Life & Style

Selling books on the footpath and writing books — Kerala bookseller on his love of words

Shamnad N   | Photo Credit: K.K.NAJEEB

Shamnad N has been selling books on a footpath in Thrissur for more than 15 years.

He fell in love with writing as he casually flipped through the stall’s collection of Malayalam magazines. Over time, he graduated to the works of authors such as Vaikom Muhmammed Basheer and Madhavikutty. He eventually ended up publishing two books — an anthology of poems in Malayalam, Episode (2009; also translated into English) and a Malayalam novella, Beeran Bithacha Bithu (2018).

“It was perhaps the amount of time I spent with books which fired my interest,” says the 36 year-old, from his stall opposite the Kerala Sahitya Akademi building on Palace Road. “Since I was in the company of books and magazines, I started reading Malayalam magazines. I moved on to other books, fiction especially. I started writing around the same time.”

Shamnad reads and writes in Malayalam. “Almost all of what I read is simple. Initially I read a lot of Malayalam writers. It is only recently that translations of other language books are available easily. I liked Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja and also Orhan Pamuk’s writing,” he adds.

Selling books on the footpath and writing books — Kerala bookseller on his love of words

He dropped out of school in Class VII and began helping his father with his business of second hand books. His father, Noordeen, has a book shop in Thrissur’s Swaraj Round.

Noordeen used to buy and sell old newspapers. “A lot of old books — magazines and others — would also end up among the discards. My father would sort them and sell the books as second-hand; now we sell both new and second-hand books at the shop.”

One of eight children, Shamnad helps his father and brother by manning their Palace Road stall.

When asked why he didn’t complete his education, Shamnad pauses before answering, “I never felt the need nor was I interested. Also, two of my brothers died unexpectedly so I didn’t think it was a priority.”

He wrote his Class 10, SSLC examination (Secondary Level School Certificate) in 2009 registering as a private student when he was in his 20s.

That was also the year he brought out an anthology of his poems, Episode. “The poems are inspired by the things I see and which move me,” he says. He jots observations in a diary or a notebook, which then become his inspiration. The poems and stories too are written down.

That habit led to the publication of Episode. A regular customer, and Sahitya Akademi employee, ED Davis chanced upon what he had written in the book.

“I was attending to a customer, so I had left the book open. It had some of my works; he liked what he read and told me that I should get it published. He helped me in so many ways starting from proofreading to finding a publisher. Former Thrissur Mayor, R. Bindu ma’am translated Episode into English,” Shamnad says.

Davis is also a writer, and he helped Shamnad with his second book, Beeran Bithacha Bithu. It has been translated into English, and he is now looking for a publisher.

While the day is for selling books, after work hours are for writing. “Three things dominate my life: writing, reading and the business,” he says. He is currently working on his second novella, which will be his third “published work”.

His books are self-published, mostly sold from his stall and his father’s shop but he is not complaining. “Episode sold 4000-odd copies, we printed another 1000 in 2013. I am content with how life is, I am happy here. I don’t want much else!”

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 7:15:10 AM |

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