My close friend Kirthi and I stand in front of ‘Literary Fiction’ shelves at one of the bookstores. Her shopping basket is almost full. With my glance fixed on the books, I tell her, “I think we should have brought something like a grocery list.” Kirthi guffaws, “You are so cute, Deepika!” And that’s Kirthi; she always has something nice to say. ❤
“Okay. Will you recommend a few books for me today?” I request. She shifts her basket to her other hand, leaps forward to pull out Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. “What a gorgeous cover!” I observe. She nods vehemently, and offers a sharp introduction about the book and its author.
As I lay my hands on the cover, and smell the book, she chooses her next recommendation. Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread. I sheepishly confess, “Kirthi, I have never heard of these writers. But, they seem to have written fantastic books.” She wears her signature wide smile, which is embellished by her dimples, and tells me more about the book. I am floored. I am more delighted because she doesn’t think low of my confession.
Then she drops her basket on the floor to pull out Alice Munro’s Friend of My Youth from the shelf. I pump my fist in the air and launch into a monologue, “Oh my God. I wanted to read Munro for so long. I love the cover. I love purple. I love inkwells…” In that fleeting moment, the other buyers disappear effortlessly like those aliens in sci-fi movies, and I recognise the existence of only my dear friend and myself in the store. I should remember Munro after all. But no! 😉
Kirthi lets me revel, and when I regain my composure, she asks, “Have you read Jodi Picoult?” This time, I am not afraid to say no. I declare it with the enthusiasm of a child, who wants more toys, more candies. Perhaps, that’s what we are — children at a candy shop, or children-stuck-in-adult-bodies at Hamley’s. 😉 She shows Harvesting the Heart, and describes Picoult’s tropes. “This is the kind of book I want to read, Kirthi!” I tell her gratefully, quite like Wooster who profusely thanks Jeeves after the latter resolves his gentleman’s predicaments, or when Jeeves fixes one of his magical potions to cure Wooster’s terrible hangover.
Then I am suddenly washed over by the urge to get something for her. So, I search for Neil Gaiman’s books, Diana Wynne Jones’ Dogsbody, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I cannot find it. I march to the storekeeper, whose computer is slower than the buffalo that Zennishly walks past my house everyday. The storekeeper feeds many a probability to his search engine to find the books that I want. Then he shrugs, and apologises. “These are imported I think, ma’am.” I shake my head in disbelief, then I rave about all the books and promise Kirthi I will send those to her soon. I finally realise that a bespectacled boy keeps staring at me. “Are you waiting to use the system?” I sound feeble. The annoyance in his countenance cannot be dismissed. “Of course,” he shoots. I understand his frustration. 😉
Kirthi and I hold hands and walk towards the new arrival section, as slowly as a royal parade. 😉 Then I leave her hand to give a tight hug to this book, which was in my wishlist for a long time.
We are enchanted by the cover again, and she remarks, “How beautifully shot!” I dive into another monologue on all the animal-books that I adore, and she promises to read all of it. I am pleased like never before. ❤
Before we go to the billing counter, I realise I should never conclude book-shopping without acquiring one book of RK Narayan. The Guide falls in my basket, and we head to the counter. Our conversation takes a random turn, and we begin to discuss An Unnecessary Woman. I say the last few pages made me weep. She says the book is incredible. And the man at the counter says, “Ma’am, I have been waiting for a long time.” We offer many apologies and hand our cards.
I cannot remember the last time I went to a bookstore, and shopped to my heart’s content. While I don’t want to blame Amazon, I must observe it’s made me lazy and a bit calculative. So, I immensely enjoyed the bookish-date I had with Kirthi. It was thrilling and joyful to let a friend choose books for me. It was more gratifying because that friend’s choices are extraordinary.
We buy ice-creams, and attack it like little children, as we discuss things that would interest adults. 😉 Then she rummages in her bag and shows me this beautiful book, which is her gift to me. The patrons hear a loud ‘awww’. Of course, that is from me. I make that sound when my heart is warmed.
As I write this, and recount the happy memory, a feeling grows in me. It feels like my birthday. It feels like the first morning of a long holiday. It feels like I have lost a couple of pounds. It feels like I have great friends. It feels like there is a purpose. It feels like life is beautiful. ❤