When I am away from family for work and miss my family, I try to spend some time at the place I love the second most, after family. A used bookstore. Unfortunately, there are not many used bookstores left in our cities and they are increasingly difficult to locate.
Accidentally today I just happened to spot a book store in Lugano. It’s called Punto e Virgola, situated on Via Giuseppe Bagutti. Bookstores are magical places. So much imagination, hard work, struggle and dreams, bound between covers and spread across pages, at one place! If bookstores are magical, used bookstores are nostalgic, romantic and magical. Every book in a used bookstore is a character in itself. Every book carries a hidden story. Every book is a clue to someone’s life. There was this book by a Nobel laureate physicist. I opened it and there was a postcard somebody had sent from Guadalupe to Nice in 1992. Who were those people? Why this postcard was in this book? How this book traveled from France to Italian speaking region of Switzerland? Then there was another book of Bernard Shaw’s lesser known one-act plays. It was the first edition, printed in 1958, owned and read by one “L. L.” Who would that person be? Must be a playwright, because pages where plays were explained were significantly much worn out than the plays themselves. Or probably an actor who wanted to study Bernard Shaw. Or a PhD student working on Bernard Shaw. The book is an American edition. Was “L.L.” an American? Then how did that person end up in this part of Europe? Then there was this book titled “First Five Pages”. A book for writers. The book claimed to save budding writers from rejections. Someone had read the whole book with great attention. Every advice-like sentence was highlighted. Some of them were also underlined by a pencil. Maybe two readers had read it. What happened to them? Did they become writers? Did they publish their books? Were they writers? Or just teachers who wanted to teach how to write? Maybe they were frustrated writers who ended up becoming teachers, trying to fulfill their dreams through their students! I don’t want answers to these questions. But each book that I looked at stimulated my mind. Each book threw me further down in a sea of stories. It was like listening to a beautiful song in a language you don’t know. You enjoy every bit of it but you never know what it wants to convey. For a moment it was like getting off the hedonic treadmill.
What is that? We all work hard, set objectives, set targets, and when we achieve them, our emotions turn out to be underwhelming. We are not as happy as we had thought we would be. It’s like being on a treadmill. You walk a lot and still you never move forward. Happiness is like that. You keep working, achieving and still you are as happy (or unhappy) as you were before. You think when you have more money saved you will be happier, or when you buy a house you’ll be happier, or when you work in a better company you’ll be happier. Despite all of this happening, that moment of utmost happiness that you were waiting doesn’t arrive. When we borrow objectives and targets from others, it’s difficult to get off that hedonic treadmill. But when we do something that truly makes us happy, we get off that treadmill and actually move forward. A used bookstore takes me a couple of steps further. Well, if you have reached till this sentence that means you have already figured out what will take you off that hedonic treadmill. So stop reading this now, do what makes you really happy!