Rahul da Cunha: Strand and deliver

Feb 25, 2018, 06:53 IST | Rahul da Cunha

And so, it's been in our fair city that some structures become institutions and these institutions invade our youth and flood us with vital learning and entertainment

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rahul da CunhaAnd so, it's been in our fair city that some structures become institutions and these institutions invade our youth and flood us with vital learning and entertainment. And when these institutions shut down/are razed to the ground, they morph into a flood of memories and nostalgia - these structures that may now take the form of mere scaffoldings, shopping malls, spider-infested ruins, or sad versions of their previous avatars.

But, either way, they remind us of a city once named Bombay.

The memory of Jeetendra and Dharmendra, wearing tight scuba diving outfits, beating a rubber octopus to death in a mid 70s film will always haunt me as I go past Imperial theatre on Lamington Road, now showing B-grade porn.

As I listen to John McLaughlin play at the Royal Opera House, it's not easy to erase the memory of Shashi Kapoor beating up some baddies wearing roller skates, 40 years ago, in this very theatre, in its once tapori avatar. And, in 1975, sneaking into Minerva Theatre, the first day first show of Sholay (my school buddy Jawinder Sahwney's dad was the manager) and watching Amjad Khan utter, 'Arrey o Samba', to now see it now as an invisible memory, hidden behind an aluminum covering is bizarre.

Rhythm House will go from selling jewels of rock to, I'm told, jewelry (I'm guessing not Nirav Modi diamonds).

But, the erstwhile music store, Wayside Inn and Samovar closed down gradually over a few years, making each body blow more palatable. The last week has been particularly tough, with two institutions calling it a night.

Eros cinema was officially retired, bringing the curtain down on old Warner Brother movies and chicken rolls long past their expiry date. Art deco achitecture and watching Towering Inferno on cinemascope.

But, also closing this week, is that quaint little bookstore nestled in the Fort area called Strand.

With the shutters down on Strand Bookstore, the city closes a chapter on one of its greatest stories. With it rendering extinct that rarest of species - the browser. That unhurried tribe of people, called the serious reader, lost in a menagerie of paperback bliss.

Strand was that stand alone book store till the end. It had no commercial offerings of gifts and toys and greeting cards and playstations and cappuccino and souvenirs and Harry Potter and Chetan Bhagat. It was the Andrei Tarkovsy of bookshops. In here, time stood still and silence was golden. It appealed and attracted only one kind of person - the reader.

It never dumbed down to an 'all things to all men' type of shop - it was just one thing to all people - books book and more books.

It said one thing clearly: If you're the 'downloading type' move on. Enter if you have much down time.

No kindles here, just kindred spirits of the reading kind. Strand was no quick read, but a massive tome of a time gone by.

Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62@gmail.com

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