I'm doing my annual trip to Kolkata, India, to spend time with relatives, and attend a friend's wedding reception. A few days back, B, my aunt, and I hit Oxford Bookstore, a lovely 89-year-old bookstore in the middle of town.
I ended up buying about a dozen books. Some of the books I'll be hauling back home were already on my reading list: Aravind Adiga's White Tiger (the latest Booker winner), Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies (the latest from a fave writer), and Manjula Padmanabhan's Escape (the new novel by a smart feminist Indian SF writer I've been really enjoying). Others were from novelists I've never heard of, including Devdutt Pattnaik's The Pregnant King, Indrajit Hazra's The Bioscope Man, and Nayantara Sahgal's Mistaken Identity.
Our trip to Oxford Bookstore was full of particularly acute synchronicity:
- Earlier that day, my aunt, an Indian historian, had got the news that her latest book has gone to press, via Oxford University Press India
- While browsing, B and I ran into acquaintances we'd met at our friend's wedding reception the night before
- California Bengali scientist Mani Bhaumik (co-inventor of the laser) was sitting at the next table from us at the bookstore cafe, signing a new popular science book
- We ran into Raka Ray, from UC Berkeley's Center for South Asian Studies, as she dashed into the store looking for a book; she's someone all three of us know as a friend or colleague
- While in the checkout line, the man in front of me looked weirdly familiar; I struck up a conversation, and he turned out to be UC Berkeley economist Pranab Bardhan, in town for a few days
That Californian Bengali bibliophile connection is quite something.