Friday, April 21, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 16-4-2017)

It was quite hot last Sunday. I knew it would be because that was the forecast I read in the morning news. If I knew any better I should have stayed home but I did not. Nothing can stop me from going to Abids on Sundays, not rain, not sun. Anyway on that hot Sunday I ended up with two cool finds.
The first find was ‘Memoirs of an Infantry Officer’ by Siegfried Sassoon that I picked up from a heap of books selling for twenty rupees. I picked it up though I had not read anything about by this author and only knew that Siegfried Sassoon was a name I had read about earlier a long time back. It appeared like a good read so I felt glad I found this title.
The second find was a bumper one. I almost missed it but I spotted this massive tome at the last minute. I found ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Thomas Pynchon that I had read about somewhere I cannot recollect now. It was a thick book almost nine hundred pages and was thicker than a brick. I don’t know when I will find the time to read it but I definitely plan to read it someday. Interestingly this too seemed a war book. I got it for only fifty rupees. It needs a little fixing up because the cover had come loose and was kept in place by two strips of tape.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 14-04-2017)

Summer is truly here in Hyderabad. After a few weeks of high temperatures hovering around forty degrees now it has touched 40 degrees already. Last Sunday at Abids I wondered if I should go ahead and browse around the pavements of Abids in the hot sun. I decided the heat and discomfort of being out in the hot sun was better than the miserable feeling I get if I sit at home on Sunday instead of visiting Abids. So there I was patiently looking up and down the covers of hundreds of books displayed on the pavements. This patience was rewarded at last when I found two titles that I picked up before I headed home to escape the scorching sun.
Though I am not a passionate conservationist I do love nature. I am concerned at the way some species are going extinct. I do not find many well written books on nature and wildlife in India at Abids. It is only very rare and infrequent that I come across a well written book on wildlife in India. On Sunday I came across a copy of ‘Nature’s Spokesman: M.Krishnan & Indian Wildlife’ edited by the venerable Ramachandra Guha that turned out to be a Penguin title. I confess that I did not know who M. Krishnan was until I picked up this book. This is a collection of more than sixty articles by M. Krishnan on wildlife in India edited by Guha. I felt very happy finding this wonderful book that I got for hundred rupees. I consider myself fairly well acquainted with people who write on various subjects and issues but I had not come across the name of M.Krishnan. It is my own loss but since I found this title I am really glad that now I know who he is.
The second find of Sunday was another title that I already have with me. In a corner of the street I found a copy of ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ by Dee Brown. I had found a good copy a long time back though I have not read it till now because it is a considerably sized volume. Since I already own a copy of this book I did not want to pick it up and went away. But on the way back after going up to the last seller I did not have the heart to leave this title behind and picked it up. It was in a heap of twenty rupee books so I took it. There might be someone who might want to read this book I thought as I paid for it and took it.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

A Trip, a Pen, and a Book

Last Sunday I was in Ooty on a short vacation with the family. It had been ages since we had been on a break so on the insistence of the family I agreed for a trip to Ooty. A week before I booked the entire vacation on MakeMyTrip which worked out a bit expensive but was worth it since we did not have any problems except one that I’ll mention later on. We flew to Coimbatore and from there motored up to Ooty. I had heard a lot about Mettupalayam since I was a child and finally I got to see the place, or rather, pass through it. Then it was an hour and half’s climb up the Nilgiri hills to Ooty via Coonoor. We stayed at a resort called Deccan Park Resort in Teetkul, away from the town. It was quiet and tranquil at the resort where we stayed for four days until Wednesday. During our stay we did the usual touristy things- sightseeing and shopping. We went to Doddabetta Peak, Botanical Gardens, Ooty lake, Pykara falls, again boating in the waters of the dam there, and on the way back we stopped at Coonoor where we went to Sim’s Park, Lamb’s Rock, and back to Coimbatore. The only problem we had was the cab driver who had a mind of his own. When I told him we’d have lunch at Mettupalayam he took us to Annnur. He was always late, never polite, and did not know the places well enough since he did not know how long it took to reach and how far the places were. If it weren’t for the driver we’d have had a better experience.
At Coimbatore we had a few hours to kill before catching the plane back to Hyderabad. So we ventured into Coimbatore where I had been earlier sometime in 1993 I guess. Coimbatore turned out to be a surprisingly neat town. Sometime in February I had read anarticle by K.Jeshi about an iconic hotel in Coimbatore -Hotel Annapoorna- in The Hindu and somehow I managed to read the article just before the Ooty trip. Luckily, I spotted the hotel when we were out shopping in Gandhipuram. We had snacks there that were shockingly cheap. Though I couldn’t find the time to look for books or bookstores in Ooty, I found a small store called ‘Pen House’ in Gandhipuram in Coimbatore where I bought an Oliver fountain pen for three hundred rupees. We rushed back to the airport only to learn that the flight was delayed by an hour. An hour later there was a message that it was delayed by another hour. Then again another message about another hour’s delay. Finally, the Spicejet flight that was supposed to leave at 8-15 pm left somewhere around midnight. I was relieved we got back from the trip safe and sound.
I have a confession to make here. About an year ago, sometime in the end of May I left the Secretariat Department where I had worked for almost six years and came back to my own department. I was posted to Nalgonda where I worked until mid-January shuttling between Hyderabad and Nalgonda almost every day. Luckily a friend told me to apply to an Institute in Hyderabad and quite miraculously I was taken in the Dr MCRHRD Institute which is incidentally located in a place I’ve written about here quite often- Jubilee Hills! I never thought I’d work in Jubilee Hills but here I am but more about it in another post. Anyway, at the Institute I am in a center called the Centre for Climate and Disaster Management. I have a bit of experience in Disaster Management having worked in the Disaster Management department at the Secretariat but my knowledge about Climate & environment isn’t much. Since I am supposed to teach about these issues I had to read as much about these subjects as I can find. I had read about ‘The Great Derangement’ by Amitav Ghosh and had seen it at the Akshara bookstore in Jubilee Hills. Yesterday (Friday) I went there and picked up the book. I had not been to Abids on Sunday because I was travelling and so buying this book somewhat made up for it.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 26-03-2017)

For more than twenty years I’ve been coming to Abids, week after week, drawn by the prospect of finding good titles in the heaps of books laid out on the pavements every Sunday. Very rarely have I returned disappointed at not finding anything good. Almost every Sunday I find something at least one title good enough to buy and bring home. Over the years I’ve bought thousands of books at the Abids book bazaar on Sundays. This is one place that never ceases to amaze me with kind of treasures it offers to the true book lover.
Since the beginning of this year I’ve been quite lucky finding some really wonderful titles every Sunday at Abids. Last Sunday before I met Uma I found two more good titles. The first find was ‘Women Travel’ which was a title of Rough Guides. The hefty volume had several stories by women travellers of their trips across the world. There were articles by a few writers that I had read about earlier such as Margaret Atwood (Ecuador), Sara Wheeler (Antartica), but the rest were writers I am not aware of. The first-hand accounts of these writers covered almost every country in the world. There were accounts by Sheila Keegan, Rebecca Hardie, and Eleanor Simmons of their trips in India. I got this interesting title for just thirty rupees.
A little before having tea in the café I found a copy of Issue No 210 of ‘The Paris Review’ that I decided to pick up. It had an ‘Art of Fiction’ interview with Herta Muller who won the Nobel Prize a couple of years ago. I got this issue of ‘The Paris Review’ for fifty rupees.

If I’ve read about a particular title and want it I only have to wait for some time for it to turn up at Abids. One such title that I have been waiting to find finally turned up at Abids last Sunday. Ever since I read about ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ by George V Higgins that Stephen King wrote about in his book ‘On Writing’ I’ve been on the lookout for it. I’ve managed to find other George V Higgins titles such as ‘Outlaws’ ‘Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years,’ ‘Bomber’s Law’ but not ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ which turned into some sort of Holy Grail for me.
It’s been a pretty long wait for it, almost a decade, so imagine my joy when at last I spotted it last Sunday a few minutes after we’ve had tea in the café. It felt curiously wonderful holding the copy of ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ in my hand, feeling as if I’ve dug out a diamond out of the earth. I had read “Outlaws” by George V. Higgins that I found to be riveting and wonderfully written. I had then set my heart on finding ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ and at last my wish came true when I spotted it. The wonderful thing was that I did not have to pay much for it. The seller asked for just thirty rupees for it which was peanuts.
I started reading Mint Lounge since more than a few months and I found it to be very interesting. I have a few favourite columns in it one of which is the one by Samar Halarnkar who writes on cooking. In the issue the Saturday before last he had mentioned that his collection of cookbooks is more than hundred strong and one of the titles in his collection is ‘Prashad’ by Jiggs Kalra. I had also read about this book sometime in the past and had vaguely wondered if I would be able to find it at Abids. It did not occur to me to buy it online because the price was somewhere around three hundred rupees. Last Sunday one of the titles I found happened to be ‘Prashad.’ It looked like an ancient copy though it was intact in all respects except for some minor tears on the jacket. The best part was that I got this hardcover book for only fifty rupees which I thought was a steal.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 19-03-2017)

The uncomfortably warm sun on Sunday morning while I was at Abids was a clear indication that summer was down upon us in Hyderabad. I’ve taken to wearing a cap and also carrying a bottle of water with me to Abids on the Sunday book hunts at Abids. I can well imagine how it would be in the weeks to come. On the first day of March the Met Dept had predicted that it would be another hot summer this year too. I do not understand what to do if it becomes unbearably hot even to step outside. But I am worrying needlessly I guess.
I found two titles at Abids last Sunday. Curiously enough, in one of the Sunday papers, Sunday Express I guess I had read a review of the latest novel by Omar Shahid Hamid. I had been reading quite a bit about this Pakistani policeman and his novels and had wondered if I would get the time to read any book by him if I ever managed to find a copy. I was a bit thrilled when the first book I spotted at Abids turned out to be ‘The Prisoner’ by Omar Shahid Hamid which was in a line of books laid out on the ground very close to the place where I park my bike. The seller asked for a ridiculously high price but I managed to bring it down a little, to a level I could afford to buy the book. He asked for a hundred and fifty rupees and I got it for a hundred. Not bad.
The second title I found was a title I already have a copy of. Sometime back I had found a copy of the complete screenplay of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ by Quentin Tarantino and had got it for quite cheap. Last Sunday I found another copy of the same title and this copy too I got very cheap for just thirty rupees. It was in a beautiful condition and after finding it I realized that I had not read it so far though I had found it almost two years back. It is my plan to read it one of these days.

A futile hunt for a title I missed buying the Sunday before showed how dumb I could be sometime. I had seen a copy of a James Salter novel whose title I cannot recollect now however hard I try. I had tried a tactic to bring down the price but obviously it failed. When a seller quotes a price and I quote a price in return I try to walk off as if to pretend I was not interested. Usually the seller calls me back and gives it to me at the price I asked but last week though I walked off the seller did not call me. So I walked away thinking I would get the book the next Sunday. Next Sunday was last Sunday and the book was nowhere to be seen that made me quite mad at myself. If I cannot find it the next Sunday then I would assume that someone smarter than me had bought it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 12-3-2017)

Once again I netted a good haul last Sunday at Abids. I found no less than five wonderful titles that took the year’s total haul so far to forty one books. I am a bit anxious about the recent hauls because there seems to be no way I can read all the books I am finding. I am telling myself that I would spend days reading them after retiring from this job. But it is another five years before I retire and until then I might add another thousand or so books. There is no way I can read all the books I have with me now that I have yet to read so I seriously thinking of either stopping going to Abids or not buy anything unless it is a title that is absolutely irresistible. I’ve made such resolves earlier too but haven’t stuck to them because I love books too much to follow such ideas.
Since more than a couple of weeks I’ve been seeing ‘First Love, Last Rites’ by Ian McEwan at a seller but somehow I did not pick it up. But last Sunday after I saw it again I decided to buy it and did. It is a collection of the following eight stories: Solid Geometry; Homemade; Last Day of Summer; Cocker at the Theatre; Butterflies; Conversation with Cupboard Man; First Love, Last Rites; and Disguises. There was another title that I picked up along with it and that was ‘The Writing of One Novel’ by Irving Wallace that I have bought earlier too several times. Somehow I cannot resist buying books on writing so in it went into my haul. I got these two titles for just sixty rupees.
After finding these two books I found another good title. I saw ‘Monster’ by John Gregory Dunne who is Joan Didion’s husband. It was a book on the experience he had while writing a screenplay and since I like to read such stuff, especially about screenwriting, I decided to buy it. The seller asked for price that I thought was impossibly high though it was a hardcover title and was in a quite good condition. I quoted my price and walked off knowing that I’d get it at my price because he did not put it back but held it in his hand and thought for a long time while looking at the book. After sometime he called me and asked for a price just ten rupees more than what I had quoted. I paid 120 rupees for it and got it. A few steps away in a pile of books being sold for thirty rupees I saw ‘God’s Adversary and Other Stories’ by Shaukat Osman. What drew me to this book was the fact that it was a Penguin title and I remembered reading about this writer somewhere.
The next find was not at Abids but at Chikkadpally. Though I had already bought four books I stopped at the three sellers at Chikkadpally to look at their wares out of sheer habit. I saw a copy of ‘Children of the Alley’ by Naguib Mahfouz who had won the Nobel for literature. Though the seller asked for a high price I bought it. I paid ninety rupees for it and I think the book would be worth more than what I paid for it.

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 05-03-2017)

Last Sunday was one of those not-so-rare Sundays when every title in the haul at Abids was a treasure. Usually, one or two titles in my average haul of 3-4 books happen to be outstanding titles but once in a while all the titles in the haul are truly good titles ( or titles that I think are good) that fill me with a lot of joy at finding them. On Sunday the haul at Abids consisted of three books and all of them were titles that one cannot find so easily and at such low prices. It was my second or third Sunday of the year when the entire haul was a treasure.
There are a couple of sellers in the lane at Abids where I park my bike before setting off to look for books on the pavements. I usually begin by checking out their wares first before going on a predetermined circuit I follow every Sunday. My first find was in the spread of books laid out on the pavement by one of the sellers in the lane. I spotted ‘Break, Blow, Burn’ by Camille Paglia and picked it up to take a closer look at the cover where it said ‘reads forty three of the world’s best poems.’ I glanced inside and found that the book belonged to a professor in an engineering college that I pass everyday on my way to work.
I have never before come across anyone who explained poems to me. This was the first such book so I thought I should buy it right away. But when the seller quoted two hundred and fifty rupees for it I hesitated for a while. Holding the hardcover book with the pink cover in my hand I had an internal conversation with myself about whether it was worth buying the book at that high price. I told myself that I would almost never find anything like it especially something by Camille Paglia. Seeing my reluctance the seller lowered the price to two hundred prices and finally settled at a hundred and eighty rupees that I told him I was ready to pay for it.
Sometime later I met Shrikant and after our usual talks about books, movies, and other subjects of mutual interest at the café we were out again. It wasn’t very hot and so we could browse comfortably. I found another book with a pink cover-The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown. The book was another massive tome with nearly five hundred pages of small print. Though I knew it would be quite some time before I found the time to read it I bought the book because I was getting it for only thirty rupees. I had never read anything by Tina Brown so I bought it.
I moved on farther holding the two books I had just found and feeling quite pleased with myself. I thought my Sunday was made and that it did not matter if I did not find anything else. I wasn’t really looking but when we reached the seller who sets shop before the GPO I found a title I had already read but did not own a copy of. I saw just the name ‘Atul Gawande’ peeping out from underneath a book on top of it. I knelt down and stretched my hand to take out the book from the spread. My heart gave a leap when I saw that it was ‘Being Mortal’ which was the latest of Atul Gawande. It was an almost new hardcover copy and I knew I had to buy it. The only problem again turned out to be the cost. The seller asked for three hundred and fifty rupees which was more than half the price printed on the back. After some hard bargaining I managed to lower the price to a hundred and fifty rupees. I felt elated that at last I had my own copy of ‘Being Mortal’ that I had read sometime last year after borrowing the copy that Uma had ordered online. I wish I could now find ‘Gene’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee at Abids sometime soon.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 26-2-2017)

Last Sunday at Abids it wasn’t as hot as it was the Sunday before. It was sunny and warm when I reached Abids at my usual time of eleven. Apart from the good weather the other good thing was the presence of my friends who turned up after a long time. We sat for a long time in the café talking books, movies, and catching up on our lives until that day. To top up I ended up with a nice haul of four books.
Sometime last month I finished reading Ingmar Bergman’s autobiography-The Magic Lantern- that I had found in October at Abids. I enjoyed reading about his trials and tribulations during his life in the movies. I don’t remember if he had mentioned in it that he had also written another book. I was surprised to find another Ingmar Bergman title last Sunday. It was ‘Sunday’s Children,’ a novel, translated from Swedish by Joan Tate that I picked up from the pavement. I got it quite cheap at just thirty rupees.
With the same seller I also found an EM Foster title- The Hill of Devi- which seems to be some sort of correspondence with someone about the time Foster was in the employ of some kind of royalty in an Indian state. It seemed interesting because it was one of those Orient Paperbacks editions issued sometime in the fifties or sixties with beautiful covers. I took the book primarily for the cover and because of the fact that it was an Orient-Mayfair Paperbacks title. I also noticed that the publisher was Arnold-Hienemann. It was quite cheap too, just thirty rupees.
The best part of the copy of ‘The Hill of Devi’ that I found was finding a small label pinned to the first page with the words ‘ With Best Complements from B.P. Agarwalla, Dhansar’ typed in blue colour on it. It made wonder who B.P.Agarwalla was and who the book was intended for.
Walking further down the street I had seen a collection of contemporary American short stories that seemed very interesting because there was a story by James Slater in it and other writers. Though I wanted to buy it the stiff price quoted by the seller put me off and I moved on. Then in a heap of books selling for only thirty rupees I spotted a book by an author with a name I had seen minutes before in the collection of American short stories. The book I saw was ‘In Country’ by Bobbie Ann Mason and I took it though until then I had not heard the name of this writer.
The fourth and last find of the Sunday’s haul was a small but beautifully designed cookbook. It was one in a series of ‘Quick and Easy Indian’ cookbooks by Roli Books. The one I found was ‘Simply Vegetarian’ that I made a grab for the moment I saw it. It has more than fifty recipes for starters and main courses with beautiful photographs of the dishes that made my mouth water. I was surprised that something so well designed could be produced in Indian but when I read inside I realized that the book was printed and bound in, where else, China.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 19-02-2017)

It was only after finishing reading ‘The Heart of the Matter’ by Graham Greene that I decided to read everything he had written. I had already acquired a few titles by him, some that I picked up at Abids and other places without knowing how well he wrote. I had read about ‘May We Borrow Your Husband’ somewhere a long time back but couldn’t find it anywhere. Last Sunday, however, at last I came across a decent enough copy of ‘May We Borrow Your Husband’ that I snapped up the moment I laid my eyes on it. I got it for just twenty rupees.

On Saturdays Business Line comes out with its supplement ‘Blink’ that I had begun reading a couple of years back for its interesting mix of articles. It is not easy to find ‘Business Line’ with the usual vendors because it seems the paper gets sold out soon enough. Only a few vendors have enough issues that can be found at any time. I usually buy it at a vendor at Lakdikapul. Last suggested the vendor asked me if I wanted ‘Mint’ as well and offered it to me assuming I wouldn’t say no. So I took it and sometime after returning home from work I found the time to read it. Inside was a very interesting article titled ‘The Slow Rise’ by Neha Bhatt that was about artisanal and home-made breads. It was a wonderful piece about how some people were baking some interesting breads.
After reading the piece my mind immediately went back to a book that I had been seeing with a seller at Abids which was also something about home-made breads. It was a big tome with an attractive cover that tempted me a few time to buy it just for the heck of it but I did not succumb to that temptation. But the next day which happened to a Sunday, when I saw the book at Abids I picked it up to take a closer look. It was ‘Farm Journal’s Homemade Breads’ and was in a good condition. I hesitated wondering what I would do with that book because I had no intention to bake bread at home. But I bought the book just because the cover was very attractive and the fact that it might come in handy in case I suddenly decided to chuck my job and open a bakery.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Birthday Haul

On the sixth of this month I turned fifty four. I am yet to believe that I have actually crossed fifty years. As the age increases the gifts seemed to be coming down. However, there are two friends who never fail to give me a present on my birthday. This year too they offered to present whichever title I wanted since they knew I loved to get books as gifts. So I chose two books. I told M to send me ‘Ghachar Ghochar’ by Vivek Shanbhag and when I went with Hari to Landmark I picked up ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi.
I had actually picked up ‘The Great Derangement’ by Amitav Ghosh but when I saw ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ I picked it up instead. It isn’t a book to be read by those in their fifties especially around their birthdays. It is a crushingly sad account of a young neurosurgeon’s account of his struggle with lung cancer that ultimately defeats him. I felt terrible after reading the book and for a couple of days I found it difficult to shake away thoughts of death that were in mind all the time.
On Sunday I had been to Abids but I hadn’t found anything worth buying there. So I returned empty handed which felt good for a change. I hope next Sunday I will find something good.