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Arts and Culture Citizen Voices

Anarkali On Sundays And The Delight Upon Finding A Familiar Book

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(Warning: A Romanticization)

Pins and needles accompanied a wave of pain in my ankles as I sprang down from the motorcycle. I expected this to happen only because of its recent and increasing occurrence. It’s an odd thing, becoming accustomed to different experiences as each season creeps upon us until we are fully consumed within its crescendo with only a vague remembrance of the season past. I had forgotten the perils of winter after many months of sweltering heat.

The long street lay in front of me, not yet buzzing with customers, the books almost alive, softly fluttering like out of season butterflies in the chilly breeze that would pick up every now and then. It slightly twisted from sight before expanding; it was always the same vendors in what I assumed were predetermined spots. My first purchase was always made from the man with a penchant for smuggling in rare books. He made sure to charge me for them too. Regardless, the prices were still half of what the city’s elite paid at the top-ranking book stores.

The contents of the street embodied human behavior, predictable but with the ability to surprise even the most unsuspecting victims. I say victim when thinking of my blue wallet, the same as a friend. I cannot recall anything about the wallet but its blueness and the sudden jolt when despite all logic, my brain would assume we had been robbed.

Some books were the usual suspects found in the library of a left-wing reader, who may have displayed them there to satiate the thirst of owning rather than reading. The consumption of full, unabridged texts is never assured within such circles, but access to websites that provide summaries of lengthy works is. I was certainly never one to criticize. To me, knowledge remains appreciable in all forms, even or especially, when absent.

Also prominent were the best sellers, the self-help books meant to evoke responsibility and unlock the secrets to the true potential of man. To no one’s surprise, the average consumers of these texts were usually men. I would condescend to those books, a task I would embark on with great pretension, until one consumer, closer to my heart than others explained the need for an affirmation sent out to millions of other people by just one author. The nuanced derision remained within me, but my criticism softened for his sake. I, the person filling my arms up with fantasy novels didn’t get to put down his comfort.

We could spend hours looking for books if we stopped at every stall on both sides of the street. Laughter, negotiation, awe, and disappointment were all a part of this incomparable place. This little street, so well known, yet so small a part of the world gave birth to the foundation of my love for this long festered city. Love itself was found between my companions and me; this was not a place for solace but solidarity, for hand-holding and dragging one away after one purchase too many, carrying books when one of us tired. In retrospect, why had I never asked more than one person to join me on these Sundays, etched forever into my memory?

I feel that the methods in which we discover people are ever increasing but there is a piece of one’s soul that is bared ever so subtly with astonishing intensity in the perusal of literature. The sharp focus on my companion’s face as they spot a rare find across the street and determinedly stride towards it, incapable of perceiving anything else is as breathtaking as an adolescent’s first kiss. The delight upon finding a familiar book read many moons ago, framed in nostalgia is akin to shutting the door against the cold and walking into the warm indoors. Bringing someone to the Bazaar for the first time and watching them take all of it in first, with wariness and then excitement, all in one breath never lost its novelty. I needed to know my people.

These streets are responsible for the many loves I hold safe within my heart. When all else fails, or when nothing else has been approached, I can breathe easy with the knowledge that the butterflies of Anarkali and their vendors shall be there to welcome me and my companions.

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Naya Daur