'Gangarams' wasn't just a bookstore. It was a monument, a landmark, a family tradition; a sign of assurance that people in Bangalore still loved to read. When I think of 'Gangarams'; I think of climbing a somewhat steep flight of stairs, scuttling between four different floors, keeping my belongings in lockers and , as a child, ambling down a grid of book lined shelves with my parents. The only people who could navigate the store with frightening precision were members of the staff. They could whip out books from inconspicuous corners, without the blink of an eye or a whiff of judgement. It used to be common for other booksellers to say, 'we don't have this book, but you will find it at Gangarams'.
I still remember buying 'Living to Tell the Tale' by Marquez from 'Gangarams'. 'Back to school' season wouldn't be the same without a trip to 'Gangarams' for a textbook buying spree. No competitive exam preparation was complete without the acquisition of that rarely published and rather 'ninja' study guide. 'Gangarams' also had an entire floor called 'the computer section', something that my father cherished. There were times when I would leave the store empty handed and scowling, while my father beamed like the 'Magi' as he clutched a copy of 'Computers for Dummies'. The store was also a place where I would return to reminisce; to breathe in the scent of books fresh from the press, to be the six year old that clutched her father's hand, and to be the adolescent who watched her mother's eyes light up at the sight of a favorite classic.
Today, upon hearing this, a part of me is glad that my father isn't here to see the store shut down. On the other hand, I imagine him, in all jocular pragmatism, saying, 'Everything is an illusion. Nothing is forever; not people and definitely not bookstores'. One has to acknowledge that 'Gangarams' didn't generate the kind of hype that 'Crossword' and 'Landmark' did with their literary events. It didn't organize massive, garage sale like giveaways at dirt cheap prices, and it didn't have a coffee shop. It is now an established fact, that if a bookstore is to survive, it must give readers something more than just books.
On days like this, the naive sentimentalist in me trumps over the headstrong technologist. I feel as though a part of my memory has been sliced away and that I will never have access to it for either consultation or comfort.