Friday, May 01, 2015

The Haul at Goa

Last Thursday until I read the papers in the evening I did not realize it was World Book Day. Normally reading the papers is the first thing I do in the morning like many others. But if you are holidaying in Goa then it becomes the last thing one does before going to bed. I realized it was quite a coincidence that earlier in the day I had picked up eight books in the second hand sections of two of Goa’s bookstores. Adding another two titles that I picked up in another store the next day the total haul of books I made at Goa was a jaw-dropping and wallet-emptying ten books. It was the highlight of my four day Goa trip bringing back two titles of poetry, three titles of fiction, three non-fiction titles, one short story collection and one travel title.
On my last trip to Goa sometime in 2013, I had managed to find a couple of second hand books at Broadway located in Candolim where we had stayed. On this trip too we were in Candolim so Broadway was my first target. I went straight to the second hand books section where the walls were lined with shelves crammed with hundreds of titles. There were shelves with books for 100 rupees and some shelves with books for fifty rupees. Without wasting time I began with the 100 rupee shelves. I scanned the rows and rows of titles eagerly expecting to find something interesting. My first find was ‘Love and Summer’ by William Trevor. I do not remember where I first read about William Trevor but after I read his ‘Felicia’s Journey’ that I found somewhere I realized he was a writer one wouldn’t want to miss reading.
The next find was ‘Where I Was From’ by Joan Didion about whom I do not have to say anything more other than that it would be a dumb guy who wouldn’t pick a Didion title after reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem, White Album, The Year of Magical Thinking etc all of which I have and read a few times already. I want to begin reading ‘Where I Was From’ as soon as I find the time. That this title was in the hundred rupee shelf came as a pleasant surprise.
In another hundred rupee shelf I saw ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ by Friedrich Nietzsche which was a Penguin title. I took a long time to decide whether to buy it or not. I have read titles in all genres-poetry, crime fiction, autobiography, even self-help, writing, but I haven’t had the courage to pick up a title of Philosophy. I am not someone with enough brains to grasp what all these philosophers have to say about life, death, suffering, and such depressing subjects. However, I thought it was a title I wouldn’t find anywhere again and after resolving to read this book one page a day I bought it.
I thought I’d find at least a couple of titles in the fifty rupee shelves but unfortunately I was able to find only one title good enough to buy. When I saw the title of the next book I found I felt one book was enough. It was another William Trevor title, this time a collection of short stories. It was ‘The News from Ireland’ which has the following twelve stories: The News from Ireland, On the Zattere, Lunch in Winter, The Property of Colette Nervi, Running Away, Cocktails at Doney’s, Bodily Secrets, Virgins, Her Mother’s Daughter, Music, Two More Gallants, The Wedding in the Garden. Incidentally, on my recent trip which was to Bengaluru, I had found ‘Elizabeth Alone’ by William Trevor. With these two Trevor titles that I found at Goa my collection of William Trevor titles goes up to six.

Feeling very upbeat about this haul of four books at Broadway I was able to find out where Literati was located. Before coming to Goa I had googled for second hand bookstores in Goa and learnt about Broadway, and Literati in Candolim, and Lotus Eaters in Anjuna. Literati was quite close by. I was able to locate it easily enough and after checking out the second hand book collection which was displayed in a small room I decided to return and look closely after having lunch. It is never a good idea to take along someone who doesn’t read books to a bookstore especially if you are on a vacation. So I had lunch with my friend, dropped him in the hotel to sleep off the heavy lunch, and returned to Literati.

‘Literati’ is part of a quaint house in the middle of a vast compound filled with greenery. It was unlike any bookstore that I had visited so far. I did not bother much about the new books section that filled an entire room that was quite large with sofas laid around a table in the middle. One could perhaps sit on the sofas and browse the books one intends to buy. It had the atmosphere of a cozy, homely bookstore and I loved it the moment I stepped inside.
In an adjoining room that was smaller there were scores of books, small and large, almost brand new to tattered volumes that looked like they were printed sometime in the 1900s. At first glance it looked like I wouldn’t find anything interesting. As usual, I was wrong. I do not know why but of late I have learnt not to let go of any collection of poetry I come across, especially if it is by an Indian poet belonging to an earlier generation. Limited though my knowledge is I think the 60’s and 70’s was the time when the best poetry was created in the country by the likes of Jayanta Mahapatra, Nissim Ezekiel, Adil Jussawala, Gieve Patel, and others. So when I saw this unusually sized copy of ‘The False Start’ by Jayanta Mahapatra I knew I had to buy it at any price. I was shocked when I learnt its price but more about the prices later.
The cover of ‘The False Start’ looked old, faded, with light stains on it, and the inside pages too had faded to a creamy yellow and if one was dumb then he would have found it appealing and tossed it aside. However, I decided to buy it especially after I read one of the poems titled ‘Poem for Angela Elston’ that was haunting. In all this collection had more than forty poems. To my luck, immediately below this volume was another collection of poems with a striking cover with a sun on it. This turned out to be ‘A Summer of Tigers’ by Keki N Daruwalla.
After I found these two collections of poetry I realized that this was a treasure trove that would yield more gems if I looked carefully. Sure enough I found another little gem. Even before I could look at the bright red cover I knew it was ‘Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader’ by Anne Fadiman. I knew it because I have a copy at home that occupies the pride of place on a shelf that not many get to see because the bookshelf in my bedroom. I had found this copy at Best Books in Hyderabad, a few years ago for just seventy five rupees. This find created an unusual excitement in me and I scanned the books eagerly like a greedy person looking for treasure. I spotted ‘Venice’ by Jan Morris, and added it to my pile of books that I managed to find at Literati.
On the wall was pasted a paper which was a sort of notice that said that all paperbacks in the second hand book section were uniformly priced at fifty rupees and all hardcovers were priced at 150 rupees. It meant that I had to pay only fifty rupees for the Anne Fadiman and Jan Morris title. It was a bargain. When it came to the Keki Daruwalla title which was a hardback the nice girl at the counter told the guy doing the billing to bring down the price to 100 first and then to seventy five. I was surprised and I hadn’t even told them I was from Hyderabad. When they said the Jayanta Mahapatra was mine for only ten rupees I realized why the Goans were such wonderful people. I do not think one could find ‘The False Start’ by Jayanta Mahapatra who is one of the greatest names in Indian English poetry, anywhere which makes it a rare book. I was so pleased with this find and the price at which I got all four books that I nominate ‘Literati’ in Goa as one of the best bookstores in the country. However, I learnt that The Lotus Eaters at Anjuna was supposed to have closed down so I did not bother to check it out.

Later in the evening I dropped in at ‘The Gift House’ which had a couple of bookshelves of used books. I found Rose Tremain’s ‘The Swimming Pool Season’ and Jonathan Coe’s ‘The Rain Before It Falls’ both which I got for hundred rupees each. Adding these two titles the total haul I made at Goa was a jaw dropping ten books. It was the highlight of my four-day trip to Goa.

1 comment:

Arundhati Nath said...

It was nice to read about your 'greedy' book hunt at Goa! Being a newbie writer, I must follow your passion for reading.