I have to warn you, this is going to be a rant. If I hurt anyone’s sentiments while doing this, I’m sorry- but I just have to let this out of my system. Not to mention, I have already ranted about this on the phone with my husband, on watsapp groups with my best friends, and will be posting something on Facebook. I hope it doesn’t end just at that and that this rant becomes an idea to create something better.
But first, let me get to the story. I have been a reader since I was a young kid. I am an Indian, and live in India. My father was in the Navy and the one who instilled the love of reading in me. These were the available sources of books to me then:
- Books borrowed from our Naval library – we had our share of classics, Nancy Drews, Mallory Towers, Enid Blyton, St Clares, Agatha Christie and so on
- Books I found in other people’s homes or libraries – interestingly, the minute an adult would see me checking out their books or book shelf, they would take out a book they think I would like, and give it as a gift to me, just like that! Now, I hardly see libraries or any kinds of books in most people’s homes 😦
- At the train station- yep, I’m not kidding! There would be all these forged copies of popular books and comics being sold by people on a thela – that is like a mobile bookshelf with wheels, hard to explain unless you see one! And I would always buy something from them, while we were waiting for our trains to arrive (which almost always used to be late in those days..lol)
- I did not have any online stores, I did not have audible and I did not have a kindle. But I still read so many books and that shaped the person I am today and I am grateful for those books
Fast forward to this afternoon. I used to visit Crosswords at Pune (one of the local chain of bookstore in India, similar to Waterstones in UK or Barnes and Noble in US), almost once a month and buy at least 2-3 books every time I visited. I used to love it, and I didn’t know any better. Until I had a chance to live in UK for a year and a half. There, my addiction to books took a whole new level altogether! I would spend pounds in Waterstones, and rent books from our local library and visiting these two places once a week, was like going to Church or a similar holy place, for me! I had also started book-blogging, and all the latest, shiniest and brilliant books by these brilliant authors, that I didn’t even know about, were suddenly just a walk away for me!
And I am just talking about the joy of holding a paper book, and visiting a place that is filled with books. I am not talking about kindle or audible- although I use both actively too.
Even my 2 year old loved going to Waterstones and the library with me. She could browse through the children’s book section herself, pick something up, and plop on the floor or the sofa and ask me to read to her. She had her own library card- just like Peppa! I used to love this mother-daughter moment with her.
So, with that in mind, I went to check out Crosswords at Aundh, Pune today. I wanted to pick up some books for myself and my daughter. Words cannot explain my disappointment at what I found, or rather did not find at the shop today. It just broke my heart. And it probably would not have been so bad, had I not been exposed to the world of reading and book stores/libraries in UK.
To list a few things that was utterly wrong with the store:
- The best seller section had old books like Godfather, To kill a Mockingbird, Adultery , books that were best sellers, but should now then go into the Classics section, or other internationally best selling books should be added to that list too
- The books were badly arranged with no categorisation of different genres or authors. You would get lost trying to find a certain book. To add to that, a section named as ‘P.G. Wodehouse’ had books of Lee Child stacked under it!! I mean, I love both authors, but if someone hasn’t read a PG Wodehouse, I really wonder what will happen if he/she thinks Lee Child is a pen name for PG Wodehouse! The horror!
- The fiction section was badly stacked and ‘Crosswords Recommends’ section had a book that no one from our generation should be reading! I mean, isn’t it enough that we have back dated shows like ‘Nagin’, that now we have to have books like that? (See third row from the top, to a book called ‘Nagin’- shudders). I usually don’t judge books by cover, but I am judging you, Nagin!
- I’m all for promoting nationality. In India, be Indian. I get it. But that should not mean censorship, or exclusion of books from other countries, or international authors too. There were literally no international books or authors, and I would know this because I had trouble even finding the international fiction section, which was crammed badly right at the back of the book store. To add to that, the only international authors I could find were Paulo Coehlo (big fan), Frederick Forsyth, Lee Child, Agatha Christie (again big fan), John Green and a whole bunch of classics, reclothed. Where was John Boyne? Where was Liane Moriarty? Or Kurt Vonnegut, or Ernest Cline, or Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Amor Towles, Jhumpa Lahiri, Sujata Massey, Rupi Kaur, Margaret Atwood (they just had Handmade’s Tale), Anthony Doerr, Ray Bradbury- I mean, the list is endless. I was glad to find an entire row of Haruki Murakami books, but that was a small win I guess
- The children’s section was the worst. It was on the second and third floor and half of the floor was covered with toys, instead of books. One floor literally looked abandoned. The third floor had books stacked in a way that no toddler or child will actually be able to see any of the books, or reach out to any books, without needing a ladder and making a mess of the book store. The young adult section only had the Divergent series and one or two books by Sarah J Mass. The middle grade section did not exist and I just found our beloved Harry Potter, one set of Ransom Rigg’s Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, stacked randomly and a few of Percy Jackson- I mean, c’mon!!! These are children we are talking about! Children, who should be able to read what other kids their age have access to in the world. They should be able to read books on racism such as The Hate You Give. Or Books on brilliant world building – such as those by Sarah J Mass, or amazingly dark characters such as by VE Schwab. They should be able to read Wonder and practise kindness, and I wanted some Peppa Pig or Llama Llama for my daughter!! So angry and disappointed. Instead, there were sections full of politics, or mythology. I want my child to move forward, and not remain in the world of mythology forever.
So anyway, I cannot return empty handed from any bookstore. After much searching, and deliberating, I bought the following books.
So, readers, fellow bloggers, moms, I need some advice and suggestions from you guys, based on the subject above (special shout out to people living in India, or Pune, specifically):
- Have you faced a similar problem in your country, if English is not the primary language there?
- What do you suggest I do, to ensure that my daughter and I both, continue to have a great reading experience and build up our library – what websites can I follow for book recommendations?
- Are there any good book stores in Pune, India?
- Can I make reading a priority in our country and someone get access to all sorts of books here?