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Seven cardinal rules for bibliophiles

If you are a bibliphile, here are some important tips for your hobby that you must not forget, says Jerry Pinto.

books Updated: May 29, 2007 15:55 IST

Of course, you can head to Landmark, where everyone now goes. Or go to Strand, catch Jagat's eye and make sure he gets the book you want.

Or you can get your hands grubby and find a treasure on the streets of the city. After all, the Heras museum beaks will tell you that the oldest book in their collection was found on the streets...

Don't go where everyone tells you to go
Bibliomanes are notoriously nasty people. They will not actually tell you where the good books are. You must find out for yourself.

Go where the books are
Stop your rickshaw when you see a raddiwalla with a pile of books leaning precariously out of his thela. Stop your cab when you see a pile of books on a cart.

Stop when you see a circulating library. There are more places in the world than the street near the University library, Matunga circle, Smoker's Corner on P M Road and the New and Secondhand Book Stall in Dhobi Talao.

Don't fixate
You will not find the book you want. Do not go out with a list unless it is a list that has Robert Ludlum and John Grisham on it. Go out and see what books are available and see what you think you might like to read.

Bargain hard
But not too hard. When the chap behind the counter says that he wants Rs 100 for a book, your first thought should be, "I would have been paying Rs 500 for this at a bookstore."

Then you should think about how much you want to pay and how much the book is going to enrich your life.

If you need access, buy something
The raddiwalla looks fat and uninviting. Maybe he's had a bad day; maybe his wife has run away with the grocer.
The best way to cheer him up is to buy something, a magazine for Rs 10, say, to ease your way into the interior of his shop.

Ask about exchanges
Many raddiwallas are willing to let you take a book for a test run.
This means you can take a book, read it and return it if you don't think it's a keeper or something you will return to. They'll squiggle some hieroglyphics on the back pages of the book and you get to read and return.

Send other people
Raddiwallas will keep what sells. There are some who will only keep knitting pattern books and recipe books. Others keep porn (for guys who don't have access to the internet) and dishoom-dishoom books.

Your raddiwalla will start looking around for literature and poetry or whatever it is that rings your bells, if he knows he has someone who will buy it.

How does the semi-literate Rajasthani or Gujarati know literature from pulp?

Trust me, he knows. He'll figure it out. And yes, this means not being nasty and beating the bibliomaniacs at their own game.

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