It was almost 9 pm that day in April when the taxi turned into the lane leading to my house. It had been a long day at work and I was tired and hungry with the beginnings of a headache. All I could think of was dinner, a long cold shower, and sleep.
The lane is not very well-lit, and I was surprised to see it blazing with light. There was a large van parked in the lane and some kind of display on the road. Curious, I got off the cab at the entrance to the lane, paid the driver and walked towards the light, or rather the van and the display. To my surprise and delight, it was a display of books and the van was a mobile bookshop. And to over see all this was a man sitting at one end of the display and reading a book.
There were rows upon rows of books and more in the van. All the books were in Marathi, with a few in Hindi and English. All my tiredness, hunger and headache were forgotten as I browsed through the collection, which had a large number of biographies.
After a while, the man put down his book and came over to talk to me. His name was Santosh Karale and he was the owner of Swaraj Book Suppliers, the mobile book store parked in my lane. He drove his van around Thane and Navi Mumbai areas and parked wherever he thought would be a good place to display and sell the books. He also delivered books to interested parties free of cost.
“Why did you choose this lane?” I asked. “Did you get any business done today?”
“Well, it seemed like a nice place, a quiet residential area. Business was satisfactory,” said Karale.
We spoke about the state of regional publishing, particularly Marathi, versus the English language publishing. According to Karale, the former was thriving, thank you very much, and there was no threat or competition from other languages. According to Karale, the problem lay in distribution and that is where book suppliers like him were crucial as bigger distributors were not really interested in regional language books.
We would have continued talking if my mother’s phone call hadn’t interrupted us: she was worried as to why I hadn’t reached home yet. But I was reluctant to leave just yet. Karale sensed my dilemma and said that he would be staying the night in the parked van and that we could continue the conversation the next day morning.
The next day I was up early and ready for work before my usual time. I wanted to talk to Karale and take some pictures of the van and display before I left for work. But when I went out into the lane there was nothing there — no van, no display and no Karale. 😦
It was almost as if there had been nothing there and I had dreamt the whole thing up ! If not for the 4 grainy pictures I had taken the previous night (and also shared in this post) and a scrap of paper with Karale’s contact details, I might as well have believed that my encounter with the mobile bookshop had been a figment of my imagination.
Note: In case you are interested in purchasing some Marathi books or in knowing about the mobile book business, you can contact Mr. Santosh Karale at +91-9004778596.