My family takes pride in our ownership of an analog weighing scale. We’re fit but not obsessed with inches. So, the scale has little to do with our fitness goals. It stays hidden under the bed throughout the year. Its occasional outing and pride moment arises when it’s time for me to return from New Delhi to Dubai. We brush the dust off the scale and realign the scale to ‘zero .’I am weighed. That’s step one. Next, I, the passenger, weigh myself again, holding my suitcase. We’re obsessed with grams (when flying), not inches.
Many of you know that most international flights allow us to check-in 30kg of baggage per passenger (of course, one can pay for excess baggage, but I prefer not to). The trick here is not to exceed by a single gram; instead, play safe and be 500gm under the allowed limit, allowing you to grin at (ground staff) the check-in counter.
The baggage calculations (subtractions) are then made. The year I speak of here, I managed to check-in at 29.05 kilos and 34 books. Each annual break, whenever I visit my parents, my itinerary revolves around making stopovers at bookstalls, bookshops, libraries, and book fairs (if any are ongoing). Also, I rummage through the shelves at home to gradually add the gems lined on them to my collection here. I’m a huge fan of second-hand book stalls and buy more than I need. Classics, which one must own a copy of, the latest title of a favourite author, and of course, I carefully make selections from the must-reads before you die kind-of lists. Amazon and Flipkart are always running offers and sales, which is hard to ignore. And just like that, my luggage stands heavier by the end of my break with familiar and unfamiliar titles.
Love can’t be measured, so the weight of the books is thoroughly checked with a weighing scale. Adjustments are made to shift paperbacks with hardbounds. Compromises are driven to leave behind the books already devoured. The summer I speak of made me richer by 34 titles. My favourite picks included Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride, The Vintage Sardar: The Very Best of Khush- want Singh, Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto In Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou and Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami.
What can be better than bringing home words from the best, new and promising? There are bookshops, libraries in Dubai, and online shopping delivery services. True. Yet, on each trip, I get drawn towards the aroma and colour of the books adorned in my favourite haunts in India. Of course, they are cheaper as well. A few places offer lovely handmade bookmarks, too. But mainly, my purchases result from the need to discover an enormous joy — the voices of the literary world.