The Pull of Pages- Part 1

Before buying provisions for the week, I would often feel pulled towards Chapters, the largest independent book store in Dublin, located on Parnell Street next to a Tesco store

By Muhammad Tahir

I was in Dublin for half a decade. Unlike New York or Berlin, it is a manageable city. That is to say that you can easily walk around and explore the entire Dublin city in a day – though it rains for better part of a week which can be a damp squib. Strolling around the city along with my friends and colleagues, I would often stop to have a coffee in a café by the Liffey River, which moves straight, silently amidst touristy bustle. If I felt hunger pangs after a long walk, then it was Biryani time either at Medina on Mary Street or Dera on Parnell Street. Such trips, which would happen once in a while, were usually planned and budgeted.

However, there were times when I would go to the city centre alone, on weekends, to buy groceries from Tesco and Lidl. Although closer to my accommodation there were stores of these super-markets, some strange force would take me to the ones located in the city centre. Before buying provisions for the week, I would often feel pulled towards Chapters, the largest independent book store in Dublin, located on Parnell Street next to a Tesco store. In the first floor of this spacious bookstore, I would move from section to section, with my head aslant, scanning titles of second-hand books at offer. A range of genres to choose from; a huge collection of cheap books, most of them at a price of a cup of coffee.

But I often lingered in the literary fiction section, looking for the authors and books I thought I must read – to catch up, to keep up with others who were better read then me. I immediately pulled books of the authors I had read about in literary journals, magazines and newspapers – because they had either recently won an award or published a book which had received rave reviews by the New York Times. I also pulled books I had meant to read for a long time, but had sat on them for some unknown reasons. Sometimes I pulled a hardcover from the shelf because its design appealed to me.

Usually, I opened the first page of the book, read the first paragraph chanting the words, tasting the sentences in their lilting sequence. If I liked the opening scene and the writing, I would tuck the book under my arms with a feeling of anticipating leisure. A couple of hours later, I would feel strain in my neck and heaviness in my arms trying to hold on to this week’s pick. At the checkout as I would receive the receipt with quintessential ‘see you later’, I would have second thoughts about the expenditure. Was it unnecessary? Have I not already purchased too many books on previous trips which have remained unread? I justified, nevertheless, saying that this was a noble investment. Even if I didn’t get to read all of these books someone else from the family would benefit from them later on. I envisaged a better-read next generation through this ‘noble investment.’

Trips to Chapters were seldom planned or budgeted; they just happened, just like that. An invisible hand pulling my mind’s strings. And that was a problem. Not just because I was spending needlessly on books that I hardly get time to read, but also for the reason that they had started piling up at my accommodation. And, I moved places and travelled home in summers and taking care of this huge investment was a nightmare. To parcel them to Kashmir was quite expensive. Airlines allowed only limited baggage allowance. So, I end up gifting some of them. Some I kept with my friends with a hope to retrieve them later.

  • The author is an independent researcher

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