‘Step Sister’ is exactly the expression that comes to my mind when I enter the Hindi Section of Universal Book Shop in Kapoorthala, Aliganj here.
This shop has been my constant companion since my arrival in Lucknow. If they had something parallel to “frequent flyer programme” of airlines, I would have been a major benficiary. Since I have preserved all the receipts of my purchases from them, if they start one even now, with retrospective effect (taking some cues from our government), I can avail it.
But leave that apart. The point was of ‘step sister’. And I was about to explain why a feeling like that. They have three sections in that shop and the three are run in three different rooms. One of the sections is for course books and other such stuff; so I will leave that out of the discussion. What I frequent are the other two sections – Hindi and English. Now, English section is airconditioned, provided with stylish shelves, and comfortable stools for you to sit down while browsing through the books. There are helpers going around in the store, if you need help locating a particular book or one on a particular topic. The books are given in nice paper carry-bags (with nice handles which makes them as easy to carry as are the polybags), which are customized for Universal, as they carry its name, address and a picture (showing a stack of books). Billing is computerized. And yes, there also are those toffees lying at the counter, which the counter-staff offers to you, if you make substantial amount of purchase. (It’s a different things that I would immediately classify it as a bad marketing strategy, since the toffees are the ones, I remember, used to sell at 10 paisa in my childhood days. I do not know what is the status now. The standard of living has certainly changed. My nephew never had anything less than a Dairy Milk. And I am afraid he also missed the excitement that was associated with getting a chocolate once in a while in our childhood! But back to toffees -it feels almost an insult to be offered those toffees for making a purchase of 400 bucks! )
Diversions again! Anyway, back to the point. Step sister. By now, its not difficult to guess what kind of description I am going to give of the Hindi Section. No air-conditioners. Old-fashioned shelves. No stools. No stylish carry-bags. You are handed over the stuff in a brown-paper bag with no handles. Computer? What? Wait for the staff to write out your receipt clumsily on a clumsy looking receipt-sheet (fortunately printed ones). And no toffees either. Staff also look rather sleepy, as if aware of their ‘low’ status in comparison to their counterparts in the upstair room.
But I never cribbed. Neither before anyone in person, nor in this blog. They are not to be blamed. If it does not make business sense for them, why should they spend on it? If readers are not ready to spend, why should they bother? (Oh no – No ‘poor country’ argument here. What is the size of bollywood industry? And who is not a customer there!)
But some welcome change was there today. As I entered the Hindi Section, its was all upside down. I had to ask them if the shop was open to customers at all, to which they fortunately said ‘yes’. Some electrical fitting was going on. I picked up the books and went to the counter. Wow! The toffees are there… And surprise of surprises – the stylish carry-bag, customized for Hindi Section. As all the stuff is written in Hindi…
With the fitting and all going on – probably AC and/or computer is on the way. Do I see some light there?