Thursday, May 6, 2010
Used Bookstore in Colombo Sri Lanka - K & S Sales - Old Curiosity Shop - Used Books Colombo Sri Lanka - Used Bookshop Colombo Sri Lanka
What is serendipity?
Just before I got married, I decided I wanted to do a trip around Sri Lanka on my own. I didn't understand exactly why I did but I wanted solitude, maybe to understand myself, maybe to bid my misspent youth a fare thee well, before I took the biggest step of my life.
On my way, I went to my favourite place for buying used books, K & S Sales in Kohuwela (on Dutugemunu St, next to the Police Station, in the same building as MaxMara). It's a gigantic antique/bric-a-brac store, not unlike the ones occupied by mysterious Oriental men in movies like The Gremlins inhabit.
There is hardly room to move amongst the expatriate debris - they buy houseloads from departing foreigners - and just wandering around it is a pleasure in itself. It's like Katamari Damacy collected old stuff around Sri Lanka and rolled in here: used video game systems, LPs, DVDs, statues, home accents, paintings, furniture, and most importantly, books, litter the place.
There amidst the chaos, I found a book, Footsteps by Richard Holmes: the reviews on the back were good - New York Times et al.
I reached Belihuloya in the pitch black and started reading. The book was a biographical travelogue, retracing the solitary journey Robert Louis Stevenson took across Europe before he got married.
Here I was with my Mazda, there RLS was with his donkey. Together, we wandered around our psychic continents. Six days and six districts later, I finished the book by the banks of the Parakrama Samudra at the Polonnaruwa Resthouse.
As a child, I read RLS' illustrated Child's Garden of Verses to pieces. Finding this connection across the centuries with the man whose poetry shaped my childhood reassured me about the changes I was making.
Finding it this way on this journey: that is serendipity.
The books at K&S are in a set of bookshelves at the back. Some are brand new, all are cheap: I've never paid more than LKR 300 for a book and often I pay only LKR 100. Because they are almost completely unordered, you can't look for an author or a title. You buy a book if the reviews on the back are good. Or you like the cover. Either way, it's cheap.
So you pick up a book you've never heard of, by an author you've never read before, that a regular bookstore would never stock and you would never buy full price. When the book becomes a favourite and the trifecta plus one bet pays off, the pleasure is quadrupled.
Used bookstores and exploratory travel have the same sense of risk and reward. Exploring a place you've never been to before or reading a completely unknown book is a gamble. When it pays off, it's a pleasure. And when it doesn't? It never doesn't.
Bookstore Name: K & S Sales
Address: 190 Dutugemunu St, Kohuwela
Phone: +94 11 2 825075