I myself might have never come across his book, because it was published in the beginning of this century and then it was never published again, it never became a bestseller. It was not available in the libraries because at the most only three thousand copies were in existence all over the world. I became aware of the book in a strange way.
I was a student in the university, but on Sundays I used to go to a market in the city where stolen things were sold. I was not interested in anything else, just stolen books. I got The Book of Mirdad as a stolen book. Somebody’s whole library…three hundred books in all, and all the books were beautiful. And for those three hundred books a man was asking only a hundred rupees, so I immediately gave him a hundred rupees.
The man said, “But remember one thing: these are stolen books, and if the police come here I am going to tell them your name, because on each book is the name of the man to whom these books belong and he is a well-known man.” He was a retired professor of literature.
I said, “Don’t be worried.”
And the police finally came and they said, “This is not good. You were told by the man that these are stolen books, still you purchased them.”
I said, “I don’t repent, and I don’t want to talk to you. I would like to meet the owner.”
They said, “What for?”
I said, “I can settle things with him very easily. He is a retired professor, old. Just take me to him” – so they took me to the old professor.
I closed the doors and said to the professor, “You are already so old, what are you going to do with those books? You will be dead soon, and you have found the right man for your books.”
He said, “You are strange! You have purchased my stolen books and you have come to convince me that you have done the right thing?”
I said, “Yes, I say I have done the right thing. You have used them. You cannot read anymore; your eyes are no longer in a situation to read. If you just want to keep three hundred books on your shelf, I can bring five hundred books, six hundred books. But don’t ask for those three hundred books, particularly for The Book of Mirdad. That I cannot return to you, stolen or not stolen.”
The old man looked at me and said, “Did you like The Book of Mirdad?”
I said, “I not only liked it – I have read thousands of books; none is comparable to it.”
He gave me fifty rupees back. He said, “You have wasted fifty rupees – you are a student; you don’t have much money, I know about you. You keep the books. And I agree with you that the books have reached to the right man, and the person who has stolen them needs to be rewarded. I am going to die any day, you are right, and then I don’t know where those books will go.