The Fountain Awards

If I become an author, I’m not extremely keen on seeing my book win a Booker or a Pulitzer.

Actually, scratch that.

When I become an author, I’m not extremely keen on seeing my book win a Booker or a Pulitzer.

Instead, I want to see it on the streets of Mumbai, being sold as pirated copies, for basically a dime, by local vendors on a humid day. Specifically on the pavements opposite Mumbai’s Flora Fountain, where the joy of buying pirated and second hand copies of books resides.

On these pavements, vendors sit with their tarpaulin tents and wooden stools while they sell these books to hungry readers. All three of these (the tarpaulin tents, wooden stools and the hungry readers) fail to wither away even as the harsh Bombay rains try their best to create chaos.

The books sold here are flimsy. Ink leaks through the pages, faded covers are nearly incomprehensible and Os are oftentimes zeroes while commas are full stops. That’s probably why they ended up there anyway.

However, to me, these used books sold in Flora Fountain are the epitome of success. One that is unmatched by any anglicized awards, and untouched by civilization’s need for pretence to honor a good book in front of a bourgeois crowd.

Groups of common people gather around these blue tarpaulin tent stalls and pay (mostly a meagre amount) to read these so-called “flawed” books.

The books sold at Flora Fountain

But isn’t that the true mark of a good book?

A book that isn’t bought because of its luminous hardbound cover, one which is exempted from its apparent grammatical errors, one whose flimsiness and running ink people are willing to overlook for the pure joy of reading. For the desire to scan the words strung by the author and nothing else. Not for the ‘nominated for 2019 Edgar’ sign (because most probably it has faded away), not for the forewords given by the big names (that are often torn off in second -and copies) and definitely not for its cover (which sometimes is different from the book inside)

They say a good reader doesn’t judge a book by its cover.

I say a good reader buys their books from Flora Fountain.

And a good writer smiles with pride holding the priceless, pirated copy of their book in Flora Fountain.


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