Monday, December 24, 2007

Book Crossing

I had learned the term Serendipity only about ten days before I came across the concept of Book Crossing. (I of course learned the term because of the silly movie by the same name – not by watching it, but by hearing of it from loads of people who could not stop swooning over its fairytale romance! A couple of years later when I did watch the movie, I felt nauseated with the overdose of sweetness, not to mention stupidity!). The movie aside, it was an interesting word, and sounded even better when combined with books. Imagine sitting in a cafe, sipping coffee and enjoying the music, and on a curious impulse, you look under the table and find a packet wrapped in brown paper. You pick it up, and find it is that rare book you have been thinking of reading for a year! Yes, yes, I realize the over optimism and romanticism hiding behind that 'dreamy' thought, but that's the good thing about dreams. You can make them far more beautiful than reality.

So, when a friend sent me a mail about Book crossing, I registered at their site. For the uninitiated, the concept behind book crossing is that readers across the world release their favorite books with a book crossing ID (BC-ID), and leave it at some public location – for instance in a park, a café, a hotel, a train or a station. When someone finds that book, (and if they are Book-crossing savvy), they go to the site and register that they have found the book against the book's BC-ID. So you can track your book as it crosses from one hand to another and at the same time also serendipitously find books left by other BC members. Of course, I was loathe to trust anyone with my books and therefore hoped only to find one left by a more trusting soul. For a few days, I kept logging into the site to check if someone had left a book behind in some part of my city, where I could conveniently go and pick it up. Unfortunately, there are few trusting souls in India, and neither of them had the good fortune to be members of BC and be in Bangalore at the same time! I gave up after a few attempts – after all the most likely fate to be suffered by an unclaimed book in India is that it will find its way into the second hand market or in a waste paper shop.

Recently, I read an interesting an amusing article in NY Times which brought back Book Crossing to my mind. The writer makes several attempts to leave books in conspicuous spots, always hopeful of finding something in return. She finds herself getting cross with Book crossing and struggles to serendipitously find a released copy. It was nice to know that I don't stand alone in hoping the scales of serendipity to tip in my humble favor.

Book Crossing aside, I have serendipitously found a few books in different places, and they have been good reads. (I hunted for a BC-ID in them but never found it) I found Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose lying on the shelf of a community kitchen, and found Roddy Doyle's A star called Henry in a Garage takeaway (well, it was like a garage sale where you didn't have to pay !). In more conventional places like hotels, where a lot of tourists leave their books, I have found and read books like The Accidental (Ali Smith) and PGWoodehouses. (Even some random romances, but I am ashamed of mentioning those J ) It is a delight to stumble upon such books and devour them, especially when you are not carrying enough to read on a journey. My only hope is that people get more generous with their books. But alas, when I checked book crossing this afternoon, I realized that book crossers in Mumbai are no better than Bangalore and there is only one book released in the entire city. On second thoughts, I suppose I should go hunting for that in stead of wasting my time writing this!


krupa said...

Amazing post!
I feel the same way about the movie,Serendipity-stupid movie!

But I don't think I can leave a book somewhere in the hope that someone else will find it...and love it the way I do!

Madhuri said...

Thanks Krupa. I too, am very circumspect even in loaning my books, let alone abandon it somewhere. I find even the idea of selling books to a second hand bookstore very uncomfortable. I will wait till my library grows too big for my teeny weeny Bombay flat and then wonder what to do with these gems :-)

shiva said...

Very interesting read!! I am going to go hunting in Bangalore today :)

Madhuri said...

Good luck Shiva! Hope you find one of those lost books :-)