K and I stroll through
There was hardly much space for the customers to move around. Yet how we loved to worm around among the disorderly kept stacks of books! Mr Shanbagh must have been in his mid-fifties in those days; he sat quietly near the entrance. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word and knew about or had read most of his wares. Often when Mr Shanbagh was free, I would discuss a new arrival with him. Those were the days prior to internet. Mr Shanbagh knew my interests and during the conversation he would suddenly perk up and say, ‘Ah! I would like you to take a look at this’ and pull out a book or two. At other times, I would read the blurb and ask his opinion. He would look thoughtfully away for a mite and would say – ‘Um- I don’t think you will like it’. Once, after spending more than an hour, I was disappointed to find anything that I liked; I told Mr Shanbagh so. He nodded sympathetically and said, ‘Don’t worry, it will come to you at the right time’. I accidentally leant on a revolving bookcase and a book fell down (See the picture! The bookcase!). I said sorry and picked it up – it was a book on environment that I had long cherished!
Premier is no more. I don’t know where Mr Shanbagh is now, whether he is still around or not. There was a post on him long ago in The Hindu. My frequency of
At home, when I go through my library and pick a book at random, I see the legend beneath my scrawling signature – Premier,
For me, heaven wasn’t far off.
*********** Balachandran V,
Post Script ; Just before posting this, I googled Premier and came across this great blog http://isharethese.blogspot.com/2009/08/premier-book-shop.html. I have borrowed her photograph of Mr.Shanbagh. It was so wonderful to come across this blog and to discover kindred souls! Do visit the blog if you wish to know more about Premier. Thanks, Indrani!