I am just done watching third episode of much talked about, modernized, filmed version of Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. Season2 ends with Sherlock dead. I knew this would happen and so would many, who have read the story before. I don’t know why I feel sad seeing him die this time when I already knew he would and the intensity of sadness is as strong as I felt it 13 years back. I have that strong attachment with the character like many had with Harry Potter. One possible reason for this attachment is how I got the book as a kid.
It was for the first time that there was a stall selling books in a local festival fair in my town. This fair had everything to amuse ladies, children and youngsters. Ladies thronged bangle and cosmetics shops, they would bargain household stuff and would only feel satisfied till the seller fell on their feet asking to spare some profit so that he could feed his family, children would be awestruck by the variety of toys and rides, youngsters just had nice time hanging out with friends. But, I was 12 and in that age toys seemed childish, I had no interest in feminine or household items and I always had this handicap of not having enough social skills to make friends. So, the fair was just a disappointment till I found that small tarpaulin tent with smell of paper emanating from it. It was for the first time I had been to a place where they had hundreds of books not prescribed by school curriculum. Why would someone have such a shop in a small, remote village where I lived? I had read some story books before, borrowed from my school library but I really wanted to own some of the books in this shop and not borrow. It was then when I realized that I was very possessive about my books. If I could, I would have bought about 20 books but I didn’t have money to buy even one, especially the one that I really wanted to – “Unabridged works of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I would get 10 rupees every day during the fair to have ice cream or some roadside snack and that book was priced 120 rupees. I would visit that stall everyday only to see if that book was still there. I am not sure if I was happy to find it sitting on the shelf unsold. I was perhaps satisfied to see that it was still there and I may buy it someday but the thought of it being still there and my inability to buy it pained me; had it been sold I could have consoled myself. Fair was to last 7 days and all I could afford was to save 70 rupees by the time it ended.
I went to the fair on that last day too, walked into the stall and saw that books were being packed into cartons to be shipped. Shelves had been dismantled. It has been long since then but I still remember the owner of stall. He was middle aged, perhaps late 50’s. Short hair, more grey than black on sides and neatly parted on left. His face slightly broad with loose skin over his cheeks and nose bud marks from reading glasses were easily visible on his nose with swollen nostrils. His eyes had started to develop arcus senilis and had charm that made him look affable. He was sitting on his wooden chair under the October sun. I met him and asked if he wanted to sell that book for cheap. He smiled, looked into my eyes and said that he had notice me come every day in his shop staring at that book but he thought I would never ask. But I did. He said he could sell it for 90 rupees if I wanted to buy. I told him I just had 70 to which he tapped my shoulder and said that people haven’t bought much from him in the fair and he could not afford a loss selling that book below 90 rupees. My shoulders stooped and so did my head for a moment but then rose with a strong breath. I looked back into his eyes asked him to find that book for me from his packages. I ran to see papa sitting in his shop, reading electronic circuits; we had an electronic instrument repair shop. My parents would have easily given me more money had I asked for a book prescribed by my school but they thought that reading stories would distract me from my studies and it was hard to persuade them. I gave him various reasons. I told him how great the author was, knighted by the Queen of England but all that was of no importance to him. For him my focus on my studies was more important than anything else and he made sure that I get the best education possible in that small place where we lived. I was disheartened and pulled out all the money I had saved from my pocket and began folding the notes neatly. My dad saw me. He never said it but I think he realized that a kid had been avoiding temptations to spend money over ice-creams and toys for a story book. He opened his drawer, pulled out a 100 rupee note and happily gave it to me to buy the book. Ha ha ha! I bought the book and rushed straight to eat gol-gappe, a roadside snack that I had been avoiding all these days. Then was an ice-cream cone. I was happy.
The book now sits on a shelf in my room and is my dearest possession. Since then I have bought many books and read them all but I have always tried to avoid temptations to read my Sherlock Holmes. I remember when this book was not mine it attracted me to explore what was in it. And now, when I have it, I want it to have that same attraction and a sense of suspense associated with it so I have deliberately stopped reading it. May be some day……