If you take a walk around a bookstore like Crossword, you will see something horribly wrong. Children will be fiddling around with toys, a bunch of people will be gawking at the latest movies and music, and another lot will be lounging at the cofee bar. All the books are stacked in neatly arranged shelves, with shining glossy covers, with the bestsellers right at the front. The staff have no clue about the books, cannot reccomend a single title, and even have trouble directing you to the right section.
There are sacrosanct havens for biblophiles. A particular street or a particular shop. None more so than Strand. A long journey from home for a boy in his first decade of life, ended in a small, dusty and cramped shop near what was then Victoria Terminus. I picked out whatever I liked, and I could afford everything that my heart desired. Hunting amongst all the stacks, I was engrossed for a good portion of two hours. My father, who had come with me, was also equally engrossed. The clerk comes along, and tells me there is another section of the shop above - that's where all the children's books were.
I have visited the shop many times, but this was my first visit, and the most memorable one. It was the visit when I first met Mr. Shanbhag, and he left a lasting impression on me. He looked at everything I had picked up, and asked one of his staff to get a volume. It was a beautiful book in a velvet casing with pages edged with gold, and the letters printed in gold too. It was a book of M. K. Ghandhi's thoughts and sayings, and is one of my most prized posessions even now.