The gift of a book coupon found me searching for Kitab Khana. A helpful assistant at the end of a phone line directed me to Davar’s College and a brisk walk later found me on unfamiliar familiar ground. The area had been a haunt in earlier times, but the years in-between had wrought changes.
I expected to find the usual tired entrance lined with dusty shelves and well thumbed books – a memory from past visits to other stores. Instead, I was greeted by a frontage straight out of a movie (or a dream?). Bemused, I entered upon a most delightful scene: books on shelves, books on display, books arranged here, there and everywhere. Crisp, newly minted, fresh off the press books. Hardbound, paperback, spiral bound books. Colourful, sober, titillating, serious books. Books of every kind. The silence was welcoming as were the comfy sofas, some already occupied by browsers with noses deep in – yes - books. And, the fragrant aroma of printed paper intermingled with that of freshly brewing coffee from the coffee bar at the end of this huge Aladdin’s cave. Or, heaven.
Like a child in cookie paradise, I skipped from display to display lifting covers and sampling snippets. I was certainly going to use that gift coupon: what I wanted was that one special book - one that would count as both a discovery and a memory. I came across old friends among the titles and encountered many new ones and then, almost at the end of the ‘cavern’, I found it. The illustration on the cover and the intriguing title brought on that old familiar feeling – love at first sight!
Among my treasured experiences are the verses of Ogden Nash and Hillaire Belloc and the quirky humour of James Thurber: the ultimate gateway to imagination, the involuntary chuckle and the Walter Mitty experience (if you haven’t had that, you’ve really missed something). And now, I have added Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. A turn of the pages takes you to a magical, whimsical place where the author says what he means and means what he says with childlike honesty and adult wisdom. Who could resist this invitation?
“If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Have you ever sat on the seashore at sunset and imagined an enchanted place beyond the horizon? No? Then, be tempted. Do it.