I am scared of second hand books.
People tell me all the time about Moormarket in Chennai and Orchids(?) in Bangalore where you get fabulous low priced books. But they are all mostly second hand books. And that's why I steer clear of these supposedly delightful places.
Ofcourse, I do own many books handed down by my cousins and friends at some point or the other. My painfully limited bookshelf at home does possess that Grandfather Copy Of The Decameron Which Is So Carefully Covered With A Sheet Torn From The Hindu Newspaper Of The 1970s. And I don't mind. These books are filled with memories of people I know, or people I am vaguely aware of. They aren't strangers, just good old friends or the easy- to- talk- to acquaintances.
It is the books I pick up randomly from nowhere, which originally belonged to someone else, that scare me.
For they once belonged to someone else who I don't know. Their pages are filled with the stories of these unknown strangers' lives and when I place them among familiar faces in my bookshelf, they stand out awkwardly. And most of these books contain embarrassing dedications like "To my darling sister, Soumya, on her twenty second birthday, With love, Raji" and I always feel like I am prying into the lives of Soumya and Raji whoever they are and wherever they lived. The book gifted to Soumya does not belong to my bookshelf, no matter how fervently I try to hide it behind my very own Anna Karenina and Kafka on the Shore.
So every time I pick up a second hand book which was owned by someone I do not know, I am filled with some sort of revulsion. And uneasiness. The feeling you would get if you steal someone's lunch at a restaurant. Or attend a random wedding celebration down the street. I should suppose it is an awful feeling and I never shall buy second hand books even if I have to shell a Holy-Mother-of-God 300 bucks for Ulysses. The folks at Flipkart gotta love me!