Friday, January 18, 2019
In the ten years that I’ve been attending the Hyderabad Literary Festival here at Hyderabad it remained the only lit fest I’ve attended. I’ve never been to any other lit fest in the country though I wanted to go to the Jaipur Lit Fest. I never got the chance to go to Jaipur all these years but last week I attended the Lit for Life 2019 literature festival of The Hindu at Chennai. Apart from attending the many sessions and listening to some of the wonderful writers talk about their books and other issues, I also managed to attend the Chennai 42nd Book Fair and also dropped in at a second hand book store and returned from Chennai with a haul of ten books.
The Haul at the Chennai Book Fair
An online friend whom I’ve never met and wanted to meet at Chennai informed me that the Chennai Book Fair was on. It was wonderful news for I had a lot of time on hand on the day I reached Chennai. The venue of the Book Fair, YMCA Grounds at Nandanam, was not too far from where I was staying and after lunch I started for the book fair. I had read that that there were more than 700 stalls of which, I discovered, there were fewer than a dozen stalls stocking books in English. In the handful of stalls selling second-hand books I managed to find three titles.
The first title I found was a copy of ‘Master Georgie’ by Beryl Bainbridge that I got for a hundred and fifty rupees. The next find was a beautiful copy of ‘The Dain Curse’ by Dashiell Hammett that I bought along with a copy of ‘Tar Baby’ by Toni Morrison for two hundred and fifty rupees. It was more than what I would normally pay for second hand books at Abids in Hyderabad but since it was a book fair I did not think twice.
The LFL Haul
At the LFL, I had decided beforehand, that I would buy the latest titles of Amitabha Bagchi (Half the Night is Gone) and Anuradha Roy (All the Lives We Never Lived) and get them signed by the authors. I had read ‘Above Average’ by Bagchi only recently and was quite impressed enough to think of buying his latest title that is getting rave reviews everywhere. Though I have almost all of Anuradha Roy’s titles I haven’t read any till date, though I know they are all outstanding works. I managed to buy these two books and also get them signed. What I had not planned was buying a copy of ‘Virtual Realities’ by Neelam Saran Gour that I bought after hearing her talk.I also got it signed by Neelam Saran Gour who, later next day , was awarded the Hindu Prize for fiction.
Amitabha Bagchi doesn’t appear anything like the person shown in the photograph on the book. He had a ponytail and a long beard and many people couldn’t recognise him until he was introduced by the moderator.
Another Chennai Haul
I had long been thinking of visiting Chennai’s Moore Market, where I was told, were booksellers who stocked used books. At last I was there last week but since it was festival time the market was closed. But I wasn’t prepared to give up. I had read about Govindaraju’s ‘Rare Books’ in RA Puram which was where I was headed soon after finding that I wouldn’t find a single title in Moore Market. ‘Rare Books’ turned out to be some kind of a garage store with thousands of books stacked haphazardly. There were books, magazines, tattered tomes, and loose papers scattered around. From this mess I managed to extricate three titles. The first find was a hardcover copy of ‘The Gutenberg Elegies’ by Sven Birkerts that was in my ‘must-buy’ list. I had read about this title somewhere and so remembered it.
The visit to Chennai yielded ten titles and with these my total haul in the first fortnight of the first month of the new year comes to eleven.
Friday, January 11, 2019
The haul at Abids on the first Sunday of the year was just one good title and I am perfectly okay with it. The reason is I had bought 250 books in 2018 and this year I want to keep that tally to something under hundred if I can.
This Friday I am at Chennai until the 15th. I came to know that the Chennai Book Fair is going on and will end on the 20th. I am looking forward eagerly to drop and see what I can pick up there.
Friday, January 04, 2019
After adding the five titles that I picked up on the last day of the 32nd Hyderabad National Book Fair on Christmas Day, the total number of books I picked up last year comes to a perfect 250. I do not think I have bought so many books in the previous years. I guess it is a record. While it makes me happy that I possess so many books it also makes me worried that there’s not enough space for more books in the future unless I begin culling my collection.
While I appear to be ambitious in buying books I am not so in reading them. Last year I have read only 85 books, some of which I am yet to finish reading. Out of these eighty five books listed below are some that I enjoyed reading.
‘Disgrace’ by JM Coetzee
‘Havanas in Camelot’ by William Styron
‘The Story of a Brief Marriage’ by Anuk Arudpragasam
‘I Feel Bad About My Neck’ by Nora Ephron
‘Dreams in a Time of War’ by Ngugi Wa Thiong O
‘The Great Gatsby’ Scott F Fitzgerald
‘Ants Among Elephants’ by Sujatha Gidla
‘Woman in the Dark’ by Dashiell Hammett
‘We Need New Names’ by Noviolet Bulawayo
‘The Forgotten Waltz’ by Anne Enright
‘African Laughter’ by Doris Lessing
‘Through the Narrow Gate’ by Karan Armstrong
‘Home Fires’ by Kamila Shamsie
‘Longing Belonging’ by Bishwanath Ghosh
‘Out on the Rim’ by Ross Thomas
‘The Long March’ by William Styron
‘Among the Believers’ by VS Naipaul
‘A Bend in the River’ by VS Naipaul
‘Above Average’ by Amitabha Bagchi
‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl
‘Sydney’ by Jan Morris
‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ by William Maxwell
‘Goat Days’ by Benyamin
‘Missionary Stew’ by Ross Thomas
‘Republic of Caste’ by Anand Teltumbde
‘Arabian Sands’ by Wilfred Thesiger
Friday, December 28, 2018
Within an hour after reaching home after a long six day trip to Arunachal Pradesh I got ready to go out on another journey. This was a journey into the world of books. It was the last day of the 32nd Hyderabad National Book Fair and I did not want to miss visiting it since I had not visited after the second visit on the second day of the fair. I had picked up a total of five books on those two initial visits and I knew there were many more books I had not spotted. The visit on the last day of the book fair yielded another five titles taking the total number of books I had picked up at the 2018 Book Fair to ten. It is far less than the number of books I had bought at the book fair in the previous years but I am not complaining.
Friday, December 21, 2018
The only event in Hyderabad I look forward to very eagerly is the Book Fair that is usually held in the month of December. This year is unique since the 31st Hyderabad National Book Fair was held in the month of January, 2018 and the 32nd is being held in the same year. Anyway, I was there on the very first day even before it was officially inaugurated. However, since it was the Vice-President who was inaugurating the fair I had to wait outside for some time before the cops let us in. As soon as I entered I went straight to the second hand book stores from out of town and managed to find two interesting titles on the first day of the Book Fair.
The first title I found was ‘The Opposite House’ by Helen Oyeyemi. I had read about Helen Oyeyemi somewhere and the name rang a bell when I saw it on the cover of a book. The other title I picked up was one I had found recently elsewhere. But I did not want to leave ‘Havanas in Camelot’ by William Styron behind so I picked it up. I did not get them cheap though for I had to pay three hundred and fifty rupees for the two titles.
There were about 350 stalls out of which the second hand book stalls were more than a dozen, almost of all of them Hyderabad based sellers, the ones I see in Abids every Sunday. Sadly there were only two or three from other places. Another disappointing thing was that the collection of second hand titles did not appear to be as good as those in the previous years.
I found a nice copy of ‘The Music of Love’ by Dorothy Green which turned out to be a collection of essays on literature. I picked it up since it was a Penguin title and also because the author was an Australian. There are nineteen essays in this collection and I hope to read them one by one leisurely. Then in the same place I found another collection of food writing and this was again by Penguin. The copy of ‘Out to Lunch’ by Paul Levy that I found was in good shape and I picked it up because while leafing through it I found there was a lengthy piece about the author’s visit to India titled ‘India diary’ in it.
When I visited the stall owned by a friendly bookseller at Abids who gives me a free entry pass every year I saw him seated but couldn’t find any title worth buying. I did not want to leave without buying anything from him so I looked all over once again and found a beautiful copy of ‘A Lesson Before Dying’ by Ernst J. Gaines that I bought. I paid him more than what he asked for it and that seemed to make him happy.
Friday, December 14, 2018
Friday, December 07, 2018
After a long wait last week I managed to visit Pahargunj in New Delhi to check out ‘Jacksons Books’ that I had read about several years ago. Barely a fortnight after visiting Kohima I got the chance to visit New Delhi last week to attend a five-day training course. The venue was YMCA on Jai Sing Road which made it easy for me to explore many places in the evening after the training sessions of the day ended.
‘Jacksons Books’ is a small roadside store but it is a minor treasure house. The titles are mostly those that foreign tourists visiting India would read up before landing in the country. There were books on spirituality, yoga, and travelogues on India by Eric Newby, Paul Theroux mostly. There were several copies of ‘The Pillars of Hercules’ ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’, ‘Dark Star Safari’ and other Paul Theroux titles that I almost bought but for the prices.
The first title I spotted in Jackson’s Books was a beautiful copy of ‘Simon Winchester’s Calcutta’ by Simon Winchester. The copy I found was almost new. I had recently read ‘Longing Belonging’ by Bishwanath Ghosh before visiting Kolkata briefly a fortnight ago, and wanted to read more about Kolkata so I bought it. I really hope the book is good because I had to pay quite a hefty sum for it.
The next find was another new looking title-‘The Ghosts of Meenambakkam’ by Ashokamitran. Ashokamitran happens to be one of my favourite writers so I picked it up without a second thought. For this too I had to pay a big sum but I did not mind because it was an Ashokamitran title. I read the slim book on the flight home from New Delhi and somehow I did not find it as good as other Ashokamitran titles.
A long time ago I had picked up a book by Laurens van der Post on a hunch. It was a copy of ‘Venture to the Interior’ that I read soon after and was found it interesting. So when I found ‘A Walk with a White Bushman’ by Laurens van der Post I added it to the haul. This book didn’t come cheap though.
There were more books in another room in a lane just beside the store that I decided to check out another day. On the last day of the training course just before leaving for the airport I once again went to Pahargunj. Though it was not yet five in the evening I was once again disappointed to see that there was no chole bhature left at Sitaram Dewan Chand that had downed its shutters.
I finally got to see the other stock of Jacksons Books kept in another room a few steps away. Here too there were books in almost all the languages of the world and in the large section of books in English I managed to spot a beautiful new copy of ‘Journals of John Cheever’ by John Cheever. It is one big tome and the kind of book I like to read and I bought it though I had to shell out four hundred rupees for it.
With four books making up the haul at New Delhi the visit was more meaningful than some of my past visits to the capital.
Friday, November 23, 2018
Last week I had been to Kohima in Nagaland to attend a workshop there. I had planned my return trip in such a way that I would get to spend about six hours in Kolkata. I wanted to visit College Street that I had been dreaming about after reading a lot about the book sellers there. Last Thursday finally I was at College Street. It was a momentous occasion for me as it has taken several year for me to be here.
At College Street I did not bargain much and shelled out whatever the sellers asked for. I found these sellers to be very polite, and deferential after they realized that I was a serious buyer. I wish I had more time to see each and every stall but that would require at least one full day. I had someone with me who wasn’t very interested in books and was impatient as I hopped from one stall to another. I did not want to make him unhappy so I reluctantly stopped midway and got into the cab satisfied that I had been to College Street. I wonder when I will get to visit it again. After having been to Darya Ganj in New Delhi only recently, College Street in Kolkata last week it is Mumbai’s Flora Fountain that I want to go next to look for more books.
Barely had three days passed since returning from Kolkata with a haul of five books at College Street and I was once again browsing in Abids on Sunday for more books. I bought four books from a seller who keeps aside titles he thinks I might like. Though they weren’t something I really wanted to buy and read I did not have the heart to tell him because he is such a nice person. I ended up buying all these books from him paying him more than he asked because it was his first sale of the day and I did not want to bargain with him.
Saturday, November 17, 2018
With Diwali and the Diwali shoppers out of the way Abids was back to its old self last Sunday with the second hand booksellers at their usual spots when I went as usual to look for good titles. Since I rarely return from these trips empty handed last Sunday I managed to pick up a lot of five interesting books.
The fifth and last title was actually more of a booklet than a real book. I spotted a copy of ‘Kate Humble’s Guide to 100 Birds of Britain’ by The Telegraph in a different heap of books selling for just ten rupees. I hope it gets me into some keen birdwatching though I may not find the birds described in it.