Books and more..
It is a bibliophiles’ version of Utopia. Books are everywhere—stacked neatly on the floor, balanced on the tables, tumbling out of shelves. The scent of new gum and old paper mingles with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee that is being handed around by a very enthusiastic young man.
“Have coffee,” says Krishna Gowda, the owner of Bookworm, gesticulating towards the thick, brown mugs being borne on a plastic tray by his assistant. I pick up a mug and sip, while he continues to weave through the shelves offering the brew to other browsers in the shop.
“I have a lot of old, loyal customers,” explains Krishna. “We source books from all over India, personally selecting each and every one of them.”
Krishna has come a long way from the little village in Mysore that he grew up in. “When I first came to Bangalore, I sold books on the pavement in the morning and went to college in the evening,” he says. “I always read a lot of Kannada literature and during those three years I spent on the pavement I gained a lot of knowledge of English books as well.”
Soon after he graduated, he put to use the knowledge he had gleaned by starting his own enterprise on MG Road, close to Shringar complex where his shop in now located. “When I started in 2000, there were very few shops for used books in the city.” he says. He now has three shops in the city, one specializing exclusively in children’s books. All his stores not only have second-hand books but also sell new books at a 10 per cent discount.
There is a diversion just then. A young woman in bright red jeans walks up to him and holding up a book asks, “Is this good? What is it about?” He looks carefully at the book in question—Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. “Oh this is a very good book,” he says, “It is about a poor agricultural family in America,” he says “It is a sad story though”, he cautions her.
She smiles and decides to pick up the book. I wait for him to finish billing the book before asking him, curiously whether he had read every book he stocks. “I try to at least get an idea of the story,” he says.
“Do you have Daphne Du Maurier?” I ask him, somewhat wistfully—I’ve always loved her novels but I rarely see copies of them in stores anymore.
“Of course we do,” he replies a trifle indignantly, instructing the assistant to get me all the copies of the same that are available. In five minutes he has unearthed them and I am holding almost ten copies of the books written by the aforesaid author. I am delighted—not just with the books but with the speed with which he has located it for me. “We have no system as such.We just know where our books are located.”
As I thumb through the books, unable to decide which one to take, Krishna adds, “Customers can resell the books they buy from us at 50 per cent of the cost price.” The copies are in an excellent condition and priced fairly reasonably so I decide to pick them all up.
As I watch him bill the books, I wonder aloud what his future plans are, “I am planning to go online soon,” he says. “Customers want it.”
And what does he like best about his work, I ask him “I meet a lot of interesting people who share their experience and stories with me. This way I earn and I learn,” he smiles.