A Bookworm’s Summer
Ever imagined what happens when a bibliophile gets a summer job in one of the best bookstores in the city?
Last Week of May, 2010
“I want a job before college begins. I am done with filling admission forms. More importantly, I want pocket money—independence.” J sounded enthusiastic. I was out of breath after running to catch an elusive red AC bus. We were going to spend the day in the British Council and American Center libraries.
Hearing J talk about independence and money, I got excited. What if I get a job? I just roam about lazily at home in my pyjamas and there are still two months before I get back to school and homework and teachers and rat-race. I want a job. Decided.
But where? Of course in a bookstore. Where else? I could help those having in mind the idea of a book they would like to read but are confused about what exactly to read/buy. (Daydream- Customer: You know, I want a good French cookbook but it shouldn’t be very cumbersome as I am a housewife who likes cooking and not a professional cook. Me: Of course. I would recommend you Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Customer: Yeah, I have heard about her. Why didn’t that cross my mind? Me: *Smiles and more smiles. The head held a few inches higher than usual*) And then… the very idea of spending a summer with books! I had read about Bahrisons in Khan Market, frequented by the likes of Shashi Tharoor and Rahul Gandhi. Bahrisons is the premier bookstore of Delhi. And that was where I was going to work. Or at least I thought so.
J and I found ourselves headed for Khan Market. Bahrisons was exactly like what I had imagined it to be. Talking to the owner Anuj Bahri about a summer job was certainly not. “No vacancies here. But wait, we need staff in the new branch at Saket. You could mail me your CV and I might just consider it.” I reckoned I would be spending all my salary on commuting if I took the job at Saket. Hard luck.
We were walking through the Middle Lane when we came across the jointly owned Café Turtle and Full Circle Bookstore (one of the places in the city which popularised the concept of a biblio-café) . I had read about it in one of Mayank’s columns. I vaguely remembered that the place had been shifted from the Front Lane to the Middle Lane. We walked in.
I gasped hungrily at the well-stocked shelves, searched through books, the music CDs, the handcrafted bookmarks in the gift shop. The place was undoubtedly more spacious and better-organised than Bahrisons. I asked an employee at the cash counter about job vacancies. He directed me to mail my CV to the owner.
I got home and mailed my CVs to Bahrisons, Full Circle, Teksons and The Book Shop. A couple of days later, I got an answer from Full Circle. They were apparently impressed by my CV and wanted me to come over to their office in Jor Bagh for an interview.
On the day of my interview, I must have walked about a kilometre and a half in the afternoon heat to find the place. I was sweating, tanned and out of breath when I finally reached. Mrs. Poonam Malhotra, the owner, was there to interview me. Her hazel eyes shone brighter than the huge solitaires she was wearing. She talked about what I expected from the job and what she would expect me to do- making weekly lists of bestsellers, handling customers etc. Her elegance and perfect poise made me further nervous. But I think she understood that I was an ambitious sixteen-year-old who wanted to make the best of her summer and had struggled to find the place on a hot summer day. She smiled and did her best to make me at ease. Guess what, I was in.
I was going to work in a bookstore.