The 70% discount was a hint. The ‘extended’ sale was certainly a giveaway. The jobless air-conditioners and the retired escalators eating humble pie and becoming staircases was surely a reason enough to see it all coming. One of the most loved landmarks of Vadodara, aptly branded as Landmark has closed its shutters for the shopaholics, music addicts, movie buffs and bookworms of the city.
Well, there have been many malls, cafés, bookstores, and restaurants which have called it quits and we’ve forgotten them with passage of time, but Landmark will always remain special to me. Over a year ago, my first book, ‘Baker’s Dozen – a brew of 13 short stories’ was launched here by noted author, dramatist and academician Rani Dharker. Maitreya Publication, and friends like Krishnamurthi Kumar, Uttara Jagannath, Devika Jagannath, Arun Pathak and especially Jay Merchant made the event special.
The place enshrined my dream on its shelves, where the book proudly winked at the passersby, egging them on to pick it up and have a sneak peek into the world of fiction. Almost every weekend, I used to frequent the place, confessedly because I was keen to know how the book was doing. There was a guy working at Landmark (how inconsiderate of me that I took him for granted so much so that I never bothered to remember his name), who regularly updated me on the sale.
“Bahut log saamne se poochke book le gaye sir,” he’d say whenever he spotted me near the bookshelf where Baker’s Dozen was stacked, informing me that people would promptly ask for the book and buy it. “Thoda theek-thaak jaa raha hai sir…abhi kya hai exam time hai isliye books ka sale thoda down hai, lekin yeh book chalega…,” he would assure, saying that the sale isn’t encouraging owing to the examination time but he was sure it would eventually do well (it never did, except during ‘sale season’, and I never expected it to become a bestseller either).
I often used to spot teenagers reading it while pretending to checking out the book (Landmark used to have a seating facility for ‘peek-a-book’ readers earlier but they did away with it later). I overheard a guy saying to his friend, “I read almost half of it last Sunday…might finish today. Why buy a short story book when you can read it this way?” I walked past them, smiling at the fact that people were at least reading the book, irrespective whether they bought it or not. What better royalty can any author ever wish to garner?
If there were moments of anonymity, then there were also times of feeling like a celebrity, when a girl walked up to me and asked, “Aren’t you the guy who wrote this book?” she asked, showing me her copy of Baker’s Dozen. I said, “Yup, I am guilty of it,” I said. She looked at me and said, “I read the first story and immediately decided to buy it. Can you please sign this copy and write something on it?”
Well, the shutters of Landmark have trapped all those memories inside its premise. The reasons of closing down the store might vary from losses, hefty maintenance costs, management issues, or just a relocation plan in the near future, but the reason of it to stay open was just one: To make people smile. Thank you Landmark, for the smiles and the moments of a year-long fame.