Sunday, March 1, 2009

Death of a Bookman

More than any other sale, I would always wait for the annual Strand book sale to begin. And when Strand's news letter announcing their sale would arrive in my inbox I would immediately make calls to find a partner to give me company. I would curse the Crossword sales mainly because what they offer in their 10 day sale is what you get at Strand all year around. Majority of my books in my book collection came from Strand. So it was indeed sad when I read that the owner Mr. T.N. Shanbhag had passed away.

The first time I came across the man was at Strand's annual sale at Sunderbai Hall in 2004. Incidentally that was the first time I had gone for their sale. As I was exiting, Mr. Shanbhag in his suit (clearly he was dressed for the occassion) gave me a polite smile and a mini bow. I smiled back not knowing who he was but I had the feeling he might have been the owner. I was very happy with what I had purchased and I felt that he could see my joy. There seemed to be a sense of satisfacton on his face. Here is a man who offers a minimum 20% discount of every book at any time of the year. Now in this high revenue/ profit seeking world seeing someone do such a service for over 50 years is astounding. You can't help but connect with this man.

I still remember my first purchase from Strand. Their sale was on and I purchsed two books with the money I made editing student films. The first one was Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema by Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen and the other one was So Many Cinemas by B.D. Garga. The latter (also one of my favourite books) originally cost Rs. 1800 but Strand offered it for a sinful Rs. 595. Wow!! I had read the book in Wilson College's reference library and wanted a copy of my own but found it a little too costly back then. In this year's sale it cost Rs. 500. Talking about a great bargain. These books are still part of my priceless collection.

It is sad that newspapers donated only a small corner of their sheets to announce his passing away while the Khans and Kapoors and even Sawants get a full page coverage over a stretch mark.

Not knowing much about Mr. Shanbag personally, I felt this posting was kind of incomplete. So am posting a couple of links which might give you more idea of the man and his contribuion towards society in his own Strand way.

My dad had mentioned Shanbhag to me once and he was proud of the fact that he was a Mangalorian just like us. I don't know the name but I know the person who is always so involved in the sales (the thin uncle with glasses, polite smile and a soft voice) will continue Mr. Shanbhag's legacy.

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