Post No. 2 of 3
Ever since I finished reading Arun Joshi’s ‘The Foriegner’ an overwhelming desire to read all his other books like ‘The Strange Case of Billy Biswas’ ‘The Apprentice’, ‘The City and the River’ and ‘The Survivor’, has taken root in my mind. But I cannot hope to read them until I find them. I learnt that his books are hard to find since they are out of print. There seemed to be no hope of getting these titles anywhere except physically look for them in bookstores. I know of only one bookstore where I might be lucky and find Arun Joshi’s books and that book store is the Best Books Centre at Lakdikapul. I have been there several times and have seen many titles by Indian writers so I had a hunch maybe there might be a title by Arun Joshi that I had missed earlier because I did not know he was such a good writer.
Last Wednesday was a holiday on account of ‘Holi’ and so I had a full day to look all over the store for Arun Joshi’s books. I know there are a couple of shelves on the first floor of Best Book Center store in Lakdikapul which are filled with hard to find titles by the first generation of Indian writers like Kantha Rao, Anita Desai, KA Abbas, Manohar Malgonkar, Mulk Raj Anand, Kamala Markandeya and so on. On Tuesday morning I rushed to the store full of hope and started the search. I did not go straight to the shelves upstairs but began from the shelves on the ground floor. Though I was eager to rush upstairs I restrained myself and made my way through all the titles on display on the shelves on the ground floor. I saw a copy of Pankaj Mishra’s ‘The Romantics’, William Zinsser’s ‘On Writing Well’ and other titles I might have picked up on another day. After half hour’s futile search I climbed up the winding staircase to the first floor.
Earlier too I had said that when it came to books I was damn lucky. I am not wrong because soon after I rifled through the titles on the book shelf I spotted ‘The Last Labyrinth’! I was overjoyed at finding another Arun Joshi title and the joy was doubled when I saw the price on the sticker- Rs. 50 only. It was a good copy and I was pretty pleased with myself for following my hunch.
That wasn’t all. I saw three new Spenser titles- ‘Now and Then,’ ‘A Catskill Eagle,’ and ‘Early Autumn’ by Robert B. Parker. I couldn’t resist buying them and so bought all three titles though they did not come cheap.
Friday was again a holiday due to Good Friday. I somehow felt that I had not looked properly in the shelves at Best Book Centre on Tuesday and wanted to look again. Since I did not have anything else to do on Friday I once again set off to Lakdikapul. I wasn’t really expecting to find another Arun Joshi title but then that was what happened. I discovered a copy of ‘The Strange Case of Billy Biswas’ at the bottom of a tall stack in a corner of one of the shelf that I had looked at only a day before. I was puzzled how I could have missed since I had looked carefully at each and every title. On Tuesday while paying for ‘The Last Labyrinth’ I had told the person at the counter that I was looking for titles by Arun Joshi and had requested him to keep them aside if he happens to find them. Maybe he had found another title and kept in the bookshelf. But whatever, I am terribly glad at finding the book that fetched Arun Joshi the Sahitya Akademi award and which Aditya Sudershan in his article in TLR termed as ‘…’. This title too came cheap, though not as cheap as ‘The Last Labyrinth’ but at Rs 95 it was cheap enough considering how difficult it is to find these books. I could have paid a couple of hundred rupees for the book but I got it for under hundred rupees.
As I bounded down the stairs with the copy of ‘The Strange Case of Billy Biswas’ in my hand I couldn’t help feeling a wee bit disappointed. I wished I had found ‘The Apprentice’ also because I want to read it before anything else. I have a feeling that I will find it very soon and until then I have the two titles to read.