The sun outside was glaring hot and the winds were roasting warm.
It was a lackluster mid-may day.
She could feel the heat emanating from the concrete floor beneath. She could feel the blistering heat traveling up her feet, each time her stilettos contacted the ground. She hurried inside the nearest open store beside those giant fountain pools.
As she entered the air curtains started blaring, blasting her with relatively cooler gusts of air.
She could now anticipate the dry fog like fragrance of the conditioned air that awaited her. She stepped inside and the much-awaited cool respite was now encompassing her.
Even before the bead of sweat rolling down her sideburns could make its way toward her neck, the cool air blast spread the sweat into a thin film all across her cheeks and up to her ears.
Her cheeks and tip of the nose carried ostensible sunburn, and her throbbing headache from the heat wasn’t helping her either.
She looked around. It was a bookstore.
Rows after rows and columns after columns were filled with books after books.
As she looked again, she garnered quite a bit of attention from the people browsing around. Almost everybody was now looking at her. She panicked a little; she was not ready for this.
As she took an extra step forward, she realized. It was her stilettos. They were too loud for the tiled floor of the store. She very quietly removed them and deposited them to the bag counter. It was a blessing in disguise. Her feet needed the touch of that cold floor, desperately.
Now, none was watching her anymore. She reached out for the check out counter and smiled at the cashier.
‘Hey! I am looking for a bestseller.’ she said.
‘Does that bestseller has a name,ma’am?’ he said.
‘They called her Hope’ she said.
‘It is there, on the Fiction Counter. But trust me it is far from being a bestseller.’ he smiled.
‘Is it so?’
‘We haven’t sold beyond the half a dozen mark in past whole year.’ he said.
‘Well maybe it’s the demography around this store. People are too young to get a story of this maturity.’
‘It’s a mature subject that’s why we are still carrying it, to look refined. Otherwise it’s quite lukewarm in nearby stores too.’ he said.
‘Nonetheless, I will buy a few copies. My Sunday Reading Club girls are nagging me to buy some for them too. It’s a rage in our reading circle.’
The cashier smiled and nodded and she walked up to the counter marked – Fiction.
There it was in its nice pinkish-purplish cover jacket. She picked it up. But what the cashier said was still resonating in her mind.
She turned and approached a lady sitting on a reading stool in the aisle and said ‘Hope I am not perturbing you much. Have you read this book, do you know how it is?’ she said, putting forth the book.
The lady while still sitting took a good look at the book cover and said ‘Gee! I wish I could help you. But I have never heard of this one.’
She now stood frozen; how come what she knew as a bestseller was a stranger among these serious readers.
‘Here take a good look at it. There is a good blurb too at the back. Tell me what you think about it? Hope it isn’t too much to ask.’ she said.
The lady paused for few seconds or two and then said ‘That’s least a bibliophile can do for another.’
She took and read the back jacket of the book and said ‘Looks decent, but more of a run-of-the-mill stuff. A desolate girl clinging to hope..blah blah blah.’
‘This book was mentioned in NY Times.’ she shot back.
Meanwhile, a middle-aged man came up walking to the ladies and said ‘Is this a NY Times bestseller? Which one is this?’
‘Not an NYT bestseller per se but was mentioned as a book to look out for. They also said that the author Arina Dogra has handled the subject well.’ she replied.
‘Let me see.’ he said and took the book from her. He had a good hard look at the book and then turned to the lady sitting on the reading stool.
‘Ma’am! This may be more than a run-of-the-mill stuff. A poor desolate girl born in difficult time; if you snatch whatever hope she is left with, what else would she have to live for.’
She now stood up and took the copy from the man and said ‘Seems, Hope is chic again.’
‘I eavesdropped a little and I won’t apologize; because I am always on a lookout for the next big read. Your Book Club girls were right, this book sounds great. I will pick a copy for myself too.’ he said.
Meanwhile, a few more ladies joined in and reached out for the copies of the book. Almost instantly the shelf carrying the book was growing lighter.
Another aged man with considerable beer belly was trying to find himself a copy too, but the shelf was already thoroughly empty. There was none left.
She retained her one copy and offered the other (meant for Book Club) to that man.
The book that cashier was selling short a few moments ago was now lining up on his counter.
‘Here is your – They called her Hope by Arina Dogra.’ said the cashier as he packed and handed over the copy to the first lady in the queue.
The people in the queue were now discussing the blurb and were surprisingly quite excited about their impulse buy. The cashier was pleasantly amused too. He scanned every copy, billed it and placed it in a bag along with few bookmarks.
The girl in stilettos who initiated this mad rush was patiently waiting for her turn with her copy at the end of the queue.
Finally, it was her copies turn to be billed.
‘You were right, this is a bestseller, maybe it was just the demography around.’ he said and smiled while scanning her copy.
She nodded and said ‘Maybe there wasn’t enough word of the mouth around.’
‘Three Nine Nine, it would be.’ he said.
She pulled out her Amex and handed over to him.
He swiped it and as he was about to return the card, he noticed something glaring in the slant store light.
His eyebrows arched and his face filled with disbelief with a hint of awe.
He kept quiet and neatly placed the book in the bag, along with the bookmark.
As he handed the Amex back to her, the embossment on card became more prominent in the direct bright store light.
Among other details, in the Name section “Arina Dogra” it read.