Ryan browsed Maggie’s bookshelf. He was hunting for Harry Potter.
“Grandma, where did you get all these books?” he asked.
“I don’t know. All over the world. Mostly from bookstores,” replied Maggie.
“What’s a bookstore, grandma?” asked Ryan.
Maggie sighed. “A bookstore is a place where you go to buy books. It’s like McDonalds, only better,” she explained.
“Oh, I’ve heard of them, but never seen one. Were they nice?”
“They were magical,” said Maggie.
“Magical?” asked Ryan.
“Yes, magical. Like Harry Potter.” Maggie handed Ryan the Prisoner of Azkaban.
“If they were so magical, then why did they disappear? Why did the bookstores die, grandma?”
“Come and sit, and I will tell you a story.” Ryan sat next to his grandmother on the big, comfy couch.
“Tell me.” Ryan smiled at Maggie.
“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”
“Hold on, grandma! This isn’t another Star Wars story, is it?”
“No, Ryan, it isn’t. Who’s telling this story anyway?”
“Then, please let me tell it.”
“OK. Go on.”
“Once upon a time, there lived an expat princess who lived in a big villa in the desert. But, this wasn’t just any desert. This desert was magical, for it had the world’s biggest mall! And, the world’s tallest building! So much shopping on every street corner! Every brand imaginable!”
Ryan rolled his eyes. “This isn’t a story about shopping is it?”
“Ryan, you are being rude. Will you please let me tell the story?”
“OK, grandma.” He beamed his most innocent smile at her.
“Where was I? Yes. One day, the princess went to find a bookstore. She looked high and lo. Finally, she found one.”
“Does the princess have a name, grandma?” interrupted Ryan.
Maggie sighed. “Well, if you insist. The princess’s name is Maya. Anyway, Maya found a bookstore. But to reach the bookstore she had to cross a giant MOTE.”
“I think you mean a moat, grandma.”
“I know perfectly well what I mean, and I mean MOTE. Now, where was I? Yes, Maya crossed the MOTE, but the entrance to the bookstore was guarded by a cave troll…I mean…salesperson. We’ll call him Raj.”
“Really, grandma? 1 billion Indians and the best you can do is Raj? That’s a bit racist. You might as well call him Apu. Don’t you think?” needled Ryan.
“Would you prefer if I called him Rabindranath?”
“Well, not really. But, I do wish you would get to the point.”
“Well, I would if you would stop interrupting me,” said Maggie exasperated.
She continued the story.
The princess approached the cave troll carefully. It’s better not to startle them.
‘Hello, do you work here?’ she asked.
‘Yes.” The cave troll asked the princess to tell him the purpose of her quest.
‘I am looking for a book by Chetan Bhagat called #MakingIndiaAwesome.”
The cave troll laughed. ‘You’re looking for a Chetan Bhagat book?’
Maya blushed. It was embarrassing to admit she was a fan. ‘Yes, it released yesterday in India.’
“Oh,’ said the troll, ‘then we won’t get it for another two months at least. We have his other books. Tell me. It’s another fiction book?’
‘No,’ said Maya, ‘No Half Girlfriends this time. This one is nonfiction,’ she replied. ‘It’s called Making India Awesome.’ The store clerk stifled a laugh.
‘I’m sorry, ma’am, but we don’t have it.’
Maya left the bookstore. When she returned home, she wished upon a Twitter star that the book might be available on Amazon Kindle US. The book fairies at Rupa granted her wish. She preorderd the book on her Kindle. And, at midnight Eastern Standard Time on 19 August, Chetan Bhagat was wirelessly delivered to Maya’s Kindle.
“Wow, grandma, Chetan Bhagat himself was delivered to your…I mean…Maya’s Kindle? That is magic!” shouted Ryan in awe.
“Well, not really Chetan Bhagat. His book. Anyway, the book was delivered, and the princess read happily ever after.”
“That’s some story, grandma,” said Ryan.
“Did you understand the moral of the story? How the bookstores died?”
“Yes, Chetan Bhagat killed them,” replied Ryan simply.
“Yes, no, wait. That’s not the moral. How do you figure that?” Maggie tried not to laugh. Ryan had inherited her skill with sarcasm.
“Well, he’s the deus ex machina in the story. I figured it was his fault.”
Maggie’s jaw dropped. “Deus ex…you have an awfully sophisticated vocabulary for an 8 year old.”
“It is awful, isn’t it?” he teased.
“Ryan, I do believe you have missed the moral.”
“So, what’s the moral?”
“The bookstores didn’t die because of a single writer or even because of ebooks. They died because of snot-nosed, smug sales trolls, poor inventory control and supply chain management, and overly complicated international copyright laws.”
Ryan raised his eyebrow at this grandmother. “I was supposed to get all that from your story?” he asked.
“Grandma, I love you, but you need to work on your story-telling skills.”
“I know, sweetie. I know.”