A few weeks ago, when Namz & Samz were in Chennai for a few days, we decided to meet at breakfast the day they were to leave for Singapore. But what had started out as breakfast, went on to be a fun day out with fun people doing fun things.
One of our fun escapades took us to the Landmark store at Spencers Plaza. This was after having scouted around the mall looking for a particular silver jewellery shop that was unfortunately closed that Sunday afternoon. It was 2pm, and we thought we’d quickly step in and out of Landmark for Namz to pick up some reading material for the flight, before we headed out for lunch.
As soon as we walked into Landmark, Samz headed out to look up the choicest of Archie comics to take back home to his collection, before which he would mull over the fate of Jughead’s love life while flipping through its pages on the flight back home.
Namz and I turned to the Indian Writers section and busied ourselves looking for a good read apart from keeping an eye out for Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City.
That was when I saw him as he walked past us. The ‘Dude’.
It was not like I ‘saw’ saw him. As he walked by, he was just another one of those non-existent entities that make up the hushed hustle and bustle of a bookstore. Someone you saw, but conveniently noted as the background to a bookstore setting.
We shall refer to the ‘dude’ as Blacky for ease of description, as he was dressed in a plain black, skintight t-shirt (complete with bulging muscles) and a pair of black pants, with a hint of a bootleg cut (While this ‘fashionable’ attire did not exactly stand out in contrast to his skin complexion, I shall refrain from adding that to the reason behind his nickname, lest I be termed racist). In short, he was somebody my brother would have eloquently termed a Gym-Baady.
“Excuse me”, said Blacky, interrupting the little chat Namz and I were having, “would you mind suggesting a book for me to read from here?”
In that moment, the non-existent entity turned himself from an element of the background into an undesirable irritant in our foreground. But what irritated me more than his presence was the question he was asking me. How do you suggest a random book to a random person randomly?
I sized him up in a glance, and pointed at Vikas Swarup’s Q&A, which I’d spotted on one of the shelves a few minutes back. With the entire Slumdog Millionaire buzz in the air, surely he’d want to read that one?
Completely ignoring my helpful gesture, he continued, “I mean, which one of these would you recommend to me, if I’m looking for a fast read?”
I glanced up at the shelf in front of me. Names like Khushwant Singh, Anita Desai, Shashi Tharoor, Vikram Seth and the like stared back at me in apprehension. Please don’t suggest us to ball-brained Blacky, they seemed to plead. In a last ditch effort, I tried suggesting Q&A to him again.
“You could try that one, it should be fast”, I said, and proceeded to trace my finger along the section of books in front of me- as if to signal my absolute disinterest in the rest of the potential conversation.
“Slumdog Millionaire? Isn’t that like the movie?”
Well, you’re intelligent, I wanted to tell him. But I politely smiled and said something about a missing love angle in the book. Or so, I believed. I haven’t gotten to reading the book myself.
Oh no. Clearly, the direction this boy was taking meant that he simply WAS NOT getting the message. I was so sure that Namz was thinking on the same lines as I was, as she quietly sifted through books while I hoped this little pest would simply walk away.
“… are you guys with any book club?”
Maybe clipped answers will work here, I though. “No, no”, I said, nodding my head at the book I randomly pulled out to flip through, desperately trying all measures of displaying disinterest. But, much to my disappointment, I found myself answering some of his dumb questions, in the same clipped answer fashion.
“Are you from here?”
“What do you do?”
“Oh, you’re an architect? So am I. That’s funny. I haven’t met someone who’s an architect this way.”
Alright, Blacky- this is the frikkin’ last straw, I thought. Not only am I pissed with myself for divulging so much information, I know you’re probably lying through your nose (don’t ask me how)! I gave Blacky a long look and then decided to call his bluff.
“Really, what college are you from?”
“R.V. College, Bangalore”.
At this point, I thought I’d throw some names of people I know from that college (yeah, don’t mess with us architecture students. We have a pretty good networking system in place), but decided against it. I tried the other trick question.
“So where are you working then? When did you pass out?”
“I, er, passed out in 2007.” He was fumbling, and I was liking this. Apparently, as he went on to fumble some more, he told me he wasn’t doing much since then. Strange. I wondered if it really was the truth, that must be some magically maintained body (or a rich father behind it all, but I rule that option out for it being such a killjoy alternative).
With that, he quickly walked away, while Namz and I gave each other the ‘what was that?’ look and went back to our book browsing.
Shortly afterwards, Samz told us he spotted Blacky hitting on a poor, clueless looking chick at another section. From the description of his conversation, it seemed to me he’d succeeded in going past the recommend-please-what-do-you-do-thread to something that sounded like let-me-take-you-out-sometime thread.
Why would someone want to pick up chicks in a bookstore? I understand intelligence is a turn-on for some men, but Blacky… he takes the cake!