I was idly rummaging through my collection of books and came across this one. Bound in a buff cover, pages yellowing, the book had a small legend written by my hand. 25/2/77 H.A.L. airport and the scrawled signature of yours truly. It brought back memories of those years. The airport was small and served few domestic flights. Those going abroad had to go to Bombay [oops sorry Mumbai] and take an international flight from there. The road to the airport was a narrow lane with hardly space for two vehicles to pass each other. Vehicles were few and the ride to the airport was hassle free. I rode my motorcycle and would reach the airport in ten minutes. What surprised me was that I had bought that book and that too from the airport bookstall paying obviously much more than in the town’s book stores. Normally my buying was from the second hand book store located off MG road called Rao’s. Mr Rao specialized in second hand books and enjoyed his trade. He had few stools placed outside his tiny store over flowing with books for not too well off customers like me to sit and browse.
The book’s name is Hollow and late Dame Agatha Christie the author. I read the book once again. Set in the post war England where one still suffered [or enjoyed] class distinctions, in the rural countryside, it made good reading. Agatha usually kills her victims with poison but here the murder weapon was a revolver. The story meanders to an unexpected conclusion in typically Agatha way. What was interesting is that after 30 years I could still read it and enjoy doing so. I cannot say the same with some authors whom I greatly admired in the yester years. One such is A.J. Cronin. I read one of his novels and found it too artificial. Whereas, his book of stories relating to Drs Finlay and Cameron remains an all-time favorite. There was a crime writer called Earl Stanly Gardener whose books I avidly read and now I wonder how I could do so. Works of others like P.G. Wodehouse, P.D.James, John Mortimer [Rumpole stories] can be read over and over again without the loss of pleasure.
40 years ago, in the beginning years of my practice, I had oceans of time and one way of spending time in the clinic was reading and those days there were lot of way side book shops in the Cantonment area and near Majestic circle. Commuting was easy unlike now and I would be a regular visitor to these shops. It was quite entertaining in a way especially visiting Rao’s. Old man Rao passed away some twenty odd years ago and now his son [Murthy?] manages the book shop located some distance away with equal enthusiasm. Then there was Premier Book shop run by Mr. Shanbhag who ended up becoming my friend and about whom I have written earlier in these columns. In the last five years there is another bookshop called blossoms that has come up in Church street which too specializes in old books but the owners are not knowledgeable like Rao and Shanbhag who knew exactly what I would be looking for and would put ten books in front of me to choose from.
I miss them