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I steal a glance , albeit a bit surreptitiously at my Facebook page for an update, just any update from Broke. Finding nothing , I go back with a crushed heart and an vacant mind to writing the report I was writing.  Things have taken quite a different turn since I ‘met’ Broke. Well, okay, technically it doesn’t qualify as a meeting because we met online but hey! with people being just a click away and available 24X7 , who needs physical meetings to feel connected. I accidently bumped into Broke’s Facebook page a month ago and it was love at first sight. The posts on the Facebook page and Broke’s comments were so funny! I cracked myself up reading every single one of them. And the profile photo, I still have the widest grin just thinking about it. I, who does not believe in love at first sight, was in love! I can’t even begin to describe the sense of mortification that descended upon me. But  I was in love and there wasn’t any point being in denial. I was smiling more often, talking nine a dozen about Broke to whoever I met and made it a point that people knew the story behind  my meeting Broke. So much so that I started getting looks ranging from warning to sheer exasperation the moment people saw me approaching them grinning like a Cheshire cat.

My life had shifted tectonically. I l had lost all sense of time. Broke’s updates and messages became vital for me to get through the day. Oftentimes funny, sometimes contemplative but always reflecting Broke’s passion and love of which now I was an integral part of. Gradually Broke’s friends became my friends too. We got along like a house on fire , Broke’s friends and I. Just sans the destruction and disruption that fire is often associated with. We laughed, we joked and together pulled Broke’s leg.  The self-depreciating person that Broke was took the jokes sportingly. Broke knew we joked because we loved Broke.

The feel good factor was in the air and I was never happier. But… there is always a ‘but’ isn’t it,  that invades your euphoria induced world like a hot knife finding its way through the butter.  Smoothly and effortlessly. My ‘but’ was a series of questions that I dreaded to be asked. “ Who is Broke?, Where does Broke live?, What does Broke do for a living?”  Quite frankly I didn’t care. I loved Broke and shouldn’t that be enough?  Apparently not. The curiosity of people around me regarding the centre of my affection was reaching dangerous levels. My own interest in knowing the answers to these seemingly mundane questions had reached a crescendo too. Truth be told,  I had no responses for any of this question marks that faced me. All I knew was that Broke was an oddity in this world. A puzzle who liked being one, reticent of handing out even a single piece of pesonality that may unveil the mystery that Broke wore like a second skin.  Damn it! I didn’t even know if Broke was a man or a woman ! A 30 year old or  60. Or even whether Broke was called Salim , Priyanka, Homi, Penny or plain old Suresh? If name, place and age give sense of a reality to a  person’s existence, none of us knew the ‘real’ Broke.  All we, the 15,000 odd members of the “Book Deals for Broke Bibliophiles – India” knew was that Broke was totally, completely and utterly in love with books! Just like us. Broke lived and breathed books.  

December 23rd 2014, over a not so eventful long weekend , a presumably bored lover of books combed through the Amazon site for deals and steals. The weekday came with a  realization that the same books were bought by his/ her colleagues at a much higher rate implanted very potent seeds of an idea:  scrounging for book deals for similar bibliophiles who are permanently broke buying books.

Being a bibliophile is not just a state of mind, it's the drug of your choice. We eat, sleep, dream and talk books. No stone is left unturned to get hold of a new baby in your arms. We are jealous of others because they have that one rare copy that we have been wanting for so long ; We are possessive of our lovelies and lend them with a thousand instructions.And yes, we love, absolutely love to hoard. A good deal is a good deal and we never let go of them. As a consequence " Hocus, pocus, I am brokus " becomes our mantra. Broke’s idea was a perfect embodied this. 

Over the last one and a half year the community has steadily grown. A community so vibrant and full of life that you cannot help but marvel at their camaraderie. Book deals have become a pretext of discussing what the members love most: books. One can witness a spectrum of activities being taking place at a single point of time on the page. Someone is going gooey eyed over Ian Rankin’s  “ The Beat Goes On”  whereas somewhere two people ( yours truly with another member) engaged in an intense and  very ernest argument about Camus at the same time on another thread. The atmosphere is full of energy and mirth that a little technical detail of it being a virtual reality is completely forgotten.

I have never felt such affinity towards people as I felt when each one of us  ‘confessed’ our bibliophilic sins. It was a complete riot, a kaleidoscope of varied degrees of colourful sins. From the innocent one of reading a book you have no interest in to impress your crush to the serious ones like not returning a book you lusted after to your friend whom you borrowed it from.  What can we do to realize our love for books! Well just about anything if you go by the sins we confessed in front of Father Broke.

Broke’s page gives me hope. Hope of a world where people are still enamoured by books and words and can go to any length possible to keep this feeling intact. From convincing others about buying a particular book to organizing book meets to continuously talk about how much you love them.  My wish list of “ To Be Read’ books has expanded exponentially and my sphere of  authors that I was oblivious about has had an incremental increase. Throw in a readathon , a book swap, photo contest, quotes about books and what you will get is ‘Book Deals for Broke Bibliophiles – India’.  Everything bookish goes.

What solace it is to find oneself amongst other misfits, brokeheads that make you feel belonged and loved. I never intended to yet I fell head over heels in love. Here is to many more years of collective bibliophilic orgasms.  


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