Annual academic adventure

Right in the middle

At the beginning of every school year, Sri Durga Book Stall comes to my mind! Still unmoved from its nook in the wall opposite Russell Market, within a bylane of Quadrant Square, it stirs up nostalgia each trip I pass by, as I remember the excitement of shopping there for school textbooks and exercise books as we referred to them.

A major thrill was the brown wrapping paper and the labels that would be carefully carried home and spread out on the dining table. How impatient was the wait until mum or an older sibling obliged with measuring and cutting this to size of the required books and covering them! What a joy it was when we were old enough to take care of the task ourselves, but by then other distractions beckoned and it did tend towards being viewed as a chore. Label sticking, without messing up the cover, was an art, there being no gum tubes to ease the job. Writing one’s name and upgraded class number offered a sense of great self importance as well.

Those days, about 50 odd years ago, we carried our books to school in suitcases, if I remember right, and unlike today, we were thoughtfully provided lockable desks so we did not have to cart the entire load to and fro daily — just the ones needed for homework.

The desks also provided us a place to illegally store goodies bought from Balaswamy, who managed the school canteen, or Robin tuck shop, across the street from our school St Francis Xavier GHS at Fraser Town, and sneak beneath the cover for a quick bite while the teacher was engaged elsewhere!

The other annual delights were new uniform and shoes. Casement and poplin materials were purchased at Binny’s shop on Commercial Street and the family tailor Venkoba Rao, from Moore Road, Fraser Town, was summoned with his cloth bundle neatly attached to his cycle carrier, to come by, measure and stitch as per school requirements. He must have seen blue and white or checks or whatever in his daily dreams during school reopening season!

Woe, if we hadn’t shot up that year, we would not merit a new uniform. Of course, we would have to get a new tie. No way that could endure more than a year of nibbling or whatever self conscious kids do to them to ensure their ragged appearance at the close of the year. Same with shoes and socks. These don’t last either through the escapades of the young and energetic.

When I moved to college, I had to hit Avenue Road for my commerce syllabus textbooks. But I still had to cycle past Sri Durga Book Stall on the way to Ramnarayan Chellaram College of Commerce and continued to purchase my exercise books and stationery needs from there. I wish this stall many more years of academic service to us Bengalureans!

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