilet paper to them, no respect. In my time my father would have sheared my skin off me if had committed such travesty." Dad, I am going to tuition. "Oye! give that cellphone back or I'll kick your teeth into your mouth" Wife: Why are you behaving like this today? You yourself brought that phone for him on his birthday. “I don't know... business is in ruins. Nobody is buying books and stationary anymore.”
There upon a rickety lane, lay a decrepit bookstore,which bore witness to a woebegone era of yellowing pages. "Hey, Oldie, what do we have here?,"probed a bunch of uncouth youth in a raspy tone. "Not worth your time and mine wares” replied the elder, pulling up a stern face. The memory of being unceremoniously thrown away from the very house, he built from scratch was unnerving. Thriving on a meager pension was not his thing, so he thought of earning his livelihood by selling worn out books. Alas; left razed to make way for an apparel store.
Mahesh was sitting inside his scrap paper shop counting and weighing books. Suddenly, his eyes lit up when he saw the cover of a book, which had an image of his old friend Suraj who was very poor, and struggled throughout his childhood to earn bread and butter. Mahesh felt very proud of Suraj’s achievement, he opens the book with excitement and started crying after few seconds and closed that book and started cursing himself and felt really bad thinking that his friend has become a writer and here he was who couldn’t even read.
My eyes went on a rare copy of a book at this shop. Curiously I asked for its price from an old uncle sitting at counter. ‘For you it’s free’ he replied. Confused I asked why? ‘A stranger gave it to me when I was young, he said that one day he’ll return to take this book,’ He said. ‘I believe it’s yours. Return me the book the day I need it back’ He smiled and gave me the book. I stood there for some time wondering and then left. The old man waited for too long.
“I won’t leave anything behind,” thought the boy before piling up all the newspapers in the house along with a ream of useful magazines, used notebooks and useless papers. No, this had nothing to do with the PM’s call for cleanliness. The money he’d derive in exchange for raddi would be buying him his favourite comics. To him, the news didn’t matter nor the trends because the world he escaped to was filled with coloured sketches and words trapped in bubbles. And this escape route just happened to pass through the raddiwallah’s shop at the end of every month.
The past haunted Kanshiram every minute, every moment. He remembered his son's last words, "I don't want to be a doctor, father. I want to write!" Enraged, Kanshiram had asked him to leave. He was aroused from his thoughts when a customer prodded him, "Uncle, you sell second hand books?" "Yes, all kinds", he replied. "You have books written by Raghuram Yadav? He won this year's Pulitzer prize. His books are too expensive!", the young lady mused. Kanshiram froze. Against all odds, Raghu had made it and proven him wrong. Tears of joy streamed down his wrinkled face.
He sits alone, frozen in time, the day passing him by. All around him, the stacks pile higher and higher. Sheaves upon endless sheaves of discarded papers. Unwanted printouts, redundant photocopies, unloved books and much-maligned texts decorate his world, a glazed look in his eyes, apathetic. He only comes alive at night, when the buyers come. Detectives, stalkers, people looking for half-truths and whole lies in the refuse. PAN card xeroxes, bank statements, identities, old love letters; one man’s trash as they say. He quietly pushes it all back into circulation, starting the paper trail anew.
Sitting amidst the pile of books, he wondered how different life would have been had he been honest enough to resist a bribe! The day he was stripped of his position, was a day etched in his memory. It’s a story that generations in his family would hear. It was a lesson he had learnt the hard way!
"Thanks paper-man" said the customer, receiving the change. "Paper-man? How did I become a 'paper-man' from being a 'politician'?", he wondered. "Was it stress? No. Was it age? No. Was it my knowledge about the entirely corrupt government and how I stood against it, eventually leading to the betrayal by my own party members? Yes that should be it.", he concluded. Such is the weight of knowledge. You can't set it down. "Funny how it influences my life", he thought. "Only in a much more literal sense now". But he didn't laugh.
Books. The used ones, to be exact. With worn out edges and pale yellow pages. And, pulpy smell and disfigured covers. The rhythmically ordered words of its author, and its readers' echoes: the bookmarks. Looked after by the librarian. A man wised by the books. But, considered unlearned because only marks can decide literacy, not lore, especially not the self-taught lore. This Library is an insurmountably wealthy ATM, with Gandhi-less, but extremely pricey sheets. But, no one visited. Because Gandhi matters. Because Gandhis are for status. Because Gandhis are for E-Readers.
All I’ve ever known is seeking for the unknown or at least the unknown to me. A craving for the answers to hypothetical questions imagination incarnate. The mind tangles with queries; what if? what about? how come? more, the answers are crowded out by still more inquiry wonderment enthusiasm. scientific method gave structure to my curiosity. this structure, and its unbridled sibling are the lights along my path.
He is 60 now and spent all his life buying and selling old books and newspaper scrap which he can't read. He is illiterate. Sitting at his shop one afternoon looking at these newspapers & books he genuinely wants to thank them. As because of this scrap he earned enough money to run his house & make his daughter study & got married to a good educated family. Being illiterate, he doesn’t understand a word written in them still he's grateful.
Gray skies, a colourless day. He remembered her today. The memory is hazy, he couldn’t tell you the details. But he remembered the colours, with all its intensity. She had stood there, with rainbow coloured glass bangles tinkling around her wrist. She was desperately looking for that poem. What was it about? Her eyes, the colour of his childhood, had numbed his tongue. She left. Leaving bits of colours trapped in his mind.
"But dad, I don't want to, please", she cries as she tries her best to hide her book behind her back. But her drunk father snatches it from her, throws it away and beats that poor soul till she's all bruised up. "No more school ! Did you get it". Then he collects all the scattered books, packs them up and sells them to the scrap paper dealer. Everyday, she goes to that shop, expecting to get back her best friends, the books, who are her light in the dark. But one day, they are no more there.
‘Insensitive people!’ Adam tells himself, sitting alone, with his books and magazines. Nobody wanted them. He collected them all. Captain Nemo was missing though… Even her, the cute woman with her curly hair, she was walking with her nose in a screen. Today he had seen her tripping because of it. What a disappointment! Unexpectedly, a noise. He grabs a broom jumping in the hallway, stumbling on something. He prods it surprised and looks closer; two scared eyes dart out the door. The man smiles; a big, toothless smile. It was a tiny tramp returning Capt. Nemo.
Perhaps I’m a fool to keep this bookshop running in this kindle age. Loser. Lost cause. Loner. Yes, loner I am. I'm not that social. Books are my life. I may have aged, but I've been living a single moment, lost in here. And the only thing I love more than books are those who love books. It’s my favorite way to connect to another human. When I see their smile on finding something here they didn't know they wanted, I know this is not a lost cause. I may not have had a life, but Oh I've lived.
Stacked one on top of the other they looked a lot more than when they were in the old bookshelf which had given way to my new wardrobe. I tried convincing the raddiwala that some of these were classics and I deserved to be paid per book. He didn’t even weigh them on his electronic weighing machine because he thought it would get damaged with the heavy weight. I guess these electronic scales are harder to rig. Here I was selling my precious childhood memories kilo ke bhaav. More like bhavnaon ke kilo, I thought. Damn you wordplay.
It was his last day there. For 40 years, old newspapers, magazines and books had given him a livelihood. The street had been his home, he knew every pebble, every face, every story. They were going to demolish all the shops to widen the roads. He was told to leave. Where, how, what? These questions plagued him. Absentmindedly he picked up an old book . It was someone's diary. A line stared at him .'"Face the fear, feel it. overcome it". He got up. He'd start again . As long as people read from paper he had a livelihood.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, Rahul slowly took out all the newspapers from the rack and put them into a bag. His best friend Nishant, had lost his silver chain and badly wanted money to buy another. They sold those newspapers in the market at Rs. 4/kg. Rahul smiled, holding the money in hand. Little did the ten year old knew, that it won't be enough. Nine years later, Rahul gets a message from Nishant - "I'm coming. Arrange for liquor". His worried face lightens up as he sees the text books on his reading table. He smiles. Again.
It was a hot April afternoon when a screeching sound coming from the narrow lane made the shopkeeper wonder. As the sound continued, seated beside neatly piled newspapers and books, Kishore Sharma put down his newspaper. He walked towards the unidentified sound which was only getting louder. He was now scared. His heart was pounding. On reaching the narrow lane, he saw nothing. He shrugged, and retraced his steps towards his shop. No sooner did he turn, a spacecraft emerged from the narrows and zapped him. There was another guy who now heard a screaming voice from the lane.
It was like any other sunny afternoon until a crowd rushed into our small lane. They started burning vehicles and attacking people. I immediately closed the shutter of my old book shop. The smell of old papers surrounded me; bookworms crawled along the floor. I almost jumped out of panic when my mobile phone rang. “Some political leader is arrested for some scam. The party people are protesting against it. It’s all over the news. Please………….,” my wife announced. I could not respond as the carbon dioxide from the fire suffocated me. My shop was ablaze too, I realized.
Ramanlal earned a lot before losing everything to circumstances. Now he knows what he doesn't want and knows what he wants. So he buys what people don’t want and sells it to the needy ones. The world might be unknown to his little world but he is the undisputed hero of it. Mere Raddiwala or a Messiah in disguise.
Childhood. My childhood was spent reading stories about fictional and funny characters which I used to feel are real; they will come to life someday and meet me in person. The search for them became endless as I started searching for them everywhere, in books, in newspapers and on the internet but they never came to life. Today, I am selling them off in hope to offend them so that even in the midst of revenge, they come and see me once. Once, before I become one.
The newly bought weighing machine rested for a while after weighing the newspaper bundles. It was confused to see his masters's deep sobbing eyes. So it decided to talk about it to the books around. It was then it came to know how rich his master was in the past, owning his book shop and since people over there had almost forgot reading books, he had to do this weighing job for his living. Now it could feel his master's heart longing for the good old days when people used to say, "I love reading books”.
The old man loved his words so much That they abandoned him with his life's collecting; As now he stares in the blank space and tells himself, I knew all along...Humans had a knack of leaving. But words always stayed.
The weight of knowledge, all for sale.! There I go. Deep in thought. Tipping the scales.
Baba Golmatol or Baba Lambunath? Who should be trusted? Baba Golmatol's idea is far simpler. I just need to keep a cow and a horse in the backyard and Baba Golmatol says," the divinity of cow will attract a lot of customers. And my dear Baccha! Horse will increase the speed of those incoming customers ". Whereas that Lambunath wants me to keep a duck. Duck! Now, where am I supposed to find a duck, eh? Useless ducks! Moreover, Baba Lambunath is not even tall enough to justify his name. Look at Baba Golmatol. Such a round sparkling belly.
The electronic weighing machine got too much importance than it should. After all, when it counted the weight of the books, he counted the years he has been away from his family. When the machine had the final count, he would calculate how he wanted to spend in his last days. That's why he had always preferred the tarazu..he could decide what weight to put, how many newspapers would make a good Kg and how much to charge. That way, tarazu was lenient on life..Atleast when it 'weighted down', it did not bring down his hopes.
'Oho! Here he comes again…' thought Shyam Kaka as the young man approached his shop, earlier than he had shown up the previous morning. “Kaka!” he cried, wiping his sweaty brow, “Do you have any yet?” Manish’s mixed emotions were clearly conveyed in this question he asked the old man every day for the past fourteen or so months. “Not even one!” said Kaka feigning excitement. “Good!” said Manish as he looked up the next raddi-vaala on his list. 'My book is only fit to do raddi rounds, eh? Hmph! These critics know absolutely nothing…' he mused triumphantly.
At the dawn of life, I sit here, at this old run down building, watching people walk by. Wondering, what have I earned? How much have I lost? Where is my home? Was it all worth the price I paid? What is my life’s worth? The books and the papers mockingly whisper, “We might be old & used, but we still do fetch a fair price. What’s your worth?” I smile. I continue to look at people. I wish I could stop and tell them to slow down, to live and to enjoy the little moments of life more
Zachariah wondered about the countless stories, words, pictures he weighed over the years. Like the stained glass windows of the synagogue behind his little shop, his mind was a canvass of many prints. He reminisced on the feel of paper, the smell of paper. He was in love with paper. The smell of old paper was like the familiar smell of your lover. Musky, Inviting. He wondered if after him this fragrance of paper will linger or will it be lost in the era of paperless stories, words and pictures. An era that doesn’t feel, doesn’t smell, doesn’t bond…
Girimohan was lost. His eyes wandered lifelessly around, searching for help. He desperately tried to cling to the last straw of help. His books, lifeless to the world, joined his cries of mercy. The 'progressive' Government had decided to do away with the second book-stalls at College Street and construct a Book Mall instead. Demolition drive was underway. Girimohan's lifeless body was thrown out of the shop along with his pile of books.
A momentary lapse of judgement, a drunken banter was how I tried to dilute the gravity of a serious crime in the apology letter to my junior whom I tried to molest in a lift. Twice. Nation outraged. Falsified claims. As I gaze at the Taraju (scale), I remembered the judge’s pronouncement, 10 years in jail. The journey from chief of a national media house to selling used newspaper in this stall was unsatisfactory and sad. Power plays strange game with your mind. Makes you arrogant.Tells, that you can control everything. But then life is a great leveller.
"One more cup dear!", he used to plead to his wife from the verandah for the next cup of coffee. Not caring for the response from the kitchen at the far end, he continues with his newspaper, for he knows she would come fuming, more of love and less of anger, with another cup. When life happened, he ran out of means and she ran out of life. Now, he makes his ends meet with newspapers that people no longer find any sense in possession. Still out of habit, he waits at verandah, hopeful of another coffee, a miracle.
Ramlal sat motionless, eyes sombre, mind numbed. Why can't I die now? he wished under every breath. Then he got a call, "Baba you will be a grandfather, Ritu is 3 months pregnant" His son would be a father after 8 years of marriage. His heart burst with joy, his pain washed away. But the gloom soon returned and tore him apart. How was he to tell them he was diagnosed with cancer. It was a battle he then resolved to fight. To just see those little eyes, touch those little hands, feel the warmth of those little smiles.
He looked out at the world from his store. All he could see was just shadows. He was part of an age that has almost vanished. The world has changed but he doesn't understand the new one. Nor the world, not their values nor the people in it, he doesn't understand any of them. The books with him also had witnessed the change in this world. Once they were sold for their content, now he just sells them for their weight. He gazes out at this strange world, the remembrance of days past his only way of moving forward.
Grim looking man sits alone on a rainy morning. With mild OCD he stacks all his books and raddi in equal lines. Being old school he doesn’t trust electronic scales. So he turns it on, all day to lie idle in a corner. He rarely sells any books, newspaper issues brought at his shop. Avid reader that he is, he likes to stock them. He fired the help which he had, for selling the newspapers featuring news of Cauvery dispute without permission. Just seconds before he shoos away the shutterbug.
The photo had slipped out of a magazine when he tried to pull it out from under the pile. Ravikant bought and sold old magazines for a living, and he had not been this excited in his entire life. He remembered reading about the President’s assassination in the news last year. The sniper who killed him had vanished without a trace. This photo had actually captured the assassin on that day. He had just telephoned the media. They would be arriving anytime now. He waited patiently. A sedan stopped outside his shop. It was the man in the photo.
He was startled looking at a newspaper amongst the pile of junk. It was a picture of a boy doing a dancing stunt. His son used to dance wildly like this all day with his friends, much to his dissent. They would constantly argue over his son’s disinterest in studies, in their Raddi business, even in general responsibilities. Then one day it all went berserk. His son left home for some stupid dance competition in neighbouring city. He never saw him since then. He looked closely. It wasn’t him. Will he be here someday? He sighed, pondered, and prayed.
Venu sat alone as usual in his shop. His son earned well enough, but there was no place for Venu in his son's 2BHK in the city. They did allow him to visit them a few times in a year. He still keeps the books his son loved as a child, in the drawer near his bed in his old house, right above the shop. He tries hard to avoid it, but sometimes he wonders if he just sells scrap or has he become one…
He stared into the distant emptiness offered by the wall ten feet away, undistracted by the million words lying around him like so many orderly piles of raked leaves in a garden, waiting for a spark to ignite them into a release. He saw nothing and everything, a moment and eternal time. Soon it would be time to go home, to rest and to ready himself for another day. There was life to be lived.
Like a bird collecting twigs for its nest, at an young age Aamir became a kabaariwala collecting waste both beautiful and ugly for a living. The beautiful books, extorting curiosity, befriending and trucking him into paradise. Today, he has grown into a junk dealer. Still, his favorite pass-time is spending with books collected from the waste. Each book is a friend, occasionally carrying dried leaves, hand-written notes, letters half-written whispering an untold story. He carefully collects them. Despite spending all his life among them, he can't read or write. What an irony. But a beautiful irony.
The scrap business was the only property the father left behind for his two sons, Kishore and Krishna. Kishore was happy running the father’s business, his brother Krishna, wanted to invest into new businesses. Ideas clashed, arguments hurled, fights ensued. Finally, they executed the only workable solution. Divide the shop with a curtain in-between. Kishore continued scrap business; Krishna started a mobile- accessories shop on the other side. As time passed, the new business grew and the old faded. At times, the falling curtain, gave a glimpse to Kishore the price of not changing with time.
"Yes, I did " the man mumbles when the reporter asks "did you witness the murder". "what"? "It's better to keep mum when the accused are powerful goons" he reasons himself. After all, he is a simple guy, and the sole bread-earner. He has a son who is in his college."You see, he is going to be very successful and bright lawyer one day, dinesh ji.." his teacher claimed once. He puts up a straight face and finally says aloud " I didn't", silently hoping his son will be able to understand him.
Yet another day in the mundane lives that people lived, thought Abdul to himself. Yet another hypocritical customer had spitted disdain upon him. As always he had responded with a rueful smile, for Abdul was a raddiwala by choice. His love affair with reading but lack of any substantial education had compelled him to make it. Here he could read all day long and still make money at the end of it. People despised his penury yet were obliged to take his service. Although she enjoyed meandering in the air around him, melancholy knew that this man was content.
Floods back in his teenage flushed away his dreams of higher education. Bound by destiny & games of fate,he continued his family trait, the junk shop! Only dream that raman* lived since then was to see his son as a doctor & yes! He did it. It's been 10years,son's settled in Australia. Every single day, fading vision of a father longs for that spark of hope, for his son to return to the roots Sadly,he's living a life of buying people's "used dreams" (books) but never got a chance to live his own !
There are some things you just don't do. Once I was walking down the street, minding my own business, when suddenly, POOF! Out comes a creature, a creature so novel, you'd be scared witless for minutes. It granted me a wish, “Some money, maybe a kiss”, he said, “You could certainly do with.” “I'll take knowledge.” I said, thinking that was for the best, for only your mind succeeds, when the body is put to test. “Done.” he said, and with a flourish it was so. Now I have all the knowledge in the world, but happiness? NO.