The Old Book Shop!
Prof Rajan Kapoor
While taking a ride on my bike in my home town, I sped past the old book shop outside Hall gate, Amritsar. Past memories, immediately, flashed through my mind; I applied brakes and parked my bike in front of the shop. I, then, walked down to the shop to capture the throwback days.
When I was pursuing my graduation, I would pay regular visits to the shop. As my college was at a stone’s throw distance from the shop, I would sometimes go to the book shop in my free lecture. I would compulsorily go to the book shop in the first week of the every month. As my father got his salary in the first week of the month, I would get pocket money besides some ‘extra’ amount to buy books from the old book shop.
My father would never discourage me to buy books. On the contrary, he always supported my hobby. He would, therefore, happily pay ‘book tax’. I was introduced to the old book shop by my mentors, Prof NK Oberoi and Prof SP Arora.
Both advised me against confining my reading habits to the books prescribed in the syllabus. They pushed me to the world of good books, which were never a part of the university curriculum. The first magazine that I bought from the old book shop was Reader’s Digest.
The shop dealt in second hand quality books and magazines. A whole spectrum of books ranging from medical science to literature were normally found in the shop. Books were kept in heaps outside the shop. It seemed to be a ‘ploy’ to attract the book lovers. The hustle and bustle of the city would often attract biblophiles to the shop and the piles of books placed outside the shop would serve as bait.
A miniscule group of book lovers were often found jostling with one another on the narrow but pucca floor outside the shop where piles of old books were kept in an order. The shop was popular with teachers and students who were pursuing career in medical profession. They would come to look for books that could add and aid to the contents of their syllabus. I would buy books as per my paying capacity.
When I had some extra money in my pocket, I would then buy ‘An Illustrated Weekly’ – a magazine edited by noted writer S. Khushwant Singh. I still remembered how a book on ‘Modern History ‘ authored by a foreign writer that I bought from the shop won me the accolades of my teacher of history.
I wrote my answers in the in house exams, based on the contents of the book. This differentiated me from my class mates and helped me win the first prize in the subject of history.
This further emboldened me to pay more and more visits to the shop with an intention to buy good books to stay ahead in academics. The shopkeeper would too become friendly with me and started giving me discount on every book that I purchased. He would often say that those who befriended books would never need a friend in life.
Whatever position I hold today, the credit for it goes to the old book shop. Alas, the shop is now on the verge of closure. Technology has ‘imprisoned’ books in a small buzzing box!
(The author teaches at the KRM DAV College Nakodar)