I look with a fixed stare. Through the windshield of a taxi. A windshield which must have been washed for decades ! A windshield which must have been privy to a different age.
And through that looking glass, I saw a sight most of us in India see many times over. It was that of a young boy and his attempt to sell something to passengers in the taxi ahead. Obviously the boy and his body lean on the taxi exterior and his head well inside the rear window of the taxi.
I anxiously look up at the traffic signal. About 90 seconds to go says the big red timer with the factual readiness of a coconut breaker. In about 10 seconds another head comes in front of me. Actually, so close to me, that it gives me a start.
Another boy. Another attempt at a sale. This time around, it is books. Duplicate / street versions of some of the more famous books. The same books that I used to pick up many years ago. The same duplicate versions that I consciously and decisively stay away from for ‘moral’ reasons. As I write this, I think there is a moral force which drives me to add ‘economic reasons’. Perhaps.
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Good To Great
The Power of Now
The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari
The boy seems to have it all. And one more element that he has : a passion to close the sale. He convinces me. He says in Hindi, “ Good books sir. Reading gives you wisdom sir. Buy it for your children sir.” He goes on.
I look away. Then look at the big red timer. It tells me that there was a full minute to go. “Sir, this book is for Rs. 55/- only. In the store the cost is more than Rs.500/-“. I tell him I know.
I ask him if he goes to school. He smiles. He gives no answer. “Sir, please buy”. A lump escapes my throat. There he is. All of 12. Perhaps 13. Perhaps younger. Perhaps more. With some dream and purpose. Children of his age, carry other books in their hands. And read. He carries quite a different set. And sells at the traffic signal, with the bright red timer.
I ask him if he knew he is not supposed to sell such books. And that it is illegal. He smiles. He gives no answer. “Sir, please buy. These are books”. I wonder what must have gone through his mind: “What a cartoon, i am selling books not drugs…”
I smile too.
He senses prey. “Three books for Rs. 150 /- Please choose sir. The signal will change soon.” The dilemma of staying away from duplicate copies of any product at the same time wanting to encourage a young passionate heart, who did not beg but wants to earn his living stare at me.
About an hour later, I stare at the new ‘duplicate’ books in my study. They rest right beside their ‘original’ counterparts. It seems to me that the ‘original’s seem perplexed that I have bought home ‘duplicate’ books ! Others are more perplexed that i have brought home the same titles of the ones that i have as ‘originals’.
From the look and feel, I can distinguish the ‘originals’ from the ‘duplicates’. By a mile ! As I think of the young boy, his passion, his sheer ability to stay persistent right under the big red traffic signal timer….
One set seems to be more original than the original !