Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lady at the book shop

There is a road in Ahmedabad called IIM road. On this road, some 100-300 meters away from the IIM main gate, sits a woman with her makeshift book shop cum library. Oh, except this "shop" actually is a hundreds of books piled up neatly and kept-on the road. There are books of all types, topics, shapes and sizes. Academic, novels, self-help,comics, magazines, religious texts,coloring books. Even the study material and reports that the IIMA students have given away after passing out can be found. The lady herself sits under an umbrella advertising a certain FM station. Now, the system is like this- You can either buy a book at less than half price, or can rent a book. While you borrow, you pay the full price that she sells it for and the day you return, she keeps some Rs 20-30 for the rent and returns the rest of your money. If you don't return, well, then you've already bought it, haven't you? Simple enough.

And that's exactly how the lady also comes across-Simple. Simple, plain and street vendor types. Hmm..We'll see that she isn't.
So, a few days ago I was so engrossed in browsing through the abundant collection that it was a while before I noticed that she was yelling at someone on phone. About how he's not helping one bit to reorganize the books, about how she has been fussing over getting the perfect setting..yada yada yada...
After giving the fellow an earful she ended the call and caught me looking at her. Now, it might not appear so, but in real life such social situations are awkward for both the parties. I tried to convey 'sorry for eavesdropping' by a sheepish smile. She returned an indulgent one and started talking...
" We were closed for eight days. I had remove all these books from here. Now, having a hard time re-organising"
"Oh, I didn't know that. Why was it closed?"
" Don't you know? The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh came here ( finger pointing at IIM campus)"
Before I could get over my astonishment that this lady on the street knew the name of the PM, she said..
" For the convocation of course"
* Now, eyes wide-opened, positively astounded *. Did she just say Convocation? And pronounced it as Kon-vuh-kay-shen? Hell! I spent four years with would-be engineers who said Kan-vo-kay-son.
This bewildering moment passed as she continued
" So the police made us clear"
" But that's not fair! Just to make the roads look prettier? It must have been such a loss for you. That's so not fair" I replied, morally outraged, expecting her to burst into a rigmarole about how cruel the police is and how the street-businesses like hers have to suffer every now and then. I know her types, a little prod and the outburst starts. Or,I thought I knew. Never, in the wildest of my imaginations I expected the following answer
" No, no. It is very necessary. You see the PM is an important person and his security is of the utmost importance. Now look at these piles of books, somebody can easily plant a bomb here without my notice and he might die. His life can't be compromised. And what after all is a duration of eight days. Itna to hum chala sakte hain. "

I stood speechless at this barely literate woman's unselfishness, solidarity and sound logic.
Here we are- spreading status updates, notes, blog posts about being devoted to country, community and society. And here she is-making an actual difference to the same.