Monday, March 31, 2008

Another Irani Restaurant Bites the Dust in Hyderabad

Sometime last month returning from a book reading I dropped in at a very old Irani restaurant at Masab Tank- quaintly named (as most Irani’s in Hyderabad are), ‘My Friend’. After going without a cup of tea since morning I found the tea there very tasty and good. I had then wanted to write about another interesting thing I noticed there but somehow I forgot about it. Before writing about the interesting thing i noticed at 'Ny Friend', I want to write that Irani hotels in Hyderabad can be classified into two types based on who you pay the bill to.

The first category is the busy Irani where, after you've had your fill, you pay the waiter who brought all the goodies you ordered. You can see this type of system in most of the older and busy Irani hotels. The second category is the Irani where you pay the bill at the counter after the waiter yells out the amount. This system exists in smaller Irani hotels.

But in ‘My Friend’, a totally different system existed, one which is a combination of the above two systems. You have to buy a token at the cashier for all the stuff you want to eat and drink. Then you sit at a table with the token which a waiter collects and gets you the stuff. I haven’t seen this system anywhere in Hyderabad and I doubt if I will see it again because a few days ago I was passing through Masab Tank and noticed that ‘My Friend’ was reduced to a rubble. The road widening had claimed another famous Irani hotel in Hyderabad. The last one was Hilton on the OU Campus.

By the way, on Saturday I noticed that the red and white sign of ‘CafĂ© Coffee Day’ has come up in place of the “Hilton’ board, relegating Hilton to the minds of all those spent countless hours in it talking about cricket, the latest movie and the perennial Hyderabadi topic, the bad roads and size of the potholes. Now you’ll probably find trendy people in CCD sipping expensive coffee and talking about the internet, Britney Spears and stuff like that. I’ve got no complaint about CCD coming up in place of Hilton but where does that leave the Hilton regulars?

Friday, March 28, 2008

On Reaching another Milestone

After almost three years of working at my first novel, I reached the end yesterday morning. I felt strangely elated at having finally completed a long journey that began two and half years ago (Sept 19, 2005). It is only the first draft though, but I feel I have achieved something quite big. (It is really big, all of 400 pages.) I want to share some of my experiences writing that first book.

When I first began hesitantly I had no idea (and also, no hope) that I would one day actually finish it. I started out writing a few paragraphs every day for some months, and then I reached the stage when I was able to write one side of the page. By the time I reached the half way mark I was writing one page a day. Then I realized the story was growing and that there was a possibility that I would be able to complete what I had started. There were long gaps in between. The longest gap was a year when I went to the Andamans, ironically, with the intention of getting away from it all and focusing on the book. I didn’t touch it for a year after returning from the trip. Then one day I took it out and started again.

One page a day was the normal pace which sometimes rose to two pages a day. When I began to reward myself for reaching milestones of 50 pages the pace increased. I began to write two pages a day regularly. I have a full time job from 10 to late evening. I wrote in the morning after breakfast and before starting for office. I wrote before going to bed. The book was never far from the mind. For some time when I was working in an outfit along with cops in civvies doing some intense work the work got in the way. I was frustrated but found the writing actually helped me write better reports at work. I actually got rewards for writing good reports at office. I felt like Bernard Samson in Len Deighton’s books. When I got out of that department the pace increased. I wrote three pages a day on some days and this month I actually wrote five pages a day, for three days.

When I started I told no one fearing talking about the book would somehow freeze the story. Later, I told a few friends. As for family, only my son was interested in the book asking me a million questions about the story (which is autobiographical as all or most first books are), and getting excited as the pile of pages mounted on the table. After some time I felt I was writing the book for my son. I guess I completed for his sake. But for his interest I would have abandoned it long ago.

It is only the first draft written on paper with a fountain pen. I know there is a long way to go before I can even think of sending it to a publisher. Right now, I am not even thinking of publication. All I want to do it is to type it and revise until I am satisfied with it. That’s the general plan and it might take another year but I am not bothered because I know if I managed to complete writing it, I have it in me to see it to its logical end.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Pico Iyer, My Book and the Roads of Hyderabad

Pico Iyer seems to be churning out books faster than I can read them. While three of his books that I picked up over the years (of them, two I picked up only recently) remain on my table waiting to be read, there trickles in the news that another of his book has hit the shelves. The latest book 'The Open Road' is on the Dalai Lama it seems. I guess I have to read all his books that I am waiting for the right time to read before I can even think of buying the latest book. I wonder how long it will take for the book to turn up on the pavements at Abids. I guess it will be better if I buy a new copy than wait for a second hand copy. That’s the least I can do for a writer who remains a favorite on the list.

After two days of continuous rain followed by two cloudy days the sun has finally come out today spreading the kind of radiance that follows a period of hiding. It is wonderful weather out there. I am lucky I sit just inches away from a door which allows me a view of a fair slice of sky, trees and other buildings. In no time will the sun suck up all the water from the pools and puddles that have formed on the roads of Hyderabad, exposing the damaged roads. The roads in Hyderabad are just as dangerous as the traffic that moves on the roads.

I am on the verge of reaching a major milestone. I am a few pages short of completing my first novel. All my waking hours I am thinking about is the scenes in the book and I am unable to read, look at the television or hold a meaningful conversation with family members. I’m just grunting when they ask me anything. Its been going on since a few weeks like this and they have learnt to leave me alone with my pen and papers.

I am completely absorbed by the book as I struggle towards the ending. I might finish it tomorrow morning and already I am feeling the weight beginning to shift. I’ve lined up a few goodies for myself for having completed the first draft of my first novel- an iPod, a nice and expensive fountain pen (maybe a Pelikan), and a few notebooks and books. All I need now is the money to buy them!

Monday, March 24, 2008

An Opportunity Missed

For a long time I had been thinking of doing something special for my son’s class teacher (‘didi’ for him) of whom he never stops praising enough. After I come home from work he begins by telling me how his ‘didi’ said something that he had done was good or how she gave him ‘stars’ in his notebook for his homework. He is always talking about his ‘didi’ at his school. He studies at a school where they don’t have exams or tests for students upto fifth standard. He looks forward to going to school every day. Today we were going to his school to collect his report card. It was the last day for him in the fourth standard.

While getting ready to go to the school I had the idea of giving a present to his ‘didi’ for all the encouragement she gives him. Also, apart from home it is at the school that kids spend a long time. So I thought it would be a nice gesture to giver her a gift and also click a photograph of my son standing next to her since he was going to a higher class with a different ‘didi’. So I remembered to carry the camera but forgot her gift, a fountain pen, at home. It was too late for me to turn back so I bought one at a stationer's near the school.

There was a crowd of parents and kids around ‘didi’ so I was hesitant to ask her to pose with my son. I collected the report and hung around for a while hoping she would be free for a moment but the people kept coming. I gave up the idea of taking the photograph. I had originally thought I’d give the gift to ‘didi’ myself but at the last minute I handed it to my kid to give it to her. After all, it was his ‘didi’.

‘Didi’ was busy talking to the parents but my son (shy, like me) went up to her hesitantly and handed it to her. She looked at the gift in his hand and at him silently for a long time. Then abruptly she pulled my son towards her, enveloped him in her arms and hugged him tight. When she released him I thought I saw her eyes had become moist. She told him to keep coming to meet her and talk with her. She waved him bye and as we came away I realized I was still holding the camera. I regretted not taking a picture of that unexpected gesture of a teacher's affection for her pupil. It would have been wonderful to capture that moment. But it was too late. I had missed a great picture.

On the way back home my son was silent. While going to school he was yakking away asking me a million questions the way ten-year old kids do. I then realized it was probably better that I had not taken that picture. Some memories are best stored in the mind.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Writing Dream

About a decade ago, I began to take my writing a little seriously feeling I was going nowhere keeping the writing dreams to myself. In 1996, I came across an IGNOU ad and registered for a Diploma in Creative Writing in English. Though I did not complete it, the course was useful in two ways. My writing career took off when one of the assignments I did as part of my course ended up being published as a middle in a newspaper. The other thing was that all the friends I made in that batch. A couple of them still keep in touch with me almost on a daily basis.

Since then I have managed to get about thirty of my articles published in various newspapers (Deccan Chronicle, The Hindu, Indian Express) and magazines. I am not such a prolific writer hence the small number of articles I could get published. Also, most of them are humorous in nature, and writing humor isn’t such an easy thing. Hence, the trickle of articles.

I learnt a little from the IGNOU course material but I felt I needed something clear and definite. I found Somerset Maugham’s “Summing Up’ and that book started a hunger for books on writing that still burns. Later I found Stephen King’s “On Writing’ which inspired me enough to start my first book. I began collecting several books on writing but still feel I have a lot to learn about writing. Perhaps I am looking for some magic mantra of writing but I keep buying books on writing all the time in the hope I would find something new and useful in each book.

I know my writing is not perfect and has many drawbacks and faults. Some I know and am constantly trying to rectify those defects. But there are many things that are wrong with my writing. There are many things about writing I am unaware of and am desperate to learn more. One can learn the craft but one can only understand the art of writing and yet not be able to bring it out in one’s writing. It is this missing component or aspect of writing that I am trying to find.

The books on writing that I’ve read gave me only a glimpse of the art behind the writing but they are not enough to teach you the art. For that one needs a mentor and a mentor is what I am lacking. I haven’t met any senior and successful writer who could guide me in my writing. A mentor cuts short the time one takes to learn any art. A mentor tells you what is wrong with your art in a flash. A mentor can guide you in the proper direction after seeing what strengths you possess. But unfortunately, it is a mentor I lack. I feel this lack is resulting in writing that is mediocre and at best quite ordinary.

For some time I have been thinking that doing a Writing Workshop would put me in a situation where I would be able to understand the art and, if I am lucky, also meet a mentor who would put me on the path to good writing. Some established writers are of the opinion that writer’s workshops are no good. Some like Stephen King (one of my gurus) say doing one isn’t such a bad idea. Hampered by the lack of a true mentor I am seriously considering doing a workshop abroad. There aren’t any writers workshops conducted in India. Even if they are, they are conducted by professional writers but not by true writers, the sort for whom writing is not just a profession but a way of living.

I searched on the net and came across the Summer Writing Workshops of Iowa University that are offered in June-July every year. Anyone over twenty one with a desire to write is eligible to do these workshops. I have gone through the different types of workshops they offer. I find that the weeklong workshops on the various aspects and types of writing might be useful to any writer starting out on a writing career. I am now dreaming of doing three or four of those weeklong workshops which I hope will fill all or most of the gaps that my writing at present suffers from. The more I read about the workshops, the stronger is my urge to do the workshops offered at Iowa University.

But dreaming alone is not enough. One needs money to make some of them come true. To travel to Iowa, stay there and do the four workshops I have short-listed, I would need around ten thousand dollars which come to around four lakh rupees in Indian currency. It is a big amount and I do not have so much money in my savings. The workshops begin in June but it is an impossible task to raise the monies by then.

But I am optimistic that something will pop up. Something will, I am sure.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Side Effect of Blogging

Quite out of the blue I got a message yesterday through a comment in this blog that I’d won a prize of a dinner for two at a swank hotel in Hyderabad. The message was from Explocity people, publishers of ‘040’ magazine who chose a post from my blog as ‘Pick of the Month’. The dinner is at Novotel in faraway Madhapur.

It was a pleasant surprise later to read the post that was carried on the last page of the glossy magazine. The latest issue (March 2008) of the magazine looked quite attractive though not because of my post! I couldn’t find the magazine anywhere on the streets and when I asked at Odyssey they said they don’t stock the magazine. I finally got it at Walden at Begumpet.

This isn’t the first time I got such a prize though. Ten years ago I had sent my entry to a ‘Wittiest New Year Resolution’ contest in Indian Express. My entry got me the first prize which was a meal for four at the Grand Kakatiya. I took along three friends and we had a grand time hogging all that stuff. My friends remember that occasion to this day. For this dinner at Novotel, I plan to go with my family. My kid has already started planning the menu!

This is certainly one of the happy side effects of writing a blog. I will write about the dinner in a later post.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sunday Haul of Second Copies

It was an odd but interesting haul I came up with yesterday at Abids. I found second copies of books I already have and also a second copy of a Mont Blanc catalogue i had picked up only recently. I found only one new magazine and it was about watches. I picked it up not because I love watches but because it had a picture of an unusual fountain pen.

I am not a fancier of wrist-watches though I do like to look at good specimens. I don’t even wear a watch for that matter. I can know what the time is in my mobile phone. Wearing a watch makes me feel overdressed just as wearing a belt makes me feel. However, there are people who also collect wrist watches. Many who collect fountain pens also seem to have a fancy for watches. I personally know three fountain pen collectors who also have a good collection of exotic watches. But I never could understand why there are so many magazines about wrist watches but only a handful that deal with fountain pens?

Yesterday at Abids I picked up the first of my haul, a magazine called ‘Europa Star’ and it said under the title ‘The World’s Most Influential Watch Magazine’. It was an “International Edition’ issue of October/November 2007.

‘Europa Star’ was a slim magazine and I read in the editors note that Caran d' Ache has brought out a Special Edition, the 1010 Limited Edition that celebrates the special genius of watch makers. There was a picture of the pen but only part of it with the watch mechanism on the body of the pen. Inside were more stunning pictures of beautiful watches with brand names I hadn’t heard before- Harry Winston, Panerai, Wyler, Parmigiani, Milus and other names alongside names I am familiar with- Raymond Weil, Patek Phillippe, Longines and such names. It was worth the ten bucks I paid for it.

The rest of the haul consisted of books and catalogues I already have. I found yet another copy of ‘Feelings- Hundred Years of Mont Blanc’ that I had found only a couple of months ago. Yesterday’s copy was a better copy and I got it for the same rate I had got the first one for- ten bucks. Coincidentally, I found it with the same seller.

Of the second copies of books I already have, the first find was Dirk Bogarde’s ‘A Postillion Struck by Lightning’ which was in excellent condition. I didn’t have the heart to let it go so I picked it up for only twenty bucks. Dirk Bogarde’s autobiography is in three volumes and this is the first. The other one is ‘An Orderly Man’ and I don’t remember the name of the third book.

The second find was Paul Theroux’s ‘The Great Railway Bazar’ which too was in a good condition though a little faded. This book too I didn’t have the heart to pass up. I got this book for only twenty rupees. I haven’t yet read this book. I might give it away to a friend who told me he hasn’t yet read a single book by Theroux. I am saving his books to be read on a long vacation at a beach side place, maybe.

It wasn’t exactly an exciting find yesterday but it was enough to put me in a good mood. Next Sunday I will be at work so won’t be getting the time to visit Abids.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Last of the Sunday's Haul- Best Life, Fatherhood Special

One is a father all the time; there is no break from it. The last and perhaps the best of the three magazines I found on Sunday last was the ‘Men’s Health Best Life’ Fatherhood Special of June 2006. Being a guy I like to read such stuff about how other guys take care of one’s health, emotions, finances but the best are the one’s about advice on fatherhood. I have a ten-year old son and I want him to grow up with good memories of his childhood. I want to be as good a parent as I can. The memories of our childhood are the ones that carry us forward, I feel.

This issue had a lot of interesting articles. I don’t find this kind of stuff in Indian magazines like ‘Man’s World’ and such glossies which have pages and pages of skimpily clad women mostly. Indian magazines try to imitate the foreign ones like “Men’s Journal’, ‘Esquire’, ‘GQ’ and such magazines. We cannot seem to be original in anything.

However there was a lot in “Best Life’ that I found interesting. There was a small feature about a real SUV, the Austrian ‘Pinzgauer’. Peter Carey writes about the book that changed his life- William Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’. I haven’t read this book or any of Faulkner’s books, sadly. There was a lot of the usual advice on fitness, health etc. Since it was a 'Fatherhood Special there were several articles about different aspects of parenting- how to teach your kids about money, about dressing, about fitness and looking after yourself.

One of the best articles I read in the magazine was the one by Maximillian Potter titled ‘Prodigal Father’, which is about his wayward father who gave up drinking and gambling to pay for his son’s education. It was a touching article.

Though I was lucky I got this magazine for only ten rupees I feel I am lucky to have found it at all. Tomorrow is Sunday and I wonder what I will find at Abids. Learn about it on Monday.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Sunday Haul- Part III (Another Magazine- MONOCLE)

The second of the lot of three magazines that I had picked up on Sunday was ‘MONOCLE’ of May 2007. I had been eyeing this magazine at a second hand book shop in Abids but didn’t pick it up because the price on the sticker said ‘Rs 100’. No magazine is worth that much I told myself and restrained myself from buying at the book shop. That was a couple of months ago and this Sunday the magazine somehow found its way to the pavement at Abids. I got it for only forty rupees which I still feel is too much but then the seller was someone I know well and I didn’t want to disappoint him by haggling with him.

Back to ‘MONOCLE’ which is published from London. It says on the masthead: ‘ A Briefing on Global Affairs, Business, Culture & Design’. The magazine is in an entirely different format. It is like a large sized book and had 180 pages. The paper was not glossy but something tough and beautiful. The pictures inside too were of good quality.

As for the content there was a lot that was interesting in it. This issue seemed to be a ‘Bicycle’ special with many articles on cities in the world where the people travel on bicycles.

There are longish articles on the latest developments in various parts of the world. There was an article on Groningen in Netherlands where there are more bikes than people I read. Elsewhere two bike makers were featured- Skeppshult and Giant. I was reading the business report on Tangiers and came across a piece of interesting information about writers. It seems William Burroughs wrote ‘’Naked Lunch” here. Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg too visited Tangiers it seems.

There was another interesting item again, about an automatic toilet that is the rage in Japan- The Washlet!There are far too many items in the magazine-Porter Bags, restaurant reviews and such stuff. But it is an interesting magazine. It is unlike any other magazine I've come across. There are two more issues I plan to buy next Sunday.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Sunday Haul- Part II (Magazines-NGA)

I had always thought that I was an adventure-loving guy, until last month. I had turned forty four in February and that day I sat down to review all the adventures I had in my forty four years of life. I realized that I hadn’t a single outdoor adventure worth recounting except the t three months I spent alone in the Andamans two years ago. I had roughed out on a ten-day solo road trip across the Andamans in the last month of my stay. This was the only adventure I had in my life. But that ten day trip is enough for a lifetime and I will write about it some other time.

I live most of my adventures in the mind as well as through magazines like National Geographic Adventure and other travel magazines. I believe when we dream of some things our eye is quick to catch words or things associated with them. On Sunday my eye caught the word ‘Adventure’ on a magazine lying under a heap of other magazines. When I pulled it out I found it was the June/July 2006 issue of “National Geographic Adventure” magazine. I wordlessly handed the twenty rupees the guy asked for it I was impatient to get back home and flip through it.

I finally went through the entire magazine today and spent a couple of hours mooning over the wonderful places described in the magazine. Two articles caught my attention and the bonus of reading one of them was that I found a new writer I want to read more of. One of the articles was by Michael Shnayerson on Wade Davis, an ethno-botanist

What I liked most in Shnayerson's fascinating article was the picture of Wade Davis’ fantastic study, a tiny circular room with a long table filled with books, laptops etc lining the wall all around. It is the sort of study I would like to have someday. The other thing I liked about him was his deep concern for the environment and for the ancient culture of tribals and aborigines in places like Peru, Borneo and Tibet. He speaks passionately about the threat they are facing from modernity and how soon we would lose all the ancient wisdom they possessed. It is a depressing thought.

Wade Davis is the author of nine books including ‘One River’ a best-selling book about his travels with Tim Plowman, a researcher, and another bestseller ‘The Serpent and the Rainbow’ which was made into a film. I have written down these titles in my to-buy list. He is currently at work on a documentary titled ‘Light at the Edge of the World’. I wish there were more people like him to bring to light our vanishing heritage.

The other article I liked reading in the NGA was the one about a long trip in Mozambique by Paul Kvinta. It was great writing and stunning pictures of the Mozambique landscape. He writes how philanthropists like Greg Carr are chipping in to rebuild the war ravaged wildlife reserves like Gorongosa. It was an optimistic article about how our own efforts can conserve our fragile world.

I am glad I found this magazine. It is worth more than the twenty rupees I paid for it. If I cannot go on adventurous trips I try to compensate by reading about them hence the fascination with magazines like Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic and books like Linda Greenlaw’s ‘The Hungry Ocean-Swordfish Captain’s Journey’, ‘A Year in Provence’, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and so on.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Sunday Haul- Part I!

I had read a lot about Ryszard Kapuscinski but never found any book by him except an article by him in a travel book I found recently. It was Granta Travel issue (No. 26) and I had felt glad when I found the book. But I haven’t read the article hoping to read it when I had a lot of time on hand. One doesn’t read good stuff casually without paying attention. Even before I could find the time to read Kapuscinski’s article I struck gold last Sunday. I actually found a book written by him. When I saw it I could barely contain my excitement. It was ‘The Emperor and Shah of Shahs’. I had never heard of this book but I knew it was a great find. I don’t know if it is, but I picked it up anyway. I got the book for fifty bucks. This was the only book I found on Sunday and the rest I picked up were magazines.

I was flipping through the book today and noticed that it was about two rulers- Haile Selassie of Ethiopia (The Emperor), and the Shah of Iran (Shah of Shahs) hence the title ‘The Emperor and Shah of Shahs’. Kapuscinski writes in Polish and the book I found was an English translation published by Picador. The book was in good condition with all pages including the cover intact. I am eager to read it as early as I can.

The rest of the haul consisted of magazines. I picked up three during the hunt that lasted nearly two hours. The first mag I picked up was a new magazine- Monocle (May 2007) which I got for forty bucks. The second was National Geographic Adventure (June/July 2006) for twenty rupees. The last find was a magazine I was looking for – Men’s Health Best Life (June 2006) which I got for only ten rupees. I will write about these magazines in the next post.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A New Tabloid for Hyderabad, Hilton becomes CCD

Hyderabad Gets a New Weekly Tabloid- 'DECCAN POST'
About a decade ago I happened to buy a copy of a tabloid called ‘Deccan Post’. I was happy to see a tabloid then in a scene dominated by daily newspapers and magazines. Unfortunately that was the only issue of the tabloid that saw the light of the day because it did not appear again. On Thursday I chanced upon the same tabloid-‘Deccan Post’ but with a redesigned masthead on the stands. It said it was the ‘Gen Next Newsweekly for Hyderabadis’ and the price was ten rupees an issue.

The production quality of the 36-page was good with a neat layout including color photographs. The content is a mix of local politics and entertainment. I liked the items about the Abids booksellers, the Jeep meet and articles about some things that are fading from the scene in Hyderabad.

Already there are three monthly magazines devoted to Hyderabad and 'Deccan Post' in tabloid format is a welcome addition. At ten rupees per issue it isn’t such a bad bargain but it would be better if there is more improvement in quality of the content.

Hilton Makes Way for CCD
I happened to be near the OU Campus on Saturday and saw that the shutters of Hilton were up. There was some work going on inside- a false ceiling was coming up. I was curious to know if Hilton was reopening in a new avatar but the person in the cigarette stall beside the hotel told me ‘Coffee Day’ is coming up. That was news. Irani Chai making way for CCD/Barista – this is the familiar scene nowadays in Hyderabad.

The tea joints are making way for plush, trendy CCDs and Barista outlets in tune with the changing lifestyles. Nodoubt there are patrons for such places who don’t mind shelling out big bucks for a cup of coffee but where does that leave the ordinary folks who don’t want anything more fancy than a simple cup of tea ? Maybe we should have our tea from the roadside ‘bandis’ whose number seems to be increasing by the day.

Bharat Petroleum’s Surprise on a Sunday Morning
Yesterday early in the morning I had to fill petrol in my bike. It wasn’t even seven in the morning when I rode into the Bharat Petroleum’s filling station- Sai Priya- at RTC X-Roads. I filled in two hundred rupees’ worth of petrol and was driving away when the attendant handed me the day’s ‘Deccan Chronicle’. I thought he was selling it but he told me it was complimentary. I was pleasantly surprised at this gesture. I wonder if it was the initiative of BP or the filling station guys. Whatever, next time I want to fill up my bike I’ll come here early in the morning on Sundays!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Taking the Kid for an Outing

It is amazing how y kids remember some vague promise made to them a long time ago. This fact was brought to my notice early in the morning yesterday. My ten-year old son woke up earlier than usual and came straight from the bed to my table where I was writing. I wondered why he had woken up so early on a holiday. (It was Sivarathri yesterday.) Bleary eyed and not yet fully awake, he reminded me of my promise of taking him to the Indira Park on the next holiday. I had entirely forgotten about this promise and tried to talk him out of it. But he was adamant, and so off we went to Indira Park, a ten minute ride from our house.

But when we reached the park I was glad I made the trip. A park is the perfect place to be on an early summer’s morning. Already there were people milling about, some with earphones plugged into their ears, going about their daily constitutional. Some were doing various exercises. Many were sitting under trees and doing Pranayama. There were hordes of kids running around in the green lawns. Some were playing with Frisbees and some were playing shuttle badminton. A lot of people begin their day with a walk in the park. Only those lucky to stay within walking distance of the park can afford to come daily.

We strolled around inside the park watching the people. A gaggle of white geese attracted everyone's attention, especially the kids'. The geese were striding purposefully on the path beside the lake. There was a reason for their haste because soon they came upon a man with a bag in his hands. He threw them bread crumbs which the geese eagerly grabbed from the air. A woman took a picture on her cell phone camera. It was an unusual sight. I had seen another person feed grains to pigeons on the Necklace Road sometime ago. On previous visits I noticed an elderly gentleman leaving pieces of bread for squirrels in this park. It is heartwarming to see that people care about animals. But I wonder if they aren’t feeding them the wrong kind of food?

My kid was fascinated with a youngster who was hauling a net full of fish from a pond. The youngster sat astride on some kind of a white plastic sack filled with foam and paddled with his legs. Another youngster on the shore pulled in the net and filled the fish into another bag. My son watched as the fish wiggled their tails gasping for airm their gills flapping.

Wherever we went we noticed empty plastic water bottles floating in the lakes and other water bodies inside the park. There were plastic bags, empty wrappers of chips and other eatables littering the lawns. Why do we throw around so much stuff and make our environment dirty? It is easy to blame the park authorities for not keeping the park clean and garbage-free. But isn’t it our responsibility to throw all garbage in the bins and containers provided for the purpose? We just throw the empty wrappers wherever we like. It is high time we thought about it or else Hyderabad too will join the list of the dirtiest cities in the world (Mumbai and Delhi are already listed) as reported in a recent survey.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tipping in Irani Restaurants

From where I work at Gunfoundry, four Irani restaurants are in the vicinity within walking distance. I visit only one regularly for my afternoon cup- Bombay Bakery and Restaurant. Another I drop in for the morning cuppa sometimes- Adarsh is at Adarshnagar. I cannot do without at least one cup of Irani tea every day. Sometimes I feel my brain would cease to function if I do not drink Irani tea at least once daily. I guess all true blue Hyderabadis feel similarly.

Yesterday evening I dropped in at another Irani which I frequent only occasionally-the ‘Lavish Corner’ near LB Stadium opposite the Westside Store. As with other places, finding a seat is quite difficult during the peak hours of four to seven in the evening. I had one of the tastiest cups of tea I ever had in recent times and it was worth the five bucks the tea costs. In the other places the price of one cup of tea is still four rupees a cup.

One tip for getting good service at Irani restaurants in Hyderabad is to be a regular at the place and leave a small tip to the waiters. Even a one-rupee tip is enough, which is what I leave for the guy who brings me my tea. The regular tipping ensures I get a ‘salaam’ from the waiter as well as tea in a clean cup without any tea spilt in the saucer. In most Irani restaurants you wilI find that half the tea is in saucer and the cup is half floating in it. I get the same service at both the places where the waiters recognize me and get me my tea even before I order it. That’s what tipping is for.

Monday, March 03, 2008

A Costly Lesson at Abids

Even after one is at a hobby for as long as twenty years, there is no guarantee that one will not make a mistake, a costly one at that. Yesterday at Abids I made a fundamental mistake, the sort newbies make. It cost me nearly hundred bucks, this simple mistake.

I had spotted the November 2007 issue of ‘Conde Naste Traveler’ which was a special issue. It had the list of the best hotels, resorts, places etc of 2007, and was brand new. I immediately fell for it and grabbed it for a hundred rupees which, as a voice inside my head was telling me, was a bit over the top. But two weeks of book deprivation seemed to have dulled my senses and I picked it up unmindful of the protesting voice. A few minutes later I saw the same magazine, four copies of them with a different guy available for only twenty rupees. Yikes, that was a costly mistake! I normally ask the bookseller to keep aside the book while I take a look around. If I don't find a copy of the book at a lesser price I pick it up but today I forgot this lesson.

I found two other books, both hardcover books in a heap selling for only ten rupees each. The first book was Russell Baker’s “Growing Up’, a memoir of his childhood. The book was in good condition and amazingly the 278 pages book was mine for only ten rupees. I have a paperback copy of the same book that I had got earlier for twenty rupees.

The second book I found was something unusual for my taste. It was a book on running- ‘The Running Life’ by Dr. George Sheehan. This book too had 268 pages and was in good condition. A couple of weeks back I had picked up a magazine on running. Though I don't run I have a strange attraction to this activity. Maybe I will take up running someday soon. As I said earlier I got this book too for only ten rupees.
Amazing what one can get for a mere ten rupees in Hyderabad!