Justice Bigtalk – The Flyer

It is said that the new generation does not buy books.
They say the culture of reading books has diminished, if not disappeared.
And they point out that the libraries are empty and the bookstores closed.

They are right.
But their assumptions are not entirely correct.

The habit of reading has not diminished but increased.
However, most people read on screens rather than paper books.
Digital is preferred over physical primarily for convenience.
Not only is there little space, but e-books are much cheaper than paperbacks and are supposed to be more environmentally friendly.

It is in this scenario that physical paperbacks have made a comeback on the sidewalks of Mumbai.
They are simply unauthorized copies of all the latest bestsellers.
But lately they’ve been so well produced that they often look better than the originals, thanks to the use of advanced digital technology and higher quality paper by book pirates.

These books are usually sold at 20% of the MRP of the same books in the original and legal editions.
Therefore, pirated versions are often cheaper than official Kindle editions.

The area around the High Court in Bombay is full of booksellers.
Signs proclaiming “Pick Up Any Book for Rs.100” are common.
And all the latest bestselling books are freely available in pirated editions.

There was a time when official publishers filed complaints and pressured the authorities to carry out raids and seize pirated books.
Now they seem to have thrown in the towel.

Some major publishers had even moved the HC by seeking mandamus from law enforcement authorities to activate in practice the laws that lay dormant on paper.
As is the case in such cases, apart from giving homilies and sermons to the authorities and asking them to take action, very little has been achieved.

The milord who heard this piracy case, however, received a lot of publicity in the media at that time.
And as a result, he was invited by a few law schools and rotating clubs to lecture on the “threat of piracy.”
We can call it Justice Bigtalk.

I happened to attend one of these conferences because a friend who was a law school professor insisted that I attend.
And what a lucid conference it was!
Judge Bigtalk, who had a doctorate in something, explained to the students that piracy was a serious crime because it involved stealing the intellectual property of the creator of the artistic work.
He pointed out how the poor authors had nothing, the publishers had nothing and only the copiers made money!
He ended his lecture by making the audience “promise” that henceforth they would buy nothing but a legal copy of any book.

The students gave him a standing ovation.
Bigtalk went home happy with himself.

About a month after this big event, I happened to be in the Fort area on a Saturday without a yard.
Many lawyers come to their office on days when the courts are closed to do various jobs.
We always dress in colorful casual outfits on these days.
It’s a refreshing break from our usual black and white… or shades of gray.

Most pirated book sellers were formerly used book sellers and kept this stock of old books in case they were notified of a raid by their friendly supporters.
Then they just displayed those old books and hid the pirated ones.
The 100 rupees signs have been replaced by those of 20 and 50 rupees!

I love flipping through those old books on the sidewalks because you can often find old classics or out of print editions at a throwaway price.

That Saturday, while indulging in that familiar weekend activity, I noticed a gentleman in a bright red T-shirt and blue jeans haggling with my friendly bookseller about the price of certain books he had bought.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Customer: Hum teen kitaab lega. Bolo kitne me dega?

Bookseller: Sahab pirated mein kya millega books?
Sirf 100 mein from rahey hai. Official price 499 hai.

Client: Tumko maloom hai ye hai illegal?

Bookseller: Sahab, hum kahan zabardasti kar raha hai? Aap dukaan se le lijiye. Woh MRP pe 20% discount on the denge.

Client: Agar wahan se lena hota toh mai idhar kyun aata?

Bookseller: Sahab aap kitna dena chahte hai?

Customer: Hum teen kitab ka 200 dega!

Bookseller: Nahin parwadega sahab.
Humko low 10 rupees milte hai ek pound ke peeche..

I found this conversation most irritating…because on the one hand this client was talking about legality and then haggling over pirated books!

So I turned to look at him.

And who do you think it was?

He wore big black sunglasses… but there was no doubt about him.
It was Judge Bigtalk!

As I looked at him with the three pirated books in his hands, I could also see that “recognition shock” on his face!
When he saw me looking at the books, he quickly put them down, turned around, and quickly walked away.

I smiled and turned to my bookseller friend.
He was obviously quite oblivious to the identity of the merchant customer who had disappeared so suddenly…but the question he spontaneously asked was quite funny…

“Dekha na sahaab yahan kaise-kaise log chale aate hain? »

I wish colleges that select “kaise-kaise log” could hear such questions on the street…and if possible, provide answers.

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