Monday, 17 February 2020

part 6 : The Bookstore: An AR story


It was a busy Saturday evening with store brimming with lots of customers. She was running a few employees short and it was showing; she was completely stressed. She preferred being on the floor rather than at billing as she liked interacting with people who were browsing for books. She wasn't that good with people but she was great when it came to talking to people about books and helping them out to buy the right one. She had helped an elderly gentleman who was looking for books on biplanes when a voice stopped her.

"Need any help around here?" His voice sounded amused. He was surprised when she dragged him by the hand and shoved him inside a room at the back of the store. She gave him a T-Shirt that bore the name of her book store and looked at him expectantly. It tickled him to see her this way. He shrugged and changed his T-Shirt. She uttered him a hurried thanks and asked him to help around to whoever who needed help; be it her employee or any customer.

"Will I be paid?" He asked her smiling.

"Of course you will be paid. Since you owe me money for the book that you purchased last time you were here, I might have to dock your pay to cover that." She gave him a cheeky smile. He laughed.

For the next couple of hours they worked barely crossing each others path. But her being her saw him moving around the store as if he always belonged there. For a moment she was lost in the fantasy of him being there, working with her for quite a long time into their future. He was all around the store helping an employee to place the books in the right shelf. She saw him help a little girl to find the right book about dolphins. She grinned to herself when she saw a young woman make an obvious pass at him and him being completely oblivious to that; she wasn't sure of he was really that thick or he was simply ignoring that young woman. She thought it was the latter. He made an old lady blush when he kissed her cheek. By the time it was closing time for the store, she realized the level of her exhaustion. Even if it was the weekend, it tends to get hectic for her store with most book lovers unwinding in her store. After the last employee had left, she locked the front door and went around the store in search of him.

She found him sitting on the floor with a book Of Human Bondage ' W. Somerset Maugham. He was skipping pages and reading certain pages which caught his interest.

"Is that one of your favorites too?" She asked him breaking his concentration. Even in ordinary store uniform shirt, he looked pretty good.

"Not really, no. I find it a little too depressing for my taste. The protagonist keeps on moving from one tragedy to the next. It's possible that the storyline is very much believable but when you find out that there isn't much going on for that man, it kind of becomes monotonous." She was actually surprised at his explanation. She had thought that he would be someone who would like a book which took a step closer to the world of hopelessness.

"The book is much more than that and you know it. This novel also depicts the author's view of contemporary society and art. It's about growing up and about the negativity that the protagonist shows through out the book."

"I think it is the negativity of the storyline itself which makes the protagonist lack any positive values. There is only so much a man can take. Don't you think so?"

"Maybe. Do you believe that tragedies in life can make a man strong?"

"How can anything that works on sanity make any person strong? Sure, when a man faces a tragedy, he would get accustomed to deal with the pain, suffering and trauma that would be associated with it, but he would be always broken. The only difference would be that he would know how to deal better than the others." They fell silent for a few minutes. He kept the book back in the rack and sat on the floor across from her. She was making invisible patterns on the floor with her finger. She was exhausted but strangely content.

"I observed that you play classical music in the store. Not many people do that and a very even would like that." He asked her.

"I think if music had any lyrics, then it would be distracting. People would pay attention to the lyrics and the voice that performs rather than the music that defines the song itself. And moreover, when you are looking at books, music kind of soothes you."

"So basically you play music without lyrics so that people play more attention to the tasks at hand which is buying the book, rather than the music itself. Smooth move."

"These days not many people enjoy classical music. I have nothing against contemporary music, but do I have problem in concentrating when I listen to lyrics. Classical music can be enjoyed while I am doing anything. And when I listen to Four Seasons by Vivaldi, it's hard not to get lost in that music."

"You love music a lot?"

"I enjoy listening to classical pieces. I listen to contemporary music as well but mostly alternate rock. Hey, you said you played piano as a child didn't you? Do you still play?"

"Yes, I do."

"I would love to hear you play for me."

"Sure. I don't play as much as I would love to given the fact that I had a very hectic job and I moved around a lot. But yeah, whenever I am in town or I visit my parents, I make it a point to play."

"Wait. You had a job? As in you don't have it anymore now?" She was astonished.

"I quit my job last week." He said it quite happily.

"Why in the world would you quit your job?" She was flabbergasted.

"I quit my job because I could not explain to myself why I was doing it in the first place. For the first time, I was being downright honest with myself and realized that no matter how much I love to travel and did my work very well but in the end I really didn't enjoy what I was doing. I spoke to each and every member of my family about my decision to leave my job. Apart from my parents, everyone thinks that I am being idiotic. I think they might be right to an extent." He said lightly.

"But you do have a contingency plan right?" She was surprised at his casual admittance.

"Yes. I am going to work here from now on." Now, she was speechless.

"Can I keep this T-Shirt?" He was looking like a little kid in toy store asking his mom for a new toy.

"Why do you want to work here?" She was curious about that.

"Because I feel like I am home. I truly enjoyed working for the past few hours. I think I understand why you were so obsessive about running this store. Amidst the chaos, you still find order of things." He patted his hand next to him signaling her to come and sit with him. She moved next to him without a word. He continued.

"Have you heard of Joshua Bell, the violinist? He owns one of the most expensive violins in the world. As a part of an experiment by The Washington Post, he played in a Washington metro station for three quarters of an hour. In those forty five minutes, he performed six difficult classical pieces. Out of a thousand people who passed by him, hardly a dozen stood by to listen and appreciate his music. If he is playing in a concert, generally people pay a hundred dollars or more per seat. But at that subway station, he made less than forty dollars."

"I have read about it."

"When I dissected my life, I realized that I have been one of those passerby; the ones who are so busy with their schedule with the sense of righteousness for perfection that they don't appreciate creativity when it is dancing right in front of their faces." He fell silent suddenly. She knew that he was contemplating and was organizing his thoughts. She allowed him to break the silence first and continue the conversation.

"The first time we met, which was a few months ago, it was one of those impulsive decision that made me rethink everything that I have been doing. I won't say that I changed my ways because of you; but you certainly influenced me enough to question my own ways. It felt nice on the first day when we spoke about books and childhood. After that, I was simply drawn to you, to your companionship and to this place." She rested her head on his shoulder at this point. Physical comfort spoke louder than the spoken ones.

"I just want a life now which I can direct the way I want and not because how I drive my business; preferably with you in it." He looked down at her. She just nodded. She didn't trust her voice to give a rational answer to him. She wanted to give her consent to his decision though.

"You can keep the T-Shirt." He burst out laughing. She just chuckled. She liked this, being there with him.

"My roommate thinks that you are miracle that my life has been waiting for." She rolled her eyes. He was grinning.

"Not to inflate your ego or anything but I think she might be right to an extent." She gently whispered. She didn't know why she said things before her mind had a chance to process whatever she was going to speak thoroughly.

"Your roommate thinks very highly of me. I hate to disappoint you both but I am here for my own selfish reason." She looked up.

"I have been a global soul for quite sometime; moving from towns, meeting new people everyday, taking decisions that would make or lose thousands of jobs, made me feel restless. So in reality, you were my personal miracle which finally encouraged me decide what I really want."

"Do you honestly believe in miracles?"



"Miracles are like super heroes. They are present when the system or the society around us fails miserably and stumbles to operate on its own. It's a reflection of how humanity has lost against evolution."

"You are beyond weird."

"I loved and I still do love reading Batman. He is the mask crusader who doesn't really have any super power and relies on his own scientific intelligence, detective skills and athletic prowess. He takes up the responsibility for the society by being a vigilante."

"But Bruce Wayne is super rich. He could have had his own mini army or a personal force which would help law enforcement to keep peace in Gotham City. But no, he wears a fancy suit and a cape, uses cool weapons and sullies his hands to do the dirty work. This shows that he doesn't trust any other people to do the job and so takes up the responsibility on his own shoulders. When you think about it, this is the utmost act of ego than any other deed." He looked at her in horror.

"Batman fought The Joker single handed and won." His eyes flashed. She burst out laughing.

"There, there little boy, there is no need to get violent." She was giggling now.

"I apologize." He sighed.

"You can be a business man who can change the direction of economy. You can be a man who can make or break future. But underneath it all, you are still a little boy who loves his super heroes and fantasizes about them."

"I guess you are right about that." He smiled at her and put an arm around her. She felt relaxed at this physical contact.

"I am guessing you like comic books, as in, the super hero kind."

"As a kid, I obsessed over them. I mean they were cool. I liked Batman because he was the closest thing that a man can be. He had no super strength but was very intelligent. I liked that about him. As I grew older, my obsession moved a notch higher; towards graphic novels."

"Aren't they little violent? I have browsed through some of them and I find it very gory and definitely not for kids."

"Graphic novels are not for kids. They are stories for adolescents depicted in graphics. It's irritating how people mistake them for comic books."

"Refer me something. I haven't read even a single one of them."

"Really? Then you must read The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. When I was in college a friend recommended me to read his works. I am a huge fan of that series now. There are few issues which I always keep with me and I read them whenever I get sometime."

"Is it that good?"

"It's not the story that gives you a kick. It's the narration. There are hundred ways to come to an end. But the way this author does simply blows my mind."

"But what fun is it to read a story when you already know how it ends."

"We know that whoever comes to this world has to die some day but that doesn't stop us from living our lives, does it?" He had a point there.

"It's a story, not life. The satisfaction of reading a book comes from the way it ends. If I know who killed who before I read the story, then what point is there to read that thriller?"

"Maybe you should still read the story to appreciate the brilliance in which it is solved. Does knowing the ending more important than how that particular ending was achieved?"

"End justifies the means. So, why bother with the means when ending is known?" She was having fun talking to him. It was not an argument that they were having but a mere exchange of ideologies. In the past few meetings, each of them had voiced their differences rather subtly and sometimes even gently. But this conversation was different.

"We simply have to agree to disagree." They nodded at each other and gave each other a smile. She had a feeling that this wasn't the end of this conversation. In future they were going to have millions of such conversations where neither budged. And she couldn't wait for them.

"Come on; let's get you the first volume of The Sandman ' Preludes and Nocturnes and I will quiz you on that on next Saturday." He pulled her along with him. She rather liked this thing with him. Both of them teaching each other, reading new things, discovering new things about themselves, she really felt that he was what her life had been waiting for. But she wasn't going to say that aloud. Not yet anyway.

As they took one last stroll around the store, she realized that very soon, she would be with him every night to do that job. She liked that immensely. She saw that he was looking a little pale and slightly nervous. She stopped by the counter to pick up her already packed bag. She turned around to see him that he had changed to his street clothes and was nervously shuffling around.

"Is everything alright?" She asked him gently.

"Yes. Everything is fine." She shrugged.

"Will you have a cup of coffee with me?" He asked her, shuffling his feet. She was surprised at his actions. As far as she was concerned, he was the most suave guy she had ever met, extremely handsome and charming to boot. She could not understand why he would be nervous around a girl like her to invite for a cup of coffee. When she voiced her concern, he shook his head.

"It's easier to ask people out who are strangers or acquaintances. You know me little too well than anybody and that is enough for you to have a judgment over your decisions based all the conversation that we have had." He shrugged.

"Do you really think this much just to ask me for a cup of coffee?" She looked amused.

"Yes. Is that a problem?"

"Not at all. I find it rather amusing. Shall we then?" They were about to leave the store when he slapped his forehead as if he remembered something.

"I forgot something very important."

"What is it?" She looked around once more to check.

"Hello, my name is Armaan." He gave her a crooked smile. She found herself smiling back at him.

"It's nice to meet you Armaan. I am Riddhima." They shook hands and burst out laughing at the craziness of the situation in which they were in. It had taken six lengthy conversations in a bookstore to be where they were. On sixth day, they had revealed the last part of their respective identities and had truly become them.

"I think it's going to be wonderful night, don't you think so?" She nodded and walked out of the store and locking it behind her.


No comments:

Post a Comment