In a land far far away, there lived a boy. He was born in a library (Don’t ask me how!) and since birth all he had seen were books. Very often when his mother came to sing a lullaby, she would find him already away in a land of dragons and heroes with a book under his pillow. He loved books and often dreamt of working in a bookstore. When I asked him if he would rather work in a library, he often seemed lost as if faced with Hobson’s choice. For how could he leave one for another? Then when I would force him, he would slowly pick his bookstore. To the young kid, if he owned a bookstore, it would mean never ever having to share his books and having them all to himself, just for himself.
He was lucky as he grew up. His teachers patronized him. His friends loved to share their books with him for he would complete an entire Hardy Boys Mystery overnight, starting at 14:00 hours as soon as the school broke. The librarian was his friend and while others would descend on the Games Room at recess, he would slowly pack his bag and walk towards the library.
As he grew older, his friends started to have interest in other aspects of life. The first razor and the excitement of the first shave; the induction into manhood, the first Axe Deo and believe it or not the first Cherry Blossom Wax Shoe Polish! These had become part of their boyhood and yet he persisted with his books. Being able to quote from Paradise Lost seemed to be a far higher calling than having the ‘Axe Effect.’
And so the years went by and like most other dreamers, the young boy was awakened into a world where he was told, it’s not enough to own a bookstore, but perhaps it’s more important to earn enough to have all the books he would ever want. From the Far East he had travelled West. He had learnt of money and what money could buy. Every month he would go and buy books by the dozens and when money would run out he would search for books in the alleyways of the city, always believing that he had made a bargain.
The day he left the country, he had a suitcase of clothes and two book cases full of books. The day he came back, he still had the same suitcase full of the same clothes and a whole new set of books.
And that’s when he realized the world had changed. Books no longer were in vogue. What mattered was what you wore. It was like school all over again with shiny new toys being the talk of the day and not the dusty old books from the library. He passed every Strand Sale reminding himself to “wear the old coat but buy the new book!” But it became harder. For now, in the changed world, clothes had begun to make the man!