Thursday, August 30, 2007



Like most Hyderabadis I cannot work without my daily fix of Irani chai. I have mine at the Adarsh Café near New MLA Quarters which is on the way to my office. After breakfast at about nine, the urge to slurp tea begins to build up and I try to hold it off until ten when I start from home to work. The short journey to the café is marked with eager anticipation of reaching the café and having the cup of steaming tea before you.

One of the advantages of being a regular at any eating joint is that the waiters are familiar with your order. So even before I settle down at the table in Adarsh, a cup filled with hot Irani chai is placed before me by one of the waiters there. I don’t have to order, they just know what I want. And one thing I like about the hotel here is that the tea is not spilt in the saucer and the cup comes neatly placed in the saucer which in turn is gently placed on the table and not banged down like it is done elsewhere. It is something that puts me in a good mood, hot tea from a spotless cup.

The first sip of the tea in the morning always tastes like nectar. I savor the chai as I sip at it leisurely watching the others in the hotel do the same. That done I kick my bike to life as the Irani gets into action inside jumping into the blood stream and merrily going round and round all day kicking to life my insides and keeping them humming all through the day until early evening when it is time for the second cup of the day.

At four rupees a cup it is the cheapest way to get motivated to work. In Hyderabad.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Haruki Murakami Again


The hardcover copy of Haruki Murakami’s ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ that I found last Sunday at Abids has twenty five short stories translated into English from the original Japanese versions. The translations were made by two different people- Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin. Philip Gabriel has translated most of the stories.

I read the title story- Blind Willow Sleeping Woman which is about a twenty five year old young man and his hearing impaired cousin who takes him to a hospital. It is a surrealistic story with its own moments of subtle humor. A girl spins a story about flies that carry pollen from the flowers of a blind willow tree and enter the ear of a woman and put her to sleep. This was the first Murakami story I read and I was enchanted.

I read another story – Crabs- one of the shortest in the collection. It is about a young couple on holiday in Singapore who find a quaint hotel where they eat crabs for dinner during their stay. One night the man throws up his dinner and notices that the his dinner of crabs is filled with worms and decides his life has changed and vows never to eat crabs again, ever.

But the shortest story in the collection, only five pages long, is ‘A Perfect Day for Kangaroos’. It is about a young couple who visit a zoo to watch a young kangaroo born only a month ago. It is simply told with some nice observations ( ‘I’d never once won an argument with a girl.’ or ‘I knew I should have read up on kangaroos in an encyclopedia before we made this little excursion.’) and humor.

Strangely enough, my copy doesn’t have the page where the date of publication and other such details are given. It doesn’t even have the name of the publisher anywhere in the inside pages except on the spine where it is given as ‘Knopf’ and on the back as ‘Borzoi Books’. I found it odd but it doesn’t matter much.

However, the other day I was browsing in ‘Odyssey’ at Punjagutta and almost jumped when I saw a paperback copy of the same book but by a different publisher. I turned around the book eagerly to find out its price printed at the back. It was Rs 249/- and I had got a hardcover copy for only Rs. 30.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


It was the day after the twin blasts in Hyderabad and the shock appeared not to have lifted entirely. Abids was deserted on Sunday morning and only a handful of the booksellers set up shop in the morning. One’s passion is revealed during such times and I couldn’t stay away from the weekly Abids fix despite protests from the family that it is not safe to go.

Since the regular guys were absent or were yet to open the stacks of books still lying bound, I looked leisurely at the books of those who had set shop. This leisurely browsing was rewarded in a short while when I found a book by an author I had been reading about only recently- Haruki Murakami.


To be frank I had no idea of Haruki Murakami until recently when his name began popping up regularly in articles I was reading. I wondered who he was and if I would be able to read his books. I was checking out old issues of ‘Outside’ magazines at one of the sellers near MPM mall when I noticed a stack of hardcover books he had. I looked at the titles and one was ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ by Haruki Murakami.

A strange feeling of elation came over me as I asked for the book to be taken out. It was a brand new harodcover copy but like so many hardcovers I am finding at Abids, it had no jacket. The grey front cover had no title except the maroon cover at the back which had a logo- “Borzoi Books” imprinted inside a square which also had a dog’s (or what appeared like a dog) image inside. I checked the inside pages and couldn’t find the date of publication and other details anywhere. The pages were also unevenly bound but it was a good copy and I got it for only thirty rupees. It is a 323 page book and I was happy to get it for so less. But this is Abids and it is only normal to find such treasures.

Monday, August 27, 2007



Hyderabad has not seen like this before- with two blasts taking the lives of forty innocent people on Saturday night. It was one of the deadliest incident which left everyone shocked at the magnitude and the cruelty of the act. One cannot imagine the sort of heartless people who thought of nothing about killing innocent youth and kids.

But Hyderabad will never be the same again. Already people are scared of going out to eat or enjoy a movie. All along everyone thought that such incidents take place in other places but not in Hyderabad. Now that it has taken place here people are beginning to get nervous and anxious. Yesterday shopping malls, film theatres and other popular eateries shut their doors and turned away customers. I saw this happen at the Spencer shopping Mall at Musheerabad and also at MPM mall at Abids. Even the popular Sunday book bazaar at Abids wore a deserted look as only a handful of the seller put up stocks, albeit a few books, for sale.

The bomb blasts hopefully will shake us out of our complacency. For too long we have bothered only about enjoying ourselves leaving the responsibility of protecting us to the police and security agencies. But now the time has come for us to watch out before venturing anywhere. People will start looking under seats in theaters and hotels and will also be alert for suspicious objects and people. It is high time we started taking steps towards preventing such incidents from happening again.

Saturday, August 25, 2007



Out there where I was headed to, the day before, on Wednesday, people settle scores with their rivals by hurling home made bombs which their followers carry in satchels hung around their shoulders. I was on a day’s trip to Anantapur- Headquarters of the faction territory known as Rayalaseema which covers Anantapur, Cuddapah, Kurnool and neighboring districts in Andhra Pradesh. But no such things happen at marriages. I was there to attend a marriage at Anantapur on Thursday.


We had left Hyderabad on Wednesday evening in two vehicles- a Mahindra Bolero and a Tavera. I was in the Bolero that trailed behind the faster and powerful Tavera. We left at seven and arrived at Kurnool at half past eleven. I hadn’t dinner at that unearthly hour for a long time but I was hungry and tucked into the food eagerly. We had another two and half to three hours of traveling left to reach Anantapur. The highway between Hyderbad and Bangalore was being widened into a four-lane one so there was work going on with earthmovers, dumper trucks and barriers visible all over. It might take another two years for the work to be completed.


Traveling by road during the night is a lonely affair. The people traveling with me were asleep in their seats and I chatted with the driver beside me more to keep him awake than to find out more about him. When I asked his name it turned out he was born on the second of October hence his name- Gandhi. But this Gandhi was young and ate gutkha. I listened to old songs on the stereo and watched the headlights bearing down on us all through. I don’t feel sleepy on the road but I manage to fall asleep in trains. We reached Anantapur at three in the morning after eight hours on the road Everyone was asleep in the lodge which we found after asking around in the deserted streets of Anantapur.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007



Last Sunday I got a modest haul of good books at Abids during my weekly book hunt. The first find was Elmore Leonard's 'The Law at Randado' which I got for twenty five rupees only. It was in good condition and I am a major fan of ELmore Leonard. There's another book of his, 'Pronto' I am eyeing. I have seen a good hardcover copy of this book somewhere in Secunderabad and I plan to pick it up soon. There's a copy of his classic 'Get Shorty' in Abids. Nobody seems to be interested in it. If it is there next week then I will pick it up. I already have a hard cover copy of this book with me.

The second find was a book I picked up from a heap being sold for ten rupees. It was Pete Dexter's 'Paris Trout' and the best thing was it was in good condition. From the rack it has come to the heap because earlier I noticed it on a rack with one of the sellers here. The guy was asking fifty rupees for it but I didn't bite. Now I got the book for one fifth of the price. Patience pays.

The last book of the day was a pick from another heap, one in the lane near Dayal's. It was Stephen King's 'The Shining'. I got this 450 plus pages whopper (it also has four pages of photographs from the movie of the same name) for only ten rupees. This was the best find of the day. I had read his other books- Cujo, Christine- ages ago but now I plan to read his other books one by one. His other non-fiction book- On Writing- is one book I will never tire of reading. I have two copies of it.

I also saw Narinder Pani's 'The Last Post' but I am hesitating to buy it. Maybe next week I will buy it. I also saw Peter Matthiessen's 'Snow Leopard' in the ten rupee heap. I already have a copy of this book. This month is proving to be one of lucky book finds.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

BL 5C- One in five million case

Last week I became part of a global phenomenon. The battery in my Nokia 1600 turned out to the exploding type- BL 5C. It was all over the television and the papers but I didn't really bother to check the battery in my phone. When I read of another exploding battery curiosity got the better of me and I opened the phone. The battery was the BL 5C model.

I went to the Nokia site and after typing the serial number it was confirmed my battery needs to be replaced. I gave my address and other details for them to courier the replacement battery. Though I had no problem with the battery I thought it would be better to be safe than to be sorry. I am waiting for the replacement to arrive.

In fact I had once thought that the battery in my mobile was a good one because it would go for days together without a recharge. But then, it turns out different. For once I was part of a global phenomenon- one in a five million case!

Thursday, August 16, 2007



When I read about the book reading of ‘Almost Single’ by Advaita Kala in engagements column of Friday's Deccan Chronicle I had no idea of who the author was. Male or Female? The name didn’t reveal the gender. As I had written earlier about some readings that take place in posh hotels this book reading turned out to be in Kakatiya Sheraton. It was a big name publisher- Harper Collins but the timing was a little odd as it was listed at half past seven.

Even though it was featured in the engagements pages of several dailies as early as Friday itself the hall (Hyder Mahal) was half empty. It also seemed as if the regular book-reading crowd was missing. The most conspicuous absence was that of ‘The Little Theatre’ group.

The biggest surprise - the author turned out to be a bubbly, confident young lady from the hospitality industry. The Speaker of the Assembly was present in the gathering as also the Director General of Police who came with their families and a posse of gun-toting guards in safaris. This was quite a surprise to me since I had attended another book review in the previous month where the Commissioner of Police was the chief guest. (A lot of cops are serious book readers. I personally know a few who are voracious readers.)

‘Almost Single’ is described by the publishers, Harper Collins, as India first chick lit title. It is the story of 29 year old, Aisha Bhatia who works in a star hotel and tells about her friends, her boss and so on with a lot of references to wines, good food and varied experiences.

The let down was the speech by the CEO of Harper Collins, Mr. P. Sukumar who simply read out from the blurb. I was expecting some insights from him on the publishing scene in the country and also literary trends but I was disappointed. A lady, Madhu Swaminathan (?) read out extracts from the book and it would have been a lot better if she were a little less dramatic.

The only sensible question the author was asked about how long it took to write the book. It took eight months for her to write the book and two years for the book to be published we were informed.

The book is priced at Rs. 195 and I got it on a ten percent discount for Rs 180 from Odyssey who had put a small sale there. I later stood in a short line and got the 285-pages book autographed by the author.

There was a write up of this reading session in Tuesday's Metro Plus ( of The Hindu) and it was rather unkind, to say the least, on a first time writer whatever be the content.

Monday, August 13, 2007


This is the original version of my article published in the February 2007 issue of 'Wings & Aisles', the inflight magazine of 'Paramount Airways'.


As I see it, the world is basically divided into two kinds of people: those who write with fountain pens and those who don’t. Those who write with fountain pens are a rare species altogether. I happen to be one such specimen. I am happiest with a fountain pen in my pocket. Without it, I feel like a soldier without his sword. I never step out of the house without a fountain pen in my shirt pocket. This passion for fountain pens unexpectedly got me my first job. Thanks to it, I also had my first ride in a Mercedes Benz car with a most beautiful girl recently.

My affair with fountain pens began in school at a time when the ballpoint pen had not yet appeared in the market. All my pocket money went into buying fountain pens. While my friends spent theirs on toys, I bought fountain pens. To this day, I cannot pass a stationer’s without darting in to buy a fountain pen. When I’m out shopping with friends, they make sure there aren’t any stationery stores nearby because they know once I start checking out the fountain pens they have to literally drag me out from there.

My fountain pen got me my first job as a copywriter in an advertising agency. I was hired practically on the spot by my boss who turned out to be another major fountain pen freak. He couldn’t stop staring at the fountain pen in my shirt pocket and even before the interview began I knew I had the job.

My friend who is nuts about wrist-watches told me fountain pens would get me nowhere with girls. A flashy Rolex or a Cartier was an instant chick magnet, he told me. His theory went for a six when one day at the bank I met the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life. All because I happened to have a fountain pen with me.

I was at this swank bank one day, sitting on a sofa and day dreaming as usual, when I heard someone address me. I looked up and saw this incredibly beautiful girl standing before me. It was the girl I had seen arrive in a red Mercedes Benz while I was parking my bike.

Up close, she was so breathtakingly beautiful; my private list of Top Ten beautiful girls got instantly reshuffled to put her on top at the Number One slot way up above Jessica Simpson, Scarlet Johansson, Salma Hayek, Priety Zinta, Katrina Kaif and other beauties I dream about. I am sure if she were to appear for the Miss World and Miss Universe contests, she would have effortlessly won them both together without even wearing make up. She was that beautiful. And she was asking me something.

“Can I have your pen for a moment, please?” Miss World & Universe asked me flashing the first of a series of million watt smiles that she’d give me for the next couple of hours.

“ Pen! I’d give you my watch, my car, my flat and anything else you ask” is what I wanted to say but nothing came out of my mouth. I meekly took out my custom made deep blue fountain pen and gave it to her instead of saying “NO” which is what I tell anyone who asks for it. People are always asking me for my pen in places like banks and post offices. Sometimes I seriously think the Government should come out with an Ordinance or a Parliamentary Act expressly prohibiting people from entering banks and post offices without a pen.

Moments after I gave her my fountain pen, I realized I had simultaneously broken, not one, but two cardinal rules of handling fountain pens.

Rule No.1: Never Lend Your Fountain Pen.

Rule No.2: If You Are Stupid Enough To Lend It, At Least Retain The Cap.

I had not only given her my most prized possession, I had also forgotten to keep the cap. Now I would never be able to complete my books that I was writing with that pen. It isn’t that I refuse anything to beautiful girls but my fountain pen is altogether a different thing.

By the time I came to my senses, she had disappeared! I went frantically searching for her and found her in the manager’s cabin signing away papers with my fountain pen. She signed so many papers that I wondered if she was taking a loan or buying the bank itself. I finished my work in the bank while she was signing away and when I returned, she was coming out of the manager’s cabin.

“My pen, please.” I managed to croak while struggling to stand still. Her beauty was beginning to affect me. I was trembling at the knees.

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I dropped it and broke the nib.” She said apologetically. This wasn’t new because somehow, things are always breaking with me. When I borrow something from others, I break them and when I lend my things to others, they get broken.

Just as I was about to burst into tears at that terrible news, she insisted that we go to a pen store to get a new nib. I told her it wasn’t really necessary. Then, when she told me her dad taught her to return anything she borrowed in good shape, I tended to agree with her dad and his sage advice.

But I was still refusing her offer shaking my head when there appeared before me a six feet tall gorilla in a chauffeur’s uniform. I started to protest again but the chauffeur gave me the sort of look that told me he’d happily tie my lower lip to the rear fender of the Mercedes Benz and drag me all the way to the pen store if I did not shut up at once.

In Hyderabad, one rarely refuses anything to a beautiful girl with a Mercedes Benz especially when it is driven by someone with a build that takes up half the front seat. So like a true Hyderabadi I gave in and shuffled towards the car. Before I knew it, I was seated beside her in the Mercedes Benz with the gorilla at the wheel.

I had never been inside a Merc so I had no idea what to talk when inside such expensive cars. It was a new experience to me, traveling in a swank car with a beautiful girl. Once inside, she tilted her lovely head around and gave me such a dazzling smile that all my blood turned into ink because all I wanted to do was write long, long letters to her promising my eternal love.

What would it take for her to be impressed with me, I wondered while the car sailed through the traffic. I might try being witty, I thought. I had read somewhere that women are attracted to guys with a sense of humour. So I sat trying hard to think up something truly funny that would make her laugh.

“ What do you do?’ she asked flashing yet another million watt smile that made me wonder if anyone has thought of inventing portable lightning conductors. Another smile like that and I’d probably vaporize on the spot.

“I’m a trained Mercedes Benz chauffeur.” I wanted to tell her and also add “in my spare time I’m a test pilot for Boeing.”

Instead, I managed to mumble, “ I’m in advertising. I write copy.” I expected her to be excited at the thought of sitting inches away someone who writes clever lines for ads. The chauffeur glanced at me in the mirror with such a look I feared he would stop the car right then in the middle of the road and hurl me out of the window.

She said, “Oh, really” and looked away. I was pretty desperate to make an impression on her. At the speed at which we were going, we would be together in the car only for another couple of minutes before arriving at the pen store. I wanted to say something funny or something profound soon. But by the time I had thought of something like that we arrived at the pen store.

I had secretly hoped someone would see me in the Merc with this absolutely stunning girl. I sent up another prayer to God, my forty-ninth since the moment she shimmered into my life at the bank. My prayer seemed to be miraculously answered because the moment we stepped out of the car there stood before me my friend, Mr. Watch Freak himself, he of the sixteen-watch collection and author of the theory of Instant Chick Magnets. I ignored him and stepped into the pen store with the girl by my side and feeling on top of the world. I’m sure if I had turned around, I would have seen him rolling on the ground and pounding his fists on the pavement.

Miss World & Universe paid for the nib in the pen store. I looked around morosely, feeling bad about it. Looking at all those lovely pens in the display I was struck with an idea for reciprocating her gesture and also make a lasting impression on her. I smiled, at last I had thought of something very clever.

After my pen arrived with a new nib she handed it back to me. I took it as if I was accepting the Nobel Prize from Royalty. She gave another smile that made me weak at the knees again but somehow I managed to utter a feeble ‘thanks’.

She was getting into the car. Now! Now! My mind implored. I took out a small box and gave it to her saying, "Excuse me, this is for you.”

She turned around and, mercifully, accepted the box and opened it. She gasped at the brilliant red fountain pen inside and gave me a look that told me she was sufficiently impressed.

“Matches your car.” I said, finally delivering a bon mot.

‘Thank you so much, I love it” she said and drove away giving me a devastating smile that would light up the rest of my life.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

REVIEW: 'The Elements of Style' by Strunk & White

The Review

THE LITTLE BOOK OF WRITING INSTRUCTIONS - 'The Elements of Style' by William Strunk Jr., and E.B.White. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co, INC. 3rd Edition, 1979. 92 pages

If it is just one book that all aspiring writers must read, then it has to be ‘The Elements of Style’ by William Strunk. Jr. and E.B.White. Now in its fourth edition, this slim book has sold millions of copies and is regarded as a classic. ‘

The Elements of Style’ explains the rules of usage and principles of composition lucidly and guides the writer towards clear and precise writing. It is only eighty-five pages long with just five chapters and explains almost all the rules and principles of composition with examples.

The first chapter lists out eleven elementary rules of usage, including four important principles of punctuation regarding the usage of the comma, the colon and other rules.

The second chapter explains eleven principles of composition- choosing a suitable design, the paragraph as the unit of composition, the active voice and so on.

The third chapter is about rules of form, such as the proper way of using the hyphen, the exclamation point, etc.

The fourth chapter deals with a list of commonly misused words and expressions and explains their correct usage giving examples.

The final and the most important chapter is about style. A list of twenty-two rules of style includes advice like writing naturally, being in the background, working from a suitable design and such advice on writing that no writer can ignore.

If you are an aspiring writer eternally confused about the rules of composition and style, then this book is for you. ‘The Elements of Style’ is worth its weight in gold. Read it to improve your writing.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Elements of Style: A Paean and a Review

There are some books one can't have enough of. For me, it is Strunk & White's 'The Elements of Style'. I cannot seem to stop reading this small book and I keep reading it all the time. This obsession is so much that I buy all copies of this book that I come across. I have bought quite a few copies which I give away to people who think they need something to improve their writing.

In this manner I have managed to buy all the four editions of this book. Last month at Abids I chanced upon a black hardcover edition of this book and when I opened it I found it was the first edition but it wasn't anywhere indicated so. I am assuming it is a first edition. Now I have all the four editions of this classic at home.

Apart from these copies, I keep one copy in my office and one at home on my table ready to be dipped into. I never tire of reading this book and it has improved my writing to a large extent. It is one book that gave me the push to begin a major writing project which is continuing. In his writing memoir 'On Writing' Stephen King praises it and calls it as a book that every aspiring writer must have on his table. David Morrell also lists this book in his book on writing, " Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing" and says it should always be at your desk.

In her book "Right to Write" Julia Cameron also refers to this book as a 'classic'. It is listed in a long list of books under 'Suggested Reading' at the end of her book.

I had written a short review of this book under the title 'Little Book of Instructions' which was published in Quest ( a supplement of The Hindu) in November 2005. I am copying the review here.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

HYDERABAD DIARY: Why We Don't Give Way for Ambulances


In Hyderabad one should try and not get oneself in a situation where one is required to be transported by an ambulance to the nearest hospital. Chances are one will end up in a morgue sooner than the hospital.

It is because we Hyderabadi’s feel ambulances or anyone needn’t go anywhere quicker than us. So we don’t make way for ambulances even if its lights are flashing madly, the siren is wailing away and someone inside is on a loudspeaker shouting his head off to the motorists in front to make way for it. What he doesn't know is when on the road we Hyderabadis turn blind as well as deaf and also, slightly crazy.

But then you don’t really expect people who are not concerned about their own safety and disregard all traffic rules to have regard for others’ lives, do you?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Book Hunter Strikes Again

BOOK JUNKIE: Book Hunter Strikes Again

One reason I'm glad I live in Hyderabad is that it is a kind of paradise to all those who eat, drink and live books. Over the years I’ve picked up scores of books from the pavements of Abids at dirt-cheap prices. In the previous posts I had written about the books I picked up last week at Abids, and also at the book sale at YWCA. This Sunday too I struck treasure at Abids. In all I picked up four good books of big name authors for just sixty rupees this Sunday.

First I found Anne Tyler’s ‘If Morning Ever Comes’ in a heap of books selling for ten rupees. I had read her ‘Accidental Tourist’ and was enchanted by her writing sufficiently enough to go picking up all her books.

Moments after I picked this book I noticed another that gave me a pleasant shock. It was Paul Theroux’s ‘To the Ends of the Earth’, which is a collection of pieces from his other travel books like Great Railway Bazaar, Sunrise with Sea Monsters, Kingdom by the Sea, Riding the Iron Rooster, etc. The really surprising bit was that this book was in a heap of books being sold for twenty rupees. The book was in a good condition and was exactly like the copy I had given to a friend when I was in Port Blair last year. It wasn’t the same copy though!

The next find was Carson McCullers’ ‘Ballad of the Sad Café and other Stories’ that I got for only ten rupees. The book has the novella of the same title and six other stories. I’m yet to read any book by her but I read reviews that praised her first book, ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ which is my next target.

But it was the one book I found at the end of the trip that really made the trip worthwhile. It was Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Long Quiet Highway; Waking up in America’. I got this almost new, hardcover for just twenty rupees. Twenty rupees for an unread, almost new hardcover book with a dustjacket ! Where else in the world would one get such good books at rock bottom prices? In book lovers paradise- My Hyderabad.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

BOOK JUNKIE: Natalie Goldberg and Linda Greenlaw

Book Sale Begins

As announced, Best Book Centre’s book sale opened at YWCA on Friday. I went there in the evening and spent over two hours looking at the thousands of titles displayed. There were books on management, finance, self-help, fitness and health, gardening, photography, writing, children’s books, the classics and the latest bestsellers in fiction and non-fiction.

As for me, being a sucker for books on writing I picked up Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Writing Down the Bones’ (70/-) and another book called ’30 Days to More Powerful Writing’ by Jonathan Price for 95 rupees. This book was bigger in format like a coffee table book and appeared to be quite good. I did not see Dorothea Brande’s “ On Becoming a Writer” that I had missed buying in the previous sale.

I also saw Paul Theroux’s ‘Sunrise with Sea Monsters’ but I did not pick it up as I already have a copy. I saw his ‘Milroy the Magician’ also. In another section I picked up Linda Greenlaw’s ‘All Fishermen are Liars’ for forty rupees. I have her second book- The Lobster Chronicles but it is her first book ‘Hungry Ocean’ that I am hunting for.

I saw books by Anne Tyler, Annie Dillard, Anita Shreve, Joyce Carol Oates and so on… I had a limited budget so I picked up only these few books. I also saw Arthur Miller’s autobiography- Timebends- but it was a huge tome and cost a bomb. I had also seen a book of essays by Umberto Eco but I let it go.

I had also picked up another book by Hollywood writers- ‘The First Time I Got Paid for It’ for 95 rupees. The foreword was by William Goldman. There were only a few script-writers I recognized- Lawrence Kasdan and Nikolas Kazan but I hadn’t heard of the other names but that maybe because I don’t watch many movies. (My last movie was Diehard 4.)

I also picked up another book on writing - A Short Guide to Writing About Literature’ for 125 rupees. It seemed good enough with several hundred pages of lessons on how to read a book critically, take notes etc, and write a sensible book review. I bought only these five books but the bill came to four hundred and twenty five rupees. The prices this time seemed to be higher

The person at the counter told me there would be fresh stocks in a couple of days and asked me to visit again. I will go there sometime after Monday and pick up some more books. Maybe I won’t calm down until I buy more books in this sale which will be on until the 15th.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Book Reading

BOOK READING ; ‘COUNTRYSIDE ALBUM' by Sree Vatsan on 22-7-07

In Hyderabad book readings usually take place in posh hotels when the author is a big name and are, normally, evening affairs. But if it is a new author or a smallish publisher then the venue is a book store. A friend told me about the book reading of ‘Countryside Album’ written by Sree Vatsan on Sunday, the twenty second of July.

So I went last Sunday to Askhara, Marredpally at eleven in the morning. It was an unusual time (Sunday at eleven in the morning?) to hold a book reading but nevertheless the bookstore was packed. There seemed to be an unusual number of Malayalis swarming all over the place and I knew the reason later when the reading began. (The book is set in Kerala.)

The Commissioner of Police, Sri. Balvinder Singh IPS, and the award winning film director K.Vishwanath were the guests of honor.

The author, Sree Vatsan is a Deputy Editor at The Hindu in Hyderabad and ‘Countryside Album’ is his first book. He told or rather read out to the gathering his speech and informed us that it was the first speech of his life which drew some amused giggles.

Also, the Commissioner of Police praised the author as a bold person for writing the book from a woman’s viewpoint. Sri Balvinder Singh is a Post Graduate in English Literature and hence his interest in such literary events.

The members of ‘The Little Theatre’ led by the inimitable Shanker Melkote read out from the book. They went on reading chapter after chapter, one after the other and for some time it appeared like they were going to read the entire book thus sparing us the bother of buying it. However, they seemed to have stopped just before the last chapter. Later people queued up to get the book signed by the happy author. I was one in the queue.

The book is published by Sunbun Publishers, New Delhi and is priced at Rs.150.


Best Book Center (BBC!) the chain of second hand bookstores is holding a second hand book sale from August 3 to 15 at YWCA, Secunderabad. They hold such a sale atleast three times a year. The usual venue is the YMCA, Secunderabad but this time the sale is at YWCA.

For all those who don’t know where the YWCA is, it is near St.Andrews School, Secunderabad. Take the road to the Picket Bus Stand from YMCA, turn right at a median and enter a lane between the church and a temple. Then turn to the left. YWCA is on the left after St.Andrews school.

It is a big sale with thousands of books- fiction, non-fiction, management, self-help, health and children’s books- to be grabbed. The prices are reasonable. You can get hard cover editions of bestsellers in fiction and other genres. The books are in good condition and most of them are almost brand new.

Half the books in my collection I picked up either from this sale or their two stores at Lakdikapul and Abids. I picked up William Goldman’s ‘Adventures in the Screen Trade’ in one such sale a couple of months ago. I also found the fourth edition of ‘The Elements of Style’. It was a brand new paperback copy and I got it for seventy bucks. If you love books then drop in there during the first few days.


Maybe it was the looming Full Moon day but I got lucky again this Sunday ( the 29th of July) at the Abids book bazaar. I found three good books, books I had been looking for since ages. Yesterday I found them quite unexpectedly. This month has been a good one in terms of good books found. These are the books I found this Sunday.


I had read about this book in a library catalogue and being a sort of writer always looking for books on writing I had noted down this title somewhere in a notebook and forgot all about it. Yesterday I found a small postcard sized book with a black colored hardcover that had the title inscribed on it- The Art of Writing. Inside, the name of the author was given- Grenville Kleiser.

It was an old book and looked like it had been printed in the 1950’s or even earlier. I was eager to see if it was a first edition but all the front pages were missing. Mercifully, all the articles including the last pages were intact.

Inside there were nine essays on reading and writing but two essays caught my eye. One was Poe’s ‘The Philosophy of Composition’ which I had read about in David Morrell’s book ‘Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing’. The other was Herbert Spencer’s essay ‘Philosophy of Style’ an example from which is given in Strunk and White’s writing classic ‘The Elements of Style’.

The surprise was the price- I got the book for only fifteen rupees.


But some more luck seemed to be in store for me. Near the spot where Arose Café once stood I saw a stack of hardcover books piled high against a wall one upon the other. I tilted my head to read the titles and one title caught my eye. It was ‘A Year in the World’ by Frances Mayes. The seller took out a copy (there were two copies) and handed it to me. It was a brand new copy but
had no dust jacket. I had read about this book while searching for reviews of ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ on Amazon. I bought both copies for sixty rupees. The second copy is for a friend who also likes to read Mayes’ books.


I walked away pleased with my find when I chanced upon a row of books on sale for ten rupees only in the lane near Dayal's. I found another good title there. It was by another writer I liked to read- Peter Mayle and the book was ‘Acquired Tastes’.

The book is a collection of pieces published in GQ and Esquire, the men's magazines. It was originally published as 'Expensive Habits' in Great Britain. The essays in it are about the upper class men and their luxurious lifestyles, their expensive habits and indulgences, and are written in a witty style.

I bought 'Acquired Tastes' for just ten rupees. It was a most lucky Sunday for me what with the haul of three good books.

More about these books in later posts.