Tuesday, December 21, 2004

cruciform verbiage

[Pune, December 22, 2004]

I've just paid a visit to two of Crossword's few outlets in Pune. The second was the one I've been to before the first, and probably still the best of the lot, at Sohrab Hall. The second was the one next to the Deccan side of Gadgil Bridge. The places don't get any points for content on the books front. The International Book Service near Sambhaji Bridge has been the silent modest winner in this category for years. And let's not even begin comparisons involving chains in the US like Borders and Barnes and Noble. Pune is a city that (hopefully) hasn't lost its taste for reading and music. But Crossword unfortunately has spartan vibes that don't do this taste any justice.

The semblance of order and arrangement is a weak façade. The books have no order, and it was a special pain to sift through the Marathi section at the Deccan outlet not counting the time spent in determining the attributes used to arrange the books. And there was the painful sight of out-of-date labels (P. L. Deshpande) adorning shelves that bore no content by or about the late great writer. And, with reference to the Sohrab Hall branch, why does Shashi Tharoor's Riot pop up in both the Indian Fiction section in the middle and the Indian section against the wall?

And then we move to the music section. Dismal. Although I love spending time sifting patiently through items in this section in any store, the Crossword arrangement left me fuming. First exhibit: the rickety black supports used to restrain the items on each shelf. Second exhibit: the sardine-like stuffing approach adopted to place music on the shelves. Third exhibit: the now-familiar lack of classification. Fourth exhibit: what idiot thought it was cool to pack CDs face-to-the-customer-title_spine-to-the-left in blocks and then pack these blocks into the shelves leaving us with a total visibility equal to the number of blocks (the first CD in each) and the spines in the leftmost block. A quick analysis of space left me even more confused; all they had to do was flip the blocks over so that the spines would be on top (enabling readability and speeding up selection), while still retaining the same number of CDs (perhaps even more) on each shelf. And I was surprised that the number of tapes was much greater than the number of CDs.

A casual visitor might think I just found another horse to flog. But I hope there's someone at Crossword, who takes a hint from You Got Mail (clue: they're tending towards being the clueless big store instead of the caring small store).

Which brings me somehow to a revised more positive take on Bombay's Rhythm House. I remember visiting it a few years ago and not being too impressed by it (I'm still not sure why). But this time, several years later, and after being exposed to the largesse of the US, I went crazy in the store. I truly deserved the shopping bag they gave me. And the assistant (darn! I forgot to get his name) deserved kudos for being in the know on stuff. He even fished out some not-yet-catalogued CDs for me to peruse. It was a pleasure doing business there. Admittedly, most of my vim came from the $/Rupee conversion euphoria. But I'm glad there's something that makes it easier for me to spend a bit more on music. I've been second-guessing myself a lot. If only I could make another trip before the eventual flight back to the land of excess. But then there's always the next time. In the meantime, here's a resounding recommendation.

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