Whenever something shuts shop, the memories associated with that something swell out, that is only natural. Because memories need not be rational, this is some loss however.
One thing I realised that, we can continue to have the memories even if the source of those memories has shut down or changed course, because basically these are our memories and we can construct them however and whenever we wish to, immaterial of conditions. So basically this is not a nostalgia piece, but masquerading as one.
I do not know how my generation spent their birthdays; mine was always at Landmark Nungambakkam. Weekdays or weekend whenever it came, didn’t matter; it was the unspoken norm, lunch and dinner also didn’t matter. It wasn’t that we returned with a kart load of books, maybe just one or two.
Landmark Nungambakkam was my first idea of what a bookstore should be, a major introduction to the genres and authors I read now. An idea of a bookstore is important because my reading was and is still to a large part unguided. Earlier I was able to open myself to some authors without knowing anything about their stature. With age comes irritations and information, details which make me doubtful about picking a book rather than urge to pick one up now.
I have moved on, there were other bookstores, libraries and of course the internet and as years passed my visits to the subterranean bookstore decreased, and even if I did I was not as compulsive in buying anything. To tell the truth I was not much surprised when I walked into the store today which looked like a ransacked supermarket in time of a zombie-apocalypse.
A Nora Roberts here, a Wilbur Smith there, Chetan Bhagat everywhere.
But Landmark had become like this for many years now, the McDonalds of the bookstores, it may be true that Indian writing in English is the new boom, but this boom had made Landmark into a storehouse, but not of knowledge. Often one could see numerous copies of the same book occupying an entire genre shelf only adding to my existing irritations. There was a constant fear of bumping into the same book cover, like the horror when numerous stern looking Mani Ratnams looked down upon me from the cinema shelf; no he was on the science shelf too.
I think that was the moment it dawned upon me that this shop has to go, at least I would like to think that this was the moment I arrived at this thought. It is a selfish thought of course, to expect things to remain as they were. I never cared for the other stores in the city (City Center, Spencer’s) and I shouldn’t care about this one too.
As people trickled into the store on Monday evening, the unsettling sight of near empty store made them reach out to the nearest attendant. Yes the store was closing, the ‘bestsellers’ would be going to a storage facility in Pune, while the remaining would be put out on clearance in the coming weeks.
Maybe they too were thinking about an early morning many years ago when the store was filled with eager enthusiastic kids and yawning parents to get a copy of the latest Harry Potter. Now people just do some clicks online. Packet delivered.
To keep the bookstore atop a pedestal is in fact a very wrong thing to do, just like how the theatre in which we watch a movie is immaterial, where we buy a book too.
But then the memories?
I got my own Agatha Christie at Landmark, my first LOTR copy, a cassette of Crazy Thieves in Palavakkam and the DVD of Guide too; but my consuming of them would have been no different wherever I had purchased them.
So what are these memories then?
A good bookstore will enrich the informed reader and educate the novice, in these last years Landmark had, I felt never put a step in that direction. The reasons might be many, but it was not my bookstore anymore.
If it had not been landmark, then I can safely say that the same job would have been done by some other similar store. After all there is no point of wasting sympathy on a store which had just the same set of books everywhere, an uncaring enterprise.
Nostalgia should be guarded it is not a time wasting device, it represents the core of our thoughts, and it shouldn’t be spilt on a commercial venture which will anyway be present online. The closing of Landmark Nungambakkam in effect signifies nothing, people who read will always be reading. Maybe nostalgia is also like a bookstore, it should enrich the dreamer and educate the newcomer.
While I waited for my turn at the billing counter with a perfunctory book, the lady next to me was buying an iPhone Scratch Guard.