Thursday, October 19, 2006

The perfect bookseller

It was a lonely night at the Mumbai Airport. I was ambling about, exhausted after a day's travel, trying to find something that would catch my attention.

I love looking at books, or well.. at the covers of books. Opening and reading them is always another day's chore. Staring fixedly at the huge rack of books in airport stores with intense concentration & interest and then strolling away nonchalantly when they announce the boarding, much to the chagrin of the storeowner, is my forte. But that day it was not to be.

That day I met my match. A book (cover) inside the store caught my attention. Damn, why do they make these covers so catchy? As I strolled in to investigate (the covers of) the book further, came a strong "Good evening Sir!". Yeah, like it was from a long lost chum or something (baring the "Sir!" bit of course). Startled, I looked up to see the store owner throwing a wide smile and waving a green something in my direction.

"Sir! I've got just THE thing for you". Huh ?.
"Something you've always wanted to know!" The meaning of life? I raised my eyebrows quizzically (in my mind of course, can't let these bozos in on such profound questions)
"Something you'll love to read, I'm sure".
"So many people have recommended this book, people like you... people who have come back to appreciate it.... who have come back asking me for more. This one's a gem sir. Just made for you. Have a look sir". This one's got a gift of the gab, I thought.

The miser (I'd prefer to call it the astute financial mind) in me poked my conscience. The book looked glossy. Must cost quite a bit. Keeping an interested face, I read the back cover first.. trying hard to glance at the price tag. The numbers looked small at first. 2 numbers, a decimal point and 2 numbers hence. Then I saw the pound sign before.

"Don't bother about the price sir. We accept credit cards". Eh ? I thought the credit cards expected me to repay.
"You can always expense it sir. I'll give you a bill". Ah, this guy'd got it all worked out.
"And, if you don't like it sir, if my recommendation is wrong, you can return it when you come next. But let me tell you sir, thats never happened.".

The boarding announcement blared at just that opportune moment. I was stuck. Much as I could do the "Sorry fella. Will buy next time. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a plane to catch" routine, I was impressed by a person recommending a book at such a godforsaken hour. I've been to millions of bookstores, countless times I've wanted to desperately buy a book but never found one to my liking, and nearly so many times I've wished someone would help me out of the choices at hand; someone who would understand what I want and recommend me something good. (Well, atleast this guy pretended he understood what I wanted, thats a step)

And so culminated the tale of the purchase of the costliest book I've ever bought. Whether the book and the buyer lived happily ever after is a story for another blogpost altogether.
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