The story is set in Lucknow, a city which has since then ceased to exist. Some of residents are no longer around some having even left the country. But there was a time once when Lucknow was vibrant and had a culture of its own. When Hazratganj was pollution free and clean and people visited the place to take evening and morning walks. They called it Ganjing. And they called the Book store Universe - this too is a fictitious name.
The story however is about a college called Martins School situated in a village on the banks of the Gomti near Kalidas Marg and is set in the 1970s. It is about the spirit of Martin’s College - all resemblance is a pure coincidence.
Mukul (name changed to conceal his true identity) and Ajay were taking a stroll down Ganj towards the newly opened Janpath Market where a new bookstore, Universe Book Sale Store had just opened.
Wearing his khaki uniform (colour changed to conceal the identity of the school) Mukul went into the bookstore. Several girls in skyblue uniforms were there among the several customers and the store owner was hardpressed to handle inquiries. Mukul picked up a hardbound edition of the Fantastic Four As he tried to make his way to the counter he was pushed out of the store with the Fantastic Four copy in hand. He was now technically a shoplifter.
I still remember how I felt that day and your dad was with me, he told me. Cold sweat was something I had not experienced before this day. Today I knew what it felt like. I saw a couple of portly gentlemen in police uniforms making their way towards the bookstore. They are coming to catch us, we thought … then we decided to take a stand.
What is the motto of your house? asked Ajay.
Do or die...And yours...
To the end…he said.
(Both mottos have been changed to conceal the identity of the houses…).
The crowd of customers had left the bookstore … it was relatively empty now .. so in true Martin School Spirit the two took a joint decision.
RETURN THE BOOK
The only question was how to do it? So they walked up to the store owner and said we want to return this book that we took outside by mistake without paying for it, so please keep it back on the shelf. Boy did he lose his cool and threaten to call the cops …
But the next time they were passing by he waved out to them. Seems his elder brother is also from Martins School.