April 21, 2015
“I’ll see you in the evening,” he said and shut the front door behind him. Staring at nothing, she bit her nail as their Porsche left the front porch with a roar and screech.
Mukta Subramanian Chopra had just moved to Delhi from her hometown, Tanjore. Like most small town girls, she had been excited to move to a metro, though after a point she got home sick. There was something about small towns that bigger cities could never emulate. Metro cities were a rat race; people chased something or the other and forgot to live their present lives. Where Mukta came from, things were different. There, people lived for the day.
Mukta, just like her name, was a free spirit. She never let social norms confine her or family traditions bind her. That’s why she never understood why falling in love with Gaurav Chopra was ‘wrong’. “Aanal avan non veg saapiduvaan, Mukku!”(But he eats non veg, Mukku!) her grandmother had said when she had broken the news to her family. Mukta just didn’t get it. She was a believer in humanity and felt that cultural differences were manmade. She was sure that as rational beings, it was possible to have one’s differences and yet co-exist. After a lot of drama, both families had agreed and Mukta had finally welcomed her ‘2 States’ (Bollywood movie where the protagonists are a Delhi boy who marries a Tamil girl) moment with a smile. Yes, she was a die-hard Bollywood fan, and could draw parallels between the silver screen and practically every experience of her life.
The door bell intruded her thoughts. She found the daily newspaper on the doormat and as she picked it up, a voucher slid out. It offered all subscribers of the Delhi Daily a book worth Rs 300, free of cost from the newly opened local bookstore. Mukta was thrilled. She had a huge collection of books from the various stores and libraries in Delhi and Tanjore. She was adamant about shipping her mini library to their new home. Gaurav thought she was crazy but books, just like pets were meant to be loved for a lifetime; at least that’s what she thought.
After a mundane but quick round of cooking and cleaning, Mukta headed to The Bookcase at Sector 14. It was love at first sight. The Bookcase was a small, creative space tucked in one corner of a busy street. There were multiple shelves with books neatly stacked in rows, according to their genres – fiction, non-fiction, desi bestsellers, international bestsellers, poetry, self-help, spirituality, cooking and food, music, sports, magazines, newspapers…there was something for everyone.
At the cash counter was a small stand with the most awesome collection of bookmarks she had ever seen. Mukta loved collecting bookmarks, though she hardly used them; she dog-eared pages. But then again, not everything had to be done for a reason and so, she collected them. Mukta didn’t end up reading most of the books she bought either. However, the whole process of running her fingers across the spines of neatly shelved paperbacks gave her a high; occasionally opening one and smelling the pages was ecstasy. Though most book lovers pick books by genre and then go through the summaries or reviews printed on the books’ jackets, Mukta allowed her inner voice to guide her. She could never put a finger on it, but there was a feeling that stirred up within her when she was near a book that she was meant to read, when she was close to fictional characters she was destined to meet. It was as if the butterfly mafia had raided her stomach and a certain breathlessness she couldn’t help but feel took over.
Mukta stood still and took a deep breath. She observed the many booklovers sitting on colourful beanbags, sucked into their own world. A fair, bearded guy with a golden clip-like thing holding his long, black beard together sat on a red beanbag. He seemed to be interested in what Rolling Stones had to say about the much-awaited Tomorrowland music fest. He flipped the magazine’s pages with his forehead furrowed which made his thick framed glasses slide down his big, and oily nose. A lady who seemed to be in her early 30s skimmed through the glossy pages of Vogue India. At one point, she stopped to stare at a steamy picture of Sonam Kapoor (Bollywood actress) pouting her lips and ruffling her hair. Perhaps, she wished she looked like her. After all, going through luxury-fashion magazines and ogling at anorexic, semi-clad models, while feeling like the ugliest woman alive is common among teenage girls and young women. A college student sat on the floor reading what Mukta believed was one of her favourites from last year, 'I Am Malala'. Mukta was a feminist; she believed women and men were entitled to equal rights. Though, she never understood the logic behind trashing men, something her male friends admired about her.
“May I help you, ma’am?” asked one of the sales men and Mukta smiled. He was young, must have been a student, no more than 19, paying his way through college, perhaps.
“No,” she replied. She could already feel the lonely corner at the left of the bookstore beckon to her and she helplessly followed that inner voice.
To be continued…
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