I had paid one of my customary visits to Landmark this January. Everything- every single item- was on sale. I picked a few books and asked one of the shop assistants what the news was, where they shutting shop? I don’t know why- maybe it was the way I questioned him- I might have sounded like I might have started shrieking hysterically right there on knowing the truth- he gave me his tale of how this was their annual sale, yearly thing, no, they were not closing down.
A month later, there were these whispers floating around that the store most certainly was shutting down, and I wouldn’t bring myself to believe that either. After that, every time I drove down the main road, I would crane my neck to check the far end of Apex plaza, hoping for a glimpse of the black and white signboard. One fine day, that went down too.
I had been frequenting Landmark since the time I was, I think, four years old. My first Barbie, my first little pony- my first windows of escapades into imaginary lands conjured within my head, I had from Landmark. Soon, the books followed. Then, though, the books seemed very overpriced for a kid from a middle class family. I remember birthdays where we would walk around the store, the shelves towering above me, that smell of fresh, new books enveloping me. I would pick a Nancy Drew, look at the price and place it back thinking, okay, Daddy can get five such at Moore Market. Sometimes I would pick a book and open it and inhale the scent of the pages deeply, and from the corner of my eye catch an attendant watching me with a straight face, saying nothing, but making me grin sheepishly and replace the book. But on most of these birthdays, my parents would end up buying me ‘Tell Me Why’, ‘Some More Tell Me Why’, ‘Lots More Tell Me Why’ and ‘Here’s More Tell Me Why’ books, instead; but they were not too bad after all. At an age where I was hungrily devouring anything written, they did a load of good.
After I started working, I stopped buying pirated books from Moore Market. The Landmark connect was re- established. For a while, I would saunter around, check the latest releases out, mentally evaluate how much I would save by ordering it on Flipkart, and walk out empty handed. That was until Landmark came up with its Buy 2 for 3 offers. Every now and then, I would walk out with a pile of books. However now I was not wolfing them down like before. Attention spans were becoming shorter and I was becoming a lot choosier. Some books would be abandoned mid-way, some would be fast-forward read to the climax and then flung away. But the store would always welcome me, as if saying, ‘Okay, never mind, try this this time’
Once the sign board came down, I guessed that was the end of my favourite store. I still wouldn’t visit. Until today, that is, when my brother called me and said that Landmark had a flat 70% off sale on everything. They were still open! However, the entry was closed. We were ushered in through the exit. One entire half of the store was closed. Shut. Heart wrenching it was, guilt alternating with denial. It was as if a good friend was ailing and I kept putting off meeting her, and finally I work up the nerve to call on her, and here she is, dying.
It was just a book store, you might say. Well, yes, it does seem so. But it was more than that. Landmark was something like a link to my childhood, it was this zone where you could walk, hum along, plonk on a couch and read an entire book (I have done this) and not be questioned. It was a gateway to a million dreams and ideas. It was a comfortable place to be in, the smells, the polished wooden racks, the well-lit spaces and invisible attendants…you don’t get that feel in Star Mark or Crossword or Oxford. Not all of them exist today, nonetheless, the comparison still holds good.
And though there will always be Landmarks in Skywalk mall and Spencers and Citi Centre, they will never be like the first one at Apex plaza. As I got my purchases billed today (No galaxy chocolates lining the racks, no lollypops or toblerones inviting you to pick them up), I asked if there would be a new store coming up sometime soon. ‘We are still looking for the right place ma’am’ I was told. But that wouldn’t be this Landmark, either. And, after having been foolish enough to think that a bookstore was invincible, I must say, we deserve this. And there is nothing that we can do about it.