I’d always read the occasional book when I was in preschool and such, but my reading habit really began when I was about 8. I had met with an accident that left me bedridden for about a month and a half, and the only way to kill time was was by reading. My mother got me new books every week, and I read, and I read, and read some more. I had never been the sporty kind, and after the accident, I loathed the outdoors and everything connected to it. My friends were my books, and books, in 90’s Chennai, were Landmark*. I grew up between those shelves. Every time I returned to the store to get another book by my favourite author at that time, I’d discover a new one, and again. I went to the store every month, without fail, to the point where Amma would whine about how my father would have to work extra hours just to feed my reading habit.
Landmark was more than a store where you went to to buy books. It was a place that you went just to spend time in. Sometimes, you enter the store, take a look at the Best-Sellers shelf, flip a few pages from the books there and put them back because who reads popular stuff anyway, and head to your favourite shelf in the store, the shelf you know so well, occasionally stopping on the way to look at other books that aren’t particularly your favourite genre, but they’re books, and all books deserve a look, because who knows what you’ll discover, maybe it’ll even be your new favourite author. Some other times, you go to the store telling yourself that you have come here to buy one particular book and that book only, and you enter, and head straight for that shelf ignoring the other books on the way, pick the book out, feeling victorious and then you pause for a second, look around, see yourself surrounded by books, and you’re like, NO I’LL TAKE THEM ALL, but then realize that even if you can afford to buy the store out, it wouldn’t be the same to have all of them at home so you decide to just sit in the little chair between the shelves and get lost in the stories that surround you.
The last five years, with the change in ownership, online retailers taking over the scene, and brick-and-mortar bookstores all over the world shutting down, Landmark deteriorated. The books were old, the selections, dull and the place had the air of a graveyard. The penultimate time I went there to pick up a couple of magazines, the girl who did my billing told me I had Rs.250 in my loyalty card and asked if I wanted to use it. I’ll use it the next time, I told her.
* (or Fountainhead in Mylapore but it’s a well known fact that Landmark was much better)