Evening traffic. Just left the Hindustan Times building on Kasturba Gandhi Marg. In an auto. Motion blur. LIC building, Regal Cinema, Shivaji Stadium… “O driver bhayya, jaldi karo!” Chelmsford Road, New Delhi Railway Station, Paharganj. Walking jaldi-jaldi through the Main Bazaar crowd. Wow, that foreign babe is cool. But no time to check her out.
What if I’m late? What if that Khaled Hosseini is already sold?
Two days ago Paharganj, Taqir Bhai’s second-hand bookshop, located near German Bakery. Checking out the books. An American paperback of Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns. This man had written The Kite Runner, the 2003 bestselling trash.
On the novel’s cover — a chadar-cloaked woman looks down into the Kabul lights from atop a cliff. I have to get A Thousand Splendid Suns.
Me: Taqir Bhai, how much?
Taqir Bhai: (turning the book, checking it out, and again turning it) R300.
Me: Some justice this! I’m a regular, Bhaijaan.
Taqir Bhai: That’s why. You don’t get second hand of this novel. I would charge R500 from a gora.
Me: I’m brown.
Taqir Bhai: Pick anything else and I’ll give discount.
Me: So, this is final? (Taqir Bhai turns away)
Me: Ok, I’ll never come to your shop again. I leave, expecting Taqir Bhai to call me back for the bargain. He doesn’t.
One day ago
Monologue while on the pot: To buy, or not to buy, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler to ignore this bestseller because it is a ‘bestseller’ or just buy it. But to go to Taqir Bhai after swearing never to return?
Exchanging sms-es with a friend from Mumbai while sipping coffee in Khan Market’s Market Cafe.
Me: I saw Khaled Hosseini. Very handsome. Should I buy that book?
Friend: Books? Always buy.
Back to Present
I’m walking. Fast, and then faster to Taqir Bhai’s bookshop. He pretends not to have seen me.
Inside: So many authors stacked up. Eric Newby. Jean Paul Sarte. Salman Rushdie. Margaret Atwood. Vikram Seth. JK Rowling… Hosseini!
Me: Final price?
Taqir Bhai: R300
Me: God! Why are you doing this? You know, you humiliated me last time. I had sworn never to return, but I’m back. I’ve sacrificed my ego for this book.
Taqir Bhai: Bhai, please understand. (He hugs me.) Pick any other novel and I’ll give it for free.
Me: Here is your money. I give R300. Taqir Bhai gives me A Thousand Splendid Suns. We hug. Another day ends in Delhi.