A compulsive book buyer preferring personal copies to borrowed ones, my current stock is worth at least a lakh of rupees. A Sanskrit saying goes: “A book and a wife gone into the hands of another are gone for ever.” I chase my book borrowers and evade lenders with equal success — hence the declared value. A few years ago, I migrated from the light to the serious — to law and humanities. Personal copies enable our dipping into them any time, any number of times, unlike the ones you borrowed (with no intention, if you can help it, of returning) from chaps clutching your throat limpet-like. Even now, Internet notwithstanding, I prefer print versions for repeated references. Recently, I bought from a reputed publisher a tome on Constitutional Law priced at `1,000. Back home, its cursory perusal, before detailed study, revealed a plethora of spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, misprints, surfeit of quotation marks, their total shortage where indispensable etc. jarring to the eye and the brain.
Deciphering the starting point of the book’s main text and its ending thus proving impossible, reliance on any portion in it to meet a legal necessity was risky, it being unclear who said what. The publishers’ preface served as an anticipatory bail — a disclaimer that while utmost care had been taken for fault-free execution, in the event of dissatisfaction, the buyer’s option was mere replacement by another edition of the same book!
I mailed a stinker to the publishers demolishing their replacement theory. What guarantee was there it would not be still worse? It was like telling the victim that if he was not satisfied with the slap on the right cheek, he could take one on the left. I argued that the foundation on which the publishers had built their absurd replacement theory was a false declaration on ‘utmost care’. Once this crumbled, the edifice would cave in. Seeking sufficient compensation, I also clarified I was considering all options meanwhile.
The Customer Care official responded seeking enlightenment on my grievance. I replied regretting inability since I had put almost all I wanted to convey in one syllable! My mail, to put it in Wodehousean style, contained no ‘obscurity of the kind that has caused complaint in the case of the poet Browning’. Whether people out there understood, I was not sure. Probably they had a feeling that I was a nut harder to crack than they imagined. Adverse publicity also may have scared them. They promised to send me another book — costlier, but free of cost — on Constitutional Law. They did. At the end of the day, I feel I gained. I could use both, taking a little care to make the corrections myself.