Book Fair is a crazy place to be in. Half of the crowd is too busy buying books while the other half is clueless about it's presence there! I was searching for The Secret. I had seen it a couple of times on the internet, but i wanted to keep a copy for myself. Oh, going to a book fair with almost nothing in your wallet, takes a hell lot of courage. But saving my sanity, I entered a bookstore. Ronald Dahl...Chicken Soup..India and Partition.. Kids section.. Durjoy Datta Section!...on on on... Ah! Kamasutra, New Edition..Kamasutra Revised edition...Kama-the sutra.Kaam-Sutra..Aam Sutra.. Why Sex is not Dirty...I move on... Nora Roberts.. Gandhi..Vivekananda..Bhagat Singh..Marxism in India.. What to do when you are Pregnant.. Child-rearing.. The Secret.. Oh, I finally got hold of the book in a crowd of over a million titles all scattered in no particular order!
I stand there, taking a moment of pride in having being successful in finding the book. And I almost patted my own back! Just then a quirky man, almost went past me, pushing me backwards. I jolted, unbalanced myself and held on to that shelf to keep from falling. Cursing under my breath, I looked around as if, all of a sudden, conscious of my own presence. Thankfully, no one was looking!
I saw a board with 25% discount on all books, written on it. Relief spread over my face, maybe now I could buy that book! I turned over the book to see its price. And in a jiffy, my mind acted like a calculator, with numbers jumping into my imagination, flying all across randomly. About 500 INR. Nope, still not my cup of tea!
I take a deep sigh and with my back, now hunched, I move towards the exit.
And my eyes fall on her. This woman, must be aged between 45-50 years. She looked like a typical Indian married woman of her age, a family-woman. She must have a son and a daughter, a loving husband who might have had out the white chameli garland onto her curly hair which was knotted into a bun. My eyes followed her gaze and stunted at its end She was looking at the Kamasutra-revised edition with the eyes, that of a child. Excitement, bewilderment? I couldn't tell. Just to state it in the simplest of fashion, I have never seen a woman look at such books with such interest!
She looked around, as I pretended to check some other books. Then she slyly picked up the book, and saw the end-cover page for the price. Her eyes then stopped at the same board, that hung loosely at one end of the bookshop. And to my amazement, she too, dwelled into her thoughts to calculate the price. I let out a giggle, unable to handle the awkwardness. But I couldn't go away. I had to know. Would she? Would she buy the book? Would she be embarrassed?
Too many questions spun in my mind and she at a painfully slow gesture, placed her palm in the centre of the book. The cover page had a man's hand over a woman's lower back and her palm almost draped the entire picture, leaving the waist denuded.
She closed her eyes, and smiled. That smile, was like the one, that comes when you achieve something blissful.Like a warrior had conquered, or I would have had after solving a maths problem! She stood there, with closed eyes, uncanny about the world stomping around her. And I stood at the other end, watching her live that moment, enjoying it with her. A smile rested calmly on my lips too.
A minute or two passed by. She finally opened her eyes. The smile had vanished. Her eyes, now empty of emotions scrolled at the book, one last time. Then she placed the book back on the shelf. And turned away. Yes, she turned away to another section, not turning around even once. She had disowned that happiness, that momentary pleasure as if it never existed. My mind told me to forget her and move on. I hate to visit many more stalls. But she had an enigma. Why did she let herself down? She could have bought the book- that made her so happy.
I felt hotness arising in my cheeks, as I wanted to help that woman. I even moved forward, when I retrieved my steps. She was at the kid's section. She wasn't morose. She was laughing, much more loudly than she had, just minutes back.
I stared at her, puzzled. Then I saw her son, about 10-12 year old, tugging at her Saree, to buy a book.He rounded her in circles, in an attempt to convince her and buy that book. Jungle Book-revised edition, it read. And she, was laughing at the pandemonium her little fellow was creating. She picked up the book, turned it over to the end-cover page. She bit her lip, looked at her son and declared, Lets take this!
The kid hopped in pleasure and followed his mother into the billing section. I moved on, loafering in the stalls, and ended up buying some boring history-related books and clicking pictures of some horrid "fiction" books. Perhaps I won't see her again. In fact, I might not even recognise her, even if we do. But those eyes, and that smile. There are definitely same things, that Money can never buy. Some pleasures that we sacrifice, some moments that make up for years of grievances..