By Ishan Kukreti
If human body can be considered as a temple for the soul, a book store can be seen as a temple for all the knowledge so painstakingly preserved in all its flesh and blood form; and that’s a book!
Book stores have long been an avenue of romance for the shy and the introvert, a boiling pot of arguments and rebuttals for revolutionaries, and a calm and quiet island away from the maddening crowd for many-a-soul.
For Michel Foucault literature, and as a corollary book, was something magical. It stood as a signifier which signified itself. Closer home, every bibliophile would agree when Nehru says, ” When you read books, you realize that your original ideas are not so original after all.”
However, Economy and the principles of supply and demand have forever been stronger than any romantic notion of reality.
The musty yellow pages of a hardbound title , no matter how appealing or attractive, can’t compete with a thousand book strong prosaically porcelain Amazon Kindle.
The paperback of a Rushdie’s, Kundera’s, Roy’s or Lahiri’s latest can never stand the onslaught of time and technology’s brutal march. A PDF downloaded is any day more convenient and handy than a book bought. However, it is also more conveniently forgotten.
The ruthless advance of modernity has taken a toll on a lot of things. The temples of human knowledge are also on the list.
The latest victim of this one-way phenomenon is Spell & Bound bookstore in SDA market opposite IIT Delhi. In business and struggling since 2011, the place has finally succumbed to the digital pressure.
“Humne toh chalene Ki Puri koshiah Kari. Ab nahi chal paya toh kya Karen?” (We tried to keep it going. But we couldn’t. So what can we so?) An abjectly indifferent caretaker of the store; a loyal guard of the burning literary The House of Lacquer of Delhi, tells me.
The process of modernizing the apparently outdated traditional, going on piecemeal in various avenues of contemporary life is something worth pondering over.
Is Modern always a better substitute for Traditional, and moreover, does Traditional need a substitute to begin with? Is Modern more modern than Traditional?
These questions are rhetorical, and demand just a moment of silent introspection. From vinyl to tapes to CDs and USBs, the world is again moving back to vinyl. The organic is coming back again after losing the battle with processed.
If time is cyclic (as propounded in the Easter philosophy) do the labels “Modern” and “Traditional” hold any water? Or are they just yardsticks to name the Present?
These answers can only be found at the beginning of another ‘now’ when the roles and ethos of the society will be rethought and reorganized.
Till that time, Spell & Bound, with many others, will remain a disenchantment in the lives of the people they once so dutifully uplifted.