An uncanny image forms in my mind as I sit on my chair by the window and stare at the bookshelf in front of me. What if one day, art were to die. Would the artist be placed in a museum? Caged in glass walls, a treat to the eyes of the public. They would watch magic unfold before their sight without a wand or a spell muttered under the breath of this peculiar species. It oozes out through their fingertips as naturally as a stream in the wild follows its course, uninterrupted by man made obstructions. What an honor to witness the birth of art right from its birth in the mind of the artist and the process of it being brought to life.
The death of art brings in an indescribable feeling. An unexplainable rage. A feeling that stretches from the ends of disappointment to unworthiness. Maybe that’s similar to the emotions felt at a secondhand bookstore.
Wednesday. 11:30 AM.
I call it the golden hour to visit a bookstore. Working day, morning hours, perfect to walk into my favorite store as the first customer. I take my time. The books displayed in the new release section beckons me. They are unexplored, little treasure boxes on stand by, for me to unlock them for a new adventure. Eye-catching colors, witty titles, neat untouched covers, the fragrance of fresh paper that first hits the nostrils as the book is flipped open, that’s one step closer to heaven.
These books would describe themselves as, ‘sitting on the edge of the seat’ waiting to be picked and carried home; wanting me to carefully trace through every word, spaces deliberately left, words cut off mid-sentence and every pause. What would I discover? I stare at them in an attempt to have a conversation. Maybe they will speak to me. Whisper a secret. I don’t know. I have stood there long enough to draw the attention of the very lively employee Prateek, who is now walking towards me. He asks if I am looking for something specific.
I don’t know, I guess I want to watch these books fly in the air, the words inscribed surround my space and become a stairway to a whole new dimension that is in far contrast with the reality. Instead I respond with, “No. I am just browsing.” He doesn’t bother me again. He probably recognised me. I have been to this place a million times before and this is my usual discourse. I like to spend hours gazing at the shelves and stacks of books scattered at corners of the bookstore until my feet start to complain and even when I refuse to budge, they fight back and go numb till I move, finding a place to sit.
I walk further into the bookstore and come across books organized by sections. Thriller, Literature, Psychology, Non-fiction, Historical etc etc. I shouldn’t really sit to list them all. It’s diverse, is what I mean. Some of these racks have old books. The ones returned, some antiques that are forgotten, some from authors whose name I know now. The book with the title – ABC Murderers by Agatha Christie has my eyes fixed on it. Someone has returned the book. The creases on the bind compose a melody of its own, the notes high pitched drawn from the number of times the book was gaped open and shut. It was signed too.
Read and pass it on. Likitha. Bangalore. 20/02/2018.
So it was a book recommendation from a stranger I suppose? The bookshelves on the inside were not youthful and full of life and bright colors. They were aged and worn out, as if tired from traveling a great distance before finally finding an opportunity to rest here. As an author, the sight of these enormous dull racks sends an unsettling, queasy knot in my stomach. My heart is heavier, matching the weight of the books I can grab in my arms. What if, I too will be lost in this forgotten pile someday? Imagine walking into your local bookstore and finding your own creation at the bottom of the shelf which is no longer worthy of capturing anyone’s glance.
In the sea of literature, only a few names are remarkable. The names that are unconsciously and effortlessly passed on from generation to generation, turning it into a household name, uttered as an example for inspiration to follow the same route walked by such writers. Not sure if my name will be as such but I want to be like a book. Catchy name that lingers in the back of your mind, interesting enough to hold your eyes long enough; to tempt you into walking this journey with me. Yet mysterious, not giving away too much or too little, prose that has to be read with utmost curiosity, patient enough, hanging around for quite some time, till I am cracked open. Hopefully not tossed at the back of the bookstore to loathe.
I watch a fellow reader pass by, as I stand still, mesmerised with the amount of books, a desire burns in my heart. To read them all in this lifetime. She grabs a book or two from the bottom racks and makes her way to the billing counter. And that was it for me. All I had to see. It was a reminder that these glorious books, old and unpopular, authors both famous and less known, will always find a home. There is always a reader wanting to snatch them away from the misery and place it on the desk at their homes as trophies of escapade ventures. Those are the memories that cannot be traded with anything but art.