Friday 28 September 2012


Flora's Fountain bookstalls. Photo by Damitar Mazanov.
I got these three old guidebooks through Abebooks. I like to imagine they came from one of the bookstalls near Flora's Fountain in Bombay. The One and Unique Pocket Guide to Bombay was published in 1966, but has 1967 stamped over that date, so I guess we're to assume it was updated, by the stamp if nothing else. It's organized by itineraries. The first says: "So you are in Bombay. Let us go exploring this City. May be, you are a stranger to the city; may be you have friends or relatives to take you round. Be warned, these well-meaning folks may be of no help to you to know about the places and things in their historical context." But I'm in good hands, redolent of old basement and damp cardboard or maybe monsoon mildew. We begin at Churchgate Railway Station.

The Fodor's Guide to India has underlinings in red ink and smells just like the Bombay guide. Through the underlinings, I'm following the curiosity of some other traveller, back in 1969, when Ravi Shankar and the Beatles helped make India the place to visit. This one has maps. I love the blue of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. The guide calls Bombay, a "city that belongs to itself."

I'm glad that some people can't bear to throw away a book.