Friday, April 15, 2016

A Midweek Haul

One of the major second hand book store in Hyderabad is the Unique Book Centre now located opposite the Saifabad police station in Lakdi-ka-pul. About three years ago this store was shifted to the present location. Earlier the store functioned from a half a dozen musty smelling rooms in a dilapidated building in Nampally. I’ve bought quite a number of good books from this seller during my occasional visits to this store. One of the good books I found here was a nice copy of ‘From Here to Eternity’ by James Jones that I picked up sometime last year.

One idle afternoon, a long, long time back I dropped in at the Unique Book Store at Nampally, going from room to room in which were stacked hundreds of titles. In the middle of one room dozens of books, quite ancient from their lack of appearance and appearance were piled on a table. It was here that I first saw a copy of ‘A Hundred Encounters’ by Sham Lal. It was quite a thick, hardcover volume sans jacket with a faded black cover giving it an unappealing look. I wasn’t aware of Sham Lal and though I had a feeling that maybe it could be a title worth buying the black cover and the price of three hundred rupees pencilled in on the front page put me off. But I kept seeing this book every time I visited the store.

However for some time I couldn’t see this book and also forgot about it when the store shifted to its present location in Lakdi-ka-pul. Sometime last month I had dropped in and was quite surprised to see this title again. It was the same volume with the faded black cover and I noticed there was a tear at the bottom of the spine. It appeared to be one of those volumes no one seems to be interested in buying. I felt a bit sad that some books do not finders for years. I too wasn’t interested in buying it even after I took it out and checked the contents. I saw that there were was an entire section devoted to essays on famous poets, playwrights, and novelists. I counted forty two pieces in that section, that is almost half of the hundred articles in the book. Somehow I did not feel it was worth buying it at the price of three hundred rupees so I returned empty handed.

Sometime in February I was at Akshara with my friend. It was my birthday and Hari asked me to choose a book as a gift from me. I chose ‘The Girl Who Ate Books’ by Nilanjana Roy that I had been planning to buy. I had started reading this wonderful book and day before yesterday I was reading about Sham Lal and ‘A Hundred Encounters’ that was also mentioned in the essay on Sham Lal. After reading it I realized how dumb I had been not to have bought it earlier when I saw it. I was filled with an urgent desire to rush to Unique Book Store and buy it right away if I could find it. Luckily the book store isn’t far away from the Secretariat where I work and I rushed there after office.

Last week or so I had read a small item in some newspaper about a sale of books at Unique. I wondered if I would be able to find ‘A Hundred Encounters’ and fervently hoped no one would have bought it. I was relieved when I saw the book that was stacked on a table with the spine facing up. But it did not come cheap. I had to shell out two hundred and seventy rupees for it and I hope it is worth it.

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