Friday, February 13, 2015

BOOZE AND BOOKS

BOOZE AND BOOKS
Unforgettable Memories of my Navy Days
A Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE

This story happened long ago – 37 years ago – an unforgettable memoir from the best days of my life – my delightful Navy days – in the 1970’s.

We – a shipmate and me – were loafing around on a Sunday morning – browsing books at the pavement bookstalls around the Central Telegraph Office (CTO) near Hutatma Chowk (Flora Fountain) in Mumbai (Bombay).

I noticed my friend engrossed in a large size book, a regal looking tome, which looked like an encyclopedia.

“Look at this fabulous book,” my friend said, all excited, “it is an encyclopedia of numismatics – it is fantastic – everything is here – the complete history of coins and currency – and details and pictures of rare coins…”

“Yes,” I said, “it seems to be a rare book.”

“I have been interested in numismatics since my schooldays,” he said, “but I have never seen a book on numismatics like this one. There is a wealth of information in this encyclopedia.”

[Now – as you must have guessed – my friend’s passionate hobby was numismatics (the study of coins and medals) – yes – those days – most naval officers had diverse hobbies – all sorts of activities ranging from outdoor pursuits like hiking, trekking, bird-watching, star-gazing, fishing etc to the more prosaic indoor hobbies like philately and numismatics].

Seeing how much my friend had liked the book, I said to him, “Why don’t you buy the book?”

“Yes,” he said, “I must buy this book.”

We asked the bookseller the price of the book.

He quoted an astronomical figure.

“Are you crazy?” I said to the bookseller, “yours is a pavement bookstall and this is an old secondhand book – and you are quoting such a high price – which is even more than as if this were a brand new book in a reputed bookstore.”

“Sir – this is a very rare book – a limited exclusive edition – see the prestigious foreign publisher, the date of publication – this book is long out of print – you will not get it anywhere…” the bookseller said.

“But the price is too high – you can surely give us some discount,” my friend said.

“Not on this book, Sir – you take it or leave it – but let me tell you – if you come tomorrow you may not find this book here – an old gentleman showed interest in this book yesterday – he did not have the money – and he said that he may come today…” the bookseller said, driving a hard bargain.

We bargained and haggled – but the bookseller would not budge – he refused to reduce the price of the book.

Finally, I said to my friend, “If you have liked this book so much – why don’t you buy it?”

“Look at the price – it is almost half our monthly pay,” my friend said.

“Which whisky do you drink?” I asked my shipmate.

“Whisky?” my friend asked, taken aback, What has whisky got to do with this book?

“Just tell me,” I said.

He told me.

“And, tell me – how many pegs of whisky do you drink every day?” I asked him.

“3 – 4 – sometimes 5…” he said.

“So let’s say you drink 2 bottles of whisky a week – that’s around 8 bottles a month…” I said.

“Not 8 – maybe 6 – I don’t drink every day,” he said.

“Okay – let’s say you drink 6 bottles of whisky a month – now listen to me – don’t drink for 2 months and you will cover the cost of this book…” I said.

“What are you saying?” he asked, looking confused.

“The price of this book is the same as 10 bottles of whisky you drink every two months – so don’t drink for two months – or drink one peg less every day till it adds up to 10 bottles – and you will cover the cost of this book…” I said.

“You are a crazy guy – comparing booze and books…” my shipmate said.

“You smoke – don’t you? Tell me – which brand of cigarettes….?”

“Enough…!!!” my shipmate interrupted me.

He pulled out his wallet and bought the book.

NB:-

In case you are one of those “number crunching” types – here are some “facts and figures”:

1. Those days, in the 1970’s, the basic pay of a Navy Lieutenant (Army Captain/Air Force Flight Lieutenant) was Rs. 1100 per month.

2. In the Navy  a “peg” means a large peg (a “double”).

3. When this story happened, we were serving on board a ship – so I am talking of duty free Scotch whisky. Today – if you are a civilian book lover – you can buy many good books in the cost of a bottle of premium Scotch whisky.

EPILOGUE

I spent my entire “working life” in the Navy – and since I was an honest officer – I do not have much money – and nor do I have many assets.

The only “wealth” I have are my books – which I have collected since my college days.

Whenever I wanted to buy a book – I always calculated its cost in terms bottles of booze – and – in most cases – I bought the book.

As I look at my collection of books – I think of all the bottles of booze I did not drink.

It’s true, isn’t it – we spend freely on momentary pleasures like food, drink, cigarettes, movies, holidays etc – and we splurge our money on transitory extravagant events like marriages, ceremonies, parties and such fleeting occasions – we indulge “conspicuous consumption” – but we get stingy and tightfisted when it comes to acquiring things of lasting value like books.

Cheers – Dear Reader.

The next time you see a good book – remember this story – and:

Skip the booze – and buy the book !!!

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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