Thursday, August 03, 2006

A Different Charm
Chennai or Madras, I prefer the latter so I will stick to it, is a city of contradictions, like most Indian cities. On one side you have elite five-star hotels where the rich and famous wine and dine, and on the other you have the road side "thattukadas," dishing their fare to the poor man. We have super structures made of steel and glass harbouring international software companies and we also have small two room sheds in industrial estates making spare parts for machines. The point I am trying to make there is something or the other for everyone according to their tastes and budget.

Madras is a treasure-trove for book lovers like me. The footpath on Pycrofts Road off Marina Beach and the Lily Pond Complex at Moore Market near the Central Railway Station are good places to hunt for rare and used books. Then we have our own legend, Luz Thata an old man who has been selling books for more than fifty years at Luz, near Mylapore, opposite the Kamadhenu Theatre.

There is a strange charm that second-hand book shops exude, the dark rooms with shelves full of books on various topics in different languages, and the smell of old paper and bound leather. One gets transported in time when we leaf through some old novel belonging to a Raju or a Rita dated January12, 1964 or April 2, 1974. We wonder what the original owner might be doing now or the occassion when he or she would have received the book.

Unfortunately the second-book shops are dying out because of the competetive discounts offered by big shops. Another alarming fact as narrated by Chandran a book-seller is-" People have no time to read good fiction, everyone is busy preparing for competetive exams and studying engineering, computers or medicine. Few people come to us asking for old novels. All people ask for is Harry Potter, Sidney Sheldon and Da Vinci Code."

This has led to the rise in book piracy. Now even these sellers have to stock copies of pirated books which are sold at a third of the price of the original to survive. I personally feel that book piracy is less harmful than video piracy. Atleast people will be reading something and gain some information and may actually be tempted to read the works of masters like Dickens or Verne.

So if you guys are in Chennai, you now know where to get a good bargain on your books.

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