‘Force of nature’: How a bibliophile found his disappeared library in Kashmir arcade

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Without getting into the background details, he shelled out his savings and reclaimed his lost library.

The world of written words is a force of nature, says Faisal—a bibliophile—making rounds of Srinagar streets to capture mood and break monotony. 

His tall frame, loose robes and long hair make him some reclusive character bearing least resemblance with youngsters of his age. With his unorthodox appearance, Faisal often turns a captive chronicler for his comrades.

His tribe of storytellers is growing in the valley. They exist in many forms and are driving different creative enterprises. The nuance with which they tell their tales make their native understanding of the culture and the commotion around them quite telling. 

As strange as it can get, some of them are navigating different plots as protagonists of their own stories. One such story unfolded when Faisal walked inside his favourite bookstore.


Faisal was cursing the day he went out for a sabbatical and returned to find his cherished library gone. Some of his rare collections compiled over the years had disappeared overnight. The thought of losing his treasure-trove made him an adrift in Srinagar streets.

One such outing in a sunny day changed his pensive mood. He saw shades of his literary treasure being sold second-hand on a sidewalk. This is when he started thinking of a possible turn of events that led to his library’s disappearance.

It was a working day and his mother was busy with chores. She was alone at home and had been insisting him to clear “burden” from shelves. Her annoyance stemmed from an assumed ignorance—writing off books as some useless pile of paper.

She had her target in mind when a scrap-buyer announced his arrival in the neighbourhood that day.

A well-built woman in her late forties, Faisal’s mother, Haleema slid her embroidered curtain out of the windowpane to call the scrap-buyer.

A pheran-clad, greying man in his fifties stepped inside a manicured garden with his trash cart full of tin sheets, broken plastic bottles, electric appliances and paper boxes. 

Haleema gave him trash lying adjacent to her neat-marbled veranda. He looked at these items and began to juggle and grading them. She went inside and came out with some books. They were in perfect shape and smelt fresh.

A dogged bargaining took place and ensured some extra bucks to homemaker. The scrap-buyer was happy to take a sufficient amount of sustenance from Haleema’s house. He dumped the stock in his cart and went away in a hurry.

Later that day, when Faisal returned home, he found his library missing. Except for a small spider web cone hovering around, all his books had vanished. Some of them were rare historical records.

He knew the person behind the blatant act, but he couldn’t say a word to his birthgiver. 

That event slowed down his childhood hobby of book collection. He would spend most of his pocket money on books. But after his library disappeared, he lost his interest.

Days later when sundown was around the corner, Faisal came out for an evening walk. In the busy bazar of the city, he saw books being displayed on a pavement for sale. He went to check them out of curiosity and got surprised to see his own disappeared collection being sold as second-hand stock. The seller had even put a discount tag on his collection.

Without getting into the background details, he shelled out his savings and reclaimed his lost library.


Force of nature, Faisal reiterated, as he concluded his chronicle, and began new literary search in the bookstore.

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