discounting good things

The Strand Book Stall sale is supposed to be a good thing, right? It is a good thing. Teja for instance, buys his year’s quota of books from there. Books on art and design which we could never afford otherwise, available at incredible discounts.

As for me, the sight of so many books in one place just makes me feel a little giddy, a little queasy. I feel burdened down by all the things that people want to say, write, show, tell. By the unsold books that reappear year after year. By the acres of forests wailing there. I feel sad and bad, and don’t ever want to read a book again. Or write one.

I love books when they come unexpectedly, from the corner raddi-wala’s, from the top of a neighbor’s cupboard, from under the pillow of an old uncle, a few tantalizing pages that come with the bhel puri, or the ones that seem perfectly fitted on a friend’s bookshelf.

I know that a lot of people moaned the end of an era when the British Council Library went online in Bumm-Bumm-Bhole-Land. But honestly, by the time I reached there every couple of months to change the family’s books, after a long 2 hour drive, the air-conditioning made me drowsy and the last thing I wanted to do was flip through books. I usually grabbed the first few titles that seemed appealing, and was all, “Can we go home now?”

Now I just queue up my books online, and I love the randomness with which they arrive.

And of course, I’ve just discovered the magic of Flipkart. You don’t even pay online, and the books come all packed up as if they were going to London, as my mother would say, and there’s enough of a discount to make you feel pleased about yourself, and it’s not thousands of books staring and glaring at you.

Well, as for the Strand book sale, I felt too tired to even take pictures.


  1. I remember going to the British Council library in Karachi. It was a small airconditioned oasis where you could wallow for hours away from the city’s humidity and traffic. The library wasn’t very large but they had a good collection of books and kept me enthralled.

    The libaries here are large and generous with ample connections to state-wide networks so any book you want can be delivered to your branch within a few days. This is fantastic if you know what you want. But for a young reader just starting out part of the pleasure is being able to walk down an aisle of books and linger over the possibilities. The physical space a library provides for dreaming and enchantment is what makes it so special. I wonder how many readers are born just through walking down those aisles and finding, one book at a time, that they’ve come home.

    • Karrvakarel,

      I love small shops, small libraries, the smaller the better. The humongous ones just take away from the goodness, for me.

      But then, I don’t like crowds of anything.

  2. Hello helllo,

    First of all Wish you a very happy new year…Okay I am late…par bhawnaaon ko samjho…this year I’d planned to visit the strand book fest on the first day and I am yet to go there… But pados ka crossword also had a Sale (even though their collection sucks most of the time, but this time they had some better books) Might be visiting Strand tomorrow…coz town tak jaana aana is a full-time job in itself…I really feel Delhi is closer to my place than Nariman Pt. and Flipkart’s made me even more lazier I rarely go and check new books at Landmark these days…

    PS. I always ask this question to every book lover – Do you read all the books that you buy, or keep some reserved for a better time AKA sometime soon…

    • True, toonfactory, I feel Poona, my hometown is closer than going to Churchgate.๐Ÿ™‚

      As for reading all the books one gets, ha ha. Reserve, reserve.

  3. I’m a very happy new Flipkart aficionada๐Ÿ™‚
    Next time I order a book I will think of it coming all packed up as if was going to London๐Ÿ™‚

    Bookshops have also become very strange, with too much other merchandise there to annoy one๐Ÿ˜ฆ

    • Dipali, I know, isn’t it great?

      More than anything else, it’s the noise that annoys me, and specially when bookshops feel they must have some music on, like everywhere else.

      And too much, too much.

  4. I think I am a dino.. I still love books and book sales have me mesmerized like Alice in Wonderland. I love the smell of freshly printed paper and me thinks, I smell my books more than I read them. In fact, I kinda get my fix from smelling them and miss reading them altogether.

    • Violet, I do love books. Book sales, or in fact, any kind of sales, just freak me out. I guess I can’t handle the crowd, and the pressure.๐Ÿ™‚ But the smell of books, ah!

  5. Owing to hubby and mom’s pressure to quit filling up my house with them, I’ve given in, and use gutenberg and, and dont buy books- usually. I do give in when I find bollywood books, and anything printed in the 20s and earlier- one has to live a little! And im so with u on the random pages from Bhelpuri-wallas- random, mysterious and so tantalizzing- eeps!

  6. I was intrigued by your Flipkart mention, so I went and looked it up. Trust Indians to come up with cash on delivery for an online order๐Ÿ˜€

    I can see one disadvantage with CoD – that someone has to be present at home when the books come in. What are the advantages for someone who is anyway buying online? You’d use that if you don’t trust their payment gateway, I suppose? Or if you are web surfing at work and don’t want to enter your credit card details?

    • Lekhni, They usually come during working hours, and since I work from home, mostly, and have some help from 10 to 6, that’s not a problem.

      And they also call or email to confirm that they are coming.

      Anyway, cash on delivery is an option, so that’s fine. I just like the idea of it. You don’t have to pay and then wait anxiously for the delivery.๐Ÿ™‚

        • Interesting. Both your responses say the same thing – you’d rather trust the help/ watchman with the payment than pay online.
          Since both of you seem to share similar sentiments, I’m guessing a lot more people in India feel the same way. I’m just curious as to why this reluctance. Have there been any scams with online payments? Or is it a reluctance to deal with customer service in the rare event that delivery is delayed/ goes missing?

          I’m just very intrigued. Of course, India is still largely cash-based so you probably would be going to the bank/ATM to draw cash regularly so there wouldn’t be a special visit to pay for this purchase, else that would be an additional hassle.

          • Lekhni, yes, I guess, we still regard online payments with suspicion. I do make them more and more, for train and flight reservations, etc. but do feel a bit uncertain about it all.

            And yes, we are still largely cash based. As our Income Tax department knows only too well.๐Ÿ™‚

            Anyway, most of us have such complex and efficient systems in place, so many people to support us from domestic help to grandmothers, that cash on delivery is never really a problem.

  7. Well just back from Strand Book Fest…was a disappointment this year…bought just two books – The Art of Bollywood and The Art of Pixar Short Films… this year there was nothing interesting in fiction and non fiction there, besides you get better discounts on Flipkart (thats how Marwari in me decides before making a purchase)…๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Yes, The Strand sale (am talking about he Bangalore one) is becoming less appealing every year. This year, I compared the prices of the books I bought at the sale with the prices that flipkart offered on the same books – hardly any difference. In fact, flipkart offered some of them cheaper.
    Have been a delighted Flipkart user for over a year. (recently bought a phone for my wife from there too). Outstanding service, never had any complaints whatsover.

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