She was standing at the sales counter when I entered Delhi's Oxford Bookstore. The spitting image of actress Maggie Smith - possibly older but with kinder eyes. And the puzzled look of a first-time visitor to India.
She clutched the latest bestsellers in her wrinkled hands, possibly reading material for her journey back to the UK or wherever she came from.
I don't normally start conversations with old ladies at bookstores but then she glanced at me as I came near and gave me an endearing smile. I had to say something.
Me: Are books cheaper here in India?
Lady: (smiles) Not at all, they are much cheaper in Canada. (pause) That's where I live. Why are you so tall? I have a crick in my neck already.
She looks at my face and then at my hands. Empty.
Lady: Young man, are you buying any books?
Me: Well, actually I am placing an order for the latest Harry Potter book
Lady: (looking at me strangely) My grandchildren read Harry Potter
Me: (blushing) Well..um..it's actually for this friend of mine who's crazy about it. I would never buy something like this
Lady: (chuckling) It's okay. I read them too.
Me: No, really I don't...
Lady: Listen young man, can you help me out. My husband and I are looking for a chemist. Isn't that what you call a medical store in India?
Me: Sure, I think there's one not too far from here
Lady: Great! Could you give me directions. My driver is waiting outside - we just wanted to pick up some books first. Can you believe he didn't know where Oxford Bookstore was? We had to ask passers-by for directions.
Me: Most people don't know. This building is known as Statesman House.
Pre-order form signed, I turned to leave. She stood there - waiting for her husband. I spot him in the distance looking at something in the magazine section.
Lady: (smiling) Hope you have fun reading Harry Potter
Me: (protesting) It's not for me...
Lady: Whatever! It was nice meeting you
Me: Was nice meeting you too
At the entrance, I glance back. She was looking at me, smile still intact and her wrinkles uplifted. I couldn't help smiling too.
[Place a pre-order for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Book releases July 21, 2007]
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