Friday, January 30, 2009

The Sunday Haul and Tzatziki

Until last Sunday I was blissfully unaware that there existed in the culinary world a dish that goes by the name of Tzatziki. Yes, Tza-tzi-ki. My limited knowledge of all things gastronomic expanded further after going through a magazine I had picked up recently. I found the most recent issue (dt 17-1-09) of The Times Magazine at Abids last Sunday. It was here (in the magazine, not Abids) that I stumbled upon Tzatziki, among other things. Tzatziki, I read in an interesting article by Alexia Skinitis, was a dish they prepare in far away Greece. There was no picture or recipe Tzatziki given in the article so I guess I must look for it elsewhere.

This was the second time I found The Times Sunday Magazine at Abids during all these years. Also, it was the cheapest I got it for. It was worth more than the tenner I paid for it. There were several articles in this travel special, all of them travel related naturally and more than half of them containing either recipes or mention of food. There was even an article on India titled ‘Indian Epiphany’ by Tim Lott. It is about the writer’s experiences of boating down the Hooghly in search of wildlife in the Sunderbans, his stay in Kolkata and visits to several places that seem to enchant him, and about a trip to Darjeeling. It was a simple, well written article revealing a lot of the emotions the writer felt on visiting India.

There were many such articles in the magazine. There was an article by the writer, Colm Toibin, on his visit to the statue of Ephesus in Turkey. Another article that I liked was a witty one by Giles Coren about eating in the California area where he was traveling. It is always a revelation to me to read about the variety and the quantity, especially the quantity, of food people seem to eat while traveling. Even for breakfast they seem to eat at least six items. I eat two dosas and I am ready to keel over.

But coming back to Tzatziki I guess what with the sort of hotels we have in Hyderabad it would be next to impossible to sample Tzatziki here, and Greece is so, so far away. Tzatziki sounds exactly the sort of dish one cannot resist ordering just to see how it looks like if not to see how it tastes. I guess I have to wait until I get an opportunity to visit Greece. But someday I am going to visit Greece if only to taste Tzatziki.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Dumb Hyderabadi Motorists

We Hyderabadi motorists really are a dumb lot and one needn’t take random IQ tests to find out this fact. One only has to stand at any traffic junction to know how dumb we actually are. In Hyderabad there are usually more cops at traffic signals than in police stations. At any given time one can find not less than half a dozen traffic cops at traffic signals. Traffic signals, in the first place, I don’t need to explain here, were conceived so there wouldn’t be any need for cops to regulate the traffic.

Anyone would think that people living in such a big city as ours (we are forty million strong) would be fairly intelligent enough to understand the principle behind traffic signals and how they work. Any motorist with a brain bigger than a bird’s will know that red means stop and green means go. Not us Hyderabadis, sir. We actually need the cops to tell us to move when the signal turns green and to stop when the signal turns red. We cannot figure this simple thing. That is how dumb we Hyderabadis are.

As if it isn’t enough there are such dumb people we have a lot of motorists who don’t stop even after the cops signal us to stop or move when the traffic lights change. These super dumb motorists don’t move until the cop blows his whistle loud enough to burst the ear drums. Just in case blowing the whistle isn’t enough to get us moving, the cops have not just batons but batons with flashing lights which they wave at us frantically to move or stop. But even then we don’t act, at least some of us. Not until the traffic stop sticks his face close to our faces and lets go of the choicest abuses do we realize that the signals have changed.

So much for being a Hyderabadi motorist.

Friday, January 23, 2009

First Trip of the Year

Only an unlucky few return from Tirupati without visiting the famous temple. Last week I would have been one of those unlucky few but for some quick thinking on the part of my hosts. Luck was on my side and I got an opportunity to worship at the temple early in the morning. Not only that I also got to taste the most wonderful dosa of my life at Tirupati.

I had not really expected to visit Tirupati when I was told that I have to go to Chittoor district on yet another visit to the farmer’s fields. So I was mentally prepared for that eventuality and had even thought of how I would begin this post: It was the first time in my life I was returning from Tirupati without visiting the temple. But it was not to be because a day before I was to leave I was told my destination was Puttur, which was less than an hour’s journey from Tirupati. I was accompanying my boss so we booked the tickets to Tirupati for Sunday evening with the hope that there might be a chance to visit the famous temple.

You get to know how important you are by the number of people who turn up to receive you. I was astonished (and a bit embarrassed) to find six people waiting for us at the railway station at Tirupati on Monday morning. An hour later the news trickled in that arrangements were being made to take us to the temple which put me in a good mood.

Puttur is famous for its traditional healers who set right broken bones. I had wanted to see the facility but it was a tight schedule. It was an official trip so I couldn’t indulge in such side trips. One of the local officers who accompanied us was a member of the family of healers but I couldn’t talk much with him. Maybe some other time I might get the chance to get to know more about the place. There were several places which had historic forts and temples but those too I had to give a miss.

After breakfast we left for the villages to visit the fields and talk to farmers. It was hot and we had to trudge in the fields in distant villages. After a while it gets boring asking the same questions to farmers and getting the same replies. Mercifully we had a goodish lunch at a Guesthouse late in the afternoon. We returned to Tirupati in the evening just when it was beginning to get dark. Tirumala, as usual, was teeming with visitors from all over the country. The next day we were to start at three in the morning for the temple so I went to bed early.

The next day, Tuesday we left exactly at three in the morning, all five of us. It wasn’t very cold up on the hill but after a while it got chilly. We had a good darshan at the temple and I felt glad that I was beginning the New Year in this manner. I was here last year sometime in September but we had a restricted darshan. We motored down for breakfast at a place called Manasa and the officer who took us there said the food was really good there. It was, I swear.

The dosa that I ordered turned out to be the best I had in my life. It was soft, thick and very delicious when taken with the chilli chutney. I am not much of a foodie, but I can tell a tasty dish when I see one. We topped off the dosa with hot tea and set off again for the second day’s visits into the boondocks. I was eager to wrap up the trip as early as possible and return home because I was missing two things- my son and Irani Chai.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Sunday Haul

Finding another Book

I had not really meant to pick another book last Sunday but I couldn’t help picking up what I found at Abids. I had missed the Abids trip on the first Sunday of the year and on the second Sunday I had made a rather hurried trip late in the afternoon though picked up three magazines. It doesn’t really feel like a real trip until I spend more than two hours at Abids spending time looking over a lot of books. So it was with a lot of eagerness that I was at Abids on Sunday much before eleven in the morning because later in the evening I was starting on a short trip, my first in the New Year. I had thought of keeping my resolve of not buying any book but it was impossible.

Somewhere in the middle of the trip at Abids I found a travel book by a writer which was tantalizingly sub-titled ‘A Writer’s Year in the Bearn.’ Normally I find it impossible to resist buying travelogues but when it is listed as ‘Writer’s Year’ than it is totally impossible to ignore it. I haven’t heard of Celia Brayfield’s ‘Deep France’ before but on finding it I thought I’d better buy it. So I got it, though for only ten rupees which for a book published in 2004 is quite a bargain. The book was almost brand new and promised to be a good read on the lines of ‘A Year in Provence’ and ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’, both of which I have with me.

Inside, I read that Celia Brayfield has written nine novels and two books of non-fiction. One of her non-fiction books is ‘Bestseller’, a guide to story telling in fiction which sounds very interesting. It seems her ‘Pearls’ is a bestseller but I don’t seem to have to come across it anywhere but now I can look forward to coming across it somewhere soon. ‘Deep France’ was the only book I picked up last Sunday and I was content finding just one good book.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hyderabadis and the Kingfisher Calendar

It is the time of the year when talk about diaries and calendars fills the air. Not that I care much about things like calendars and dairies but the word ‘calendar’ brings to my mind something I’m sort of upset about- the Kingfisher Calendar. I’ve heard a lot about it and also got sneak peeks into what’s in it thanks to certain magazines and newspapers. Being a guy I guess it is only healthy that I get curious about the contents of the calendar.

I don’t drink beer or anything for that matter (I get all my kicks from Irani Chai so thank you). But I feel my beer guzzling fellow Hyderabadis have been given the short shrift by Kingfisher & Co. I read somewhere recently that Hyderabad ranks first or second in the country when it comes to downing beer. Which means, that when they’re not drinking Irani chai they are busy guzzling beer by the case. And Kingfisher beer seems to be the top choice for some reason. I personally know of someone who drinks only Kingfisher beer and he drinks them at the rate of three or four a week.

So it wouldn’t be stretching things to assume that nearly three fourths of the total quantity of beer consumed in Hyderabad must be Kingfisher beer. Which means, once again, that every time a Hyderabadi downs a bottle of Kingfisher beer Kingfisher & Co becomes richer. And a Hyderabadi downs beers almost all the time whether the occasion demands it or not, which means that Hyderabadis are making Kingfisher & Co very, very rich. So rich that they bought not just one jet but an entire airline. You’d think they’d be grateful to us Hyderabadis in some way for adding to their wealth almost every minute. No, instead what Kingfisher & Co does is send all those Kingfisher calendars to the sort of rich blokes who don’t need them in the first place. They are the sort of people who anyway hang out with the models featured in the calendar, and also aren’t likely to hang the calendar on the walls of their posh homes.

No, sir, it probably didn’t even cross Kingfisher & Co’s minds that probably half of the company’s wealth comes from us Hyderabadis. I don’t think they even care for Hyderabad or Hyderabadi’s. There’s no reason why they should, unless they are very interested in potholes. But if any of the top bosses of KF & Co do come to Hyderabad then there’s something I want to ask them on behalf of my fellow hard drinking Hyderabadis who aren’t even aware of the Kingfisher calendar. Which is exactly what I want to ask them -the Calendar.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The New Year's First Haul

Sometime on Monday I happened to drop in at a second hand bookstore which was near my office. I told myself that I’d not pick any book since I had resolved not to, and hence would only browse what was on display. I was there for quite a long time, checking out the titles most of which were uninteresting. It wasn’t until the end that I spotted a title that had me agitated and restless. It was a book by one of my favorite writers and I found myself in a dilemma. Here I was full of resolve not to buy even a single book until March while on the other side was the title beckoning me with an overpowering appeal. One of the best advices I’ve read about getting out of a dilemma was to disappear from the scene altogether. Which is what I did as I fled the bookstore without buying the book.

You’d think that solved my problem, but no. It actually increased my agony. The moment I was out of the bookstore a voice began in my head, ‘Whaaat, you’re not buying Pico Iyer’s ‘Falling Off the Map?’. It was a question that buzzed in my head all day. ‘What do you mean you have resolved not to buy any book until March? This isn’t ‘any’ book. It is one by Pico Iyer, the Pico Iyer who you trumpet all over is one of your favorite writers.

I managed to turn a deaf ear to that voice for two days. But whenever I was near books (which is all the time because there are books everywhere in my house) the voice in my head would begin again.

I cannot believe that you have left that book in the bookstore. You say Pico Iyer is your favorite writer yet you don’t bother to pick up his book. Imagine, just imagine what Pico Iyer would think if he comes to know that one of his ardent readers doesn’t want to pick up his book even if it was a second hand copy. He’d stop writing altogether.

That was what made me change my mind. If Pico Iyer stops writing altogether it would be terrible. Not that he would do it for this silly reason but I did not see the merit in my resolution not to buy any book for some time. This was Pico Iyer’s ‘Falling Off the Map’, something I’d been looking all over since a long time. It was a hard cover edition though with a faded and torn cover and very ancient looking. So off I went to the store on Thursday afternoon and picked it up for fifty rupees which was a very small price to pay for a masterpiece by Pico Iyer. I am glad I bought the book because it would have been otherwise very difficult to silence the voice inside my head.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Sunday Haul - 3 Magazines

On Sunday, my modest but growing collection of Condé Nast Traveller magazines got a quantum jump with the addition of three issues. It looks like I am destined to be a non-paying subscriber of this wonderful magazine. There were actually six magazines on the pavement but I picked up only three. I was glad I did not pick up all the six for a reason I will come to shortly. I got the three magazines for only fifty rupees which was quite a bargain. Since I had decided not to buy books for a while I thought it was okay to splurge on magazines hence the magazine haul.

Maybe I would have picked up a book on Sunday at Abids but I was there only for a very short time, about thirty minutes to be exact. I was with a friend the whole day so missed out on the trip to Abids. If I had come in the morning I would have looked carefully and no doubt, would have found something worth picking up. I am wondering how long I will hold out without buying a book. There are fifty more Sundays to go through.

Condé Nast Traveller is for those who take their travel and holidays in beautiful, exotic places seriously. For government types like me it gets a bit too much, all that luxury and opulence. However it is fun to read about it all though I may not ever go to any place described in the magazine.

Of the three Condé Nast Traveller issues one was of December 2008 (263 pages) and the other two were the November 2008 (268 pages) and September 2008 (204 pages) issues. It would take me a long time to read them but I flipped through the three issues and also read a few interesting articles. The December 2008 issue has articles by five well known travel writers on senses. I liked the one by Rory Maclean on ‘Hearing’, a vendor's cry in Burma that remained in the writer’s memory. The article on the outback in Australia promises to be great though it is too lengthy.

The September 2008 issue had a lengthy, evocative article on Havana by Robert McCrum, author of ‘My Year Off’. Another piece in the same issue gave me an idea for an article I felt I can do without trying too hard. The article was ‘25 Reasons to Go to Barcelona’ and my idea was for an article titled ‘100 Reasons Not to Go to Hyderabad’, the first of which, needless to say will be- potholes. Someday I am going to do the article. Watch this space.

But my joy on finding my favorite magazine was short lived soon as I started flipping through the issues. I noticed that someone had torn off a few pages in each magazine- lists of hotels and such useful information. I felt sad but not angry. It is one price that one has to pay picking up second hand stuff cheap. The only consolation was that I got a clue as to where these magazines were coming from. I found a piece of hotel stationery with the name of the hotel on it. I’m not going to name it but the hotel is on Banjara Hills.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Finding another Second Hand Bookstore

On Thursday I accidentally stumbled upon a second hand bookstore at Punjagutta. I was passing through Punjagutta area in the afternoon and I happened to see a board of ‘The Book Store’ in the lane behind Model House. I checked out the store which was a smallish affair but well stocked. I was surprised when the guy told me the store was existing since three years. I wonder why I did not get to know about it. But now that I found it out I am glad to add to the list of second hand bookstores in Hyderabad. I have to do a post on them soon.

The address is: The Book Store, 6-3-456/A/7, Dwarakapuri Colony, Behind Model House, Punjagutta.

Back to the store, I saw a couple of books by Naipaul I should have picked up but didn’t. Almost all the books at the store are priced above hundred rupees. It has a pretty decent collection including computer books and stuff like that. I browsed for sometime hoping I’d find a nice book but I did not find any. I wasn’t disappointed though since I plan to return sometime soon for a more detailed browsing. Incidentally this is the third second hand bookstore in the Punjagutta area. There’s one on one side of the flyover and another on the other side. I was told the guy puts up books at Abids too on Sundays.

Goonda in Action

Not many dramatic situations shown in movies actually happen in real life. Though such situations happen sometimes, not many can be witness to them. One such scene happened when I was in Sultan Bazar yesterday. It isn’t a very dramatic situation but an interesting one nevertheless. I saw a hoodlum at work collecting payouts from street vendors in broadlight, and that too in the neighborhood of a police station.

I was hanging around Sultan Bazar on a minor errand. I was parking my bike when I noticed a guy with long, curly hair, a stubble on his chin and a paunch bigger than his chest say something to a woman standing near a sugarcane juice stall. He had a nasty look on his face. He did not even look at the woman but was staring in another direction while talking to her. The woman said to another person beside her, ‘Haven’t we paid yesterday?’ and the other person nodded his head. The woman gave the hoodlum twenty bucks which he thrust into his pocket and walked away.

I was watching this exchange with interest and he happened to glance at me for a second before walking away to another pushcart vendor. I watched fascinated as the vendor paid a tenner to the hoodlum who simply stuffed it in his trouser pocket and swagger to another vendor. I realized this was a small time operator if he is collecting just ten bucks a day from each vendor. He did not look a municipal tax collector and he also did not give any receipt for the money.

The police station was just a few steps away but what can they do if no vendor complains and instead pays dutifully? There must be scores of such pests around living off the earnings of vendors and such people in the city.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

This and That

No Haul Sunday

Lying in bed, swathed in woolens wasn’t what I imagined myself to be doing on the first Sunday of the New Year but that was exactly what I was forced to do as I was down with the flu. Maybe the hectic activity in the previous month had got something to do with it. But whatever it is, I missed doing several things I had planned for Sunday. I had thought of doing the Necklace Road routine first thing on Sunday morning followed by a leisurely read of the Sunday papers in Adarsh Restaurant and later a visit to Abids. All I could do was lie in bed for the whole day on Sunday telling myself it wasn’t my fault that the flu chose to strike me. Needless to say, I am looking forward to the next Sunday quite eagerly.

On the other hand, the positive (if you can call it positive) thing is that for once there wasn’t an influx of books into the house on Sunday. I have decided to drastically cut down on book buying until I finish reading at least six books a month until March.

15 Years on the job

On the first day of the New Year I began my sixteenth year in this job. Another five years and I can actually retire, a prospect that I find very alluring. Mine isn’t a very interesting job though if I had tried I could have made it very interesting although I spent half my service in interesting posts without even trying. On the whole it has been a very dull period for me and I sometimes feel sad that I had spent a great part of my life doing practically nothing worthwhile.

The only consolation is that I have lived in the rural areas and have seen the life of the farmers and the rural folks up close. It is an experience worth gathering. When I was posted in a far off place without either a boss or an assistant I wondered what I had got myself into, but that initial hardship that lasted for three and half year is priceless when it comes to telling off the guys who spent their whole lives in offices pushing files. Having field experience is a valuable asset, I discovered long back. Add to it a stint with the cops in civvies and one can actually be a loose cannon which I try to be sometimes in my office.

Some of the experiences I had in my first posting form a major chunk of my book. Prior to this job I had been a copywriter in a smallish advertising agency for about two years which also forms part of my book. I don’t know how those who read my book (if it gets published) will find it but I enjoyed writing the first draft though I cannot say the same about revising it. It is taking a horrendously long time. But I plan to finish it sometime by March or later.

I’ll Do it Twice a Week Now

Writing three posts a week on the blog is pretty tiresome though not impossible. So far I have managed to maintain the schedule of posting thrice a week on the blog but now I am thinking of doing it twice a week. One reason is that it gets boring for those who read it to find that I am writing only about books, some trips and other stuff which may not be half interesting than what they are doing in their own lives. Another reason is that writing a post takes up a lot of time not to mention the effort spent thinking of an idea for it. Sometimes the ideas present themselves quite easily but most of the time it isn’t just so.

Another reason is that there are not many people who read my blog if the hits I get are anything to go by. I get an average of twenty hits a day, down from twenty five a few months ago. It is one indicator that I am not exactly setting the blogosphere on fire with my posts. So I’ve planned to write only two posts a week (Tue and Fri) in the hope that I might get better at my writing if I have the time to revise the posts.

Those who want me to continue writing three posts a week can take heart. I can be easily persuaded to do so since all that is required is send me a cheque for a couple of million dollars…

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Trip to Vizag and Beyond

The problem with traveling, even if it is to smaller places, is that one soon begins to compare the places one visits with one’s place. I am no exception and as a Hyderabadi, it is perhaps expected of me. However, Vizag is hardly the place to compare with Hyderabad especially since it doesn’t have anything even remotely resembling the Charminar to begin with nor does one get Irani chai though I have seen boards advertising Hyderabad biryani on offer. But then, you don’t get the same sort of feeling eating Biryani just about anywhere other than in a dirty Irani hotel staffed by surly waiters.

The only thing I liked about Vizag was the fact that if one felt like taking a dip in the ocean one needn’t catch a plane and travel thousands of miles to the nearest beach. The beach was so close one only has to gather a towel and stroll towards it. Apart from that, the other thing I envied about Vizag was that there wasn’t even a single pothole on the roads. I looked and looked hoping to find even a small pothole but I was terribly disappointed. On the other hand I was glad, proud in fact, that I come from a city whose municipal engineers have no peers when it comes to laying roads with the maximum number of potholes per square metre.

As earlier planned I was at the beach at the crack of dawn though not on the last day of the year, to catch the sunrise. I had thought I’d be alone but there were several other citizens of Vizag some of whom were walking briskly, jogging or simply sitting on the parapets waiting for the sunrise. The sea was calm and in the light of the dawn had a magical quality to it. There were ships in the distance their lights twinkling and closer, fishermen sailed by rowing their country boat. Then the sun appeared, just a slice of it from behind the clouds and then it came out whole, shining brightly, lighting up the day. That sight alone was worth the visit to Vizag.

The rest of the trip was uneventful as I traveled along with other officers to villages to meet farmers. The farmers here seem to be a meek lot pouring out their litany of woes. Somehow I feel no has done enough for the farmers of our country since they are always in problems- if it is the drought one year, then it is unremunerative prices another year and so on. There is just no end to the travails of the Indian farmer, especially the small farmer who doesn’t have the capacity to withstand risk of any kind. I was reminded of something I had read in a book I had bought a couple of weeks ago.

Somerset Maugham wrote this in ‘A Writer’s Notebook’: ‘When I was leaving India people asked me which of all the sights I had seen had most impressed me. I answered as they expected me to answer. But it wasn’t the Taj Mahal, the ghats of Benares, the temple at Madura or the mountains of Travancore that most moved me; it was the peasant, terribly emaciated, with nothing to cover his nakedness but a rag around his middle the color of the sun-baked earth he tilled, the peasant shivering in the cold of dawn, sweating in the heat of noon, working still as the sun set red over the parched fields, the starveling peasant toiling without cease in the north, in the south, in the east, in the west, toiling all over the vastness of India, toiling as he had toiled from father to son back to back for three thousand years when the Aryans had first descended upon the country, toiling for a scant subsistence, his only hope to keep body and soul together. This was the sight that had given me the most poignant emotion in India.

Things are no different now.

Vizag wasn’t the only place I went. We were at a border village from where I noticed that Vizianagaram was only twenty kilometers away. It was close to lunch time and when I expressed a desire to have lunch at Vizianagaram no one refused. So off we went to Vizianagaram. Half hour later when we were taken to a rather swank hotel I was surprised and a bit embarrassed. I was surprised to find such a good hotel in a place like Vizianagaram. I had said we’d have lunch at some simple hotel but our hosts would have none of it and I was practially led me by my hands inside. They insisted that we have lunch at that hotel and fed me fish curry. Maybe they wanted to show off to us that they have hotels like we do in apna Hyderabad.

It was embarrassing because we were coming straight from the fields, caked with dust from head to toe. But then, in Vizianagaram one hardly expects anyone to notice such things so we had lunch without getting stared at. Later we did a whirlwind sightseeing tour checking out the fort of the Gajapathi rulers, the Music college where, I was told, the giants of Telugu background singers learnt their basics. I paid a quick obeisance at the Pydi Thalli temple which I am told holds a powerful sway over the three north coastal districts. I prayed all potholes in Hyderabad be made to disappear overnight but when I landed the next morning I saw my prayers went unanswered. I should have asked for a less impossible wish.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Final Sunday's Haul

At Abids, the surprises seem to be getting better. Last Sunday I got lucky finding the latest issue of a magazine I love to read- Conde Nast Traveller. I was there at Abids on the twenty eighth of December but I got quite a turn when I spotted the January 2009 issue of Conde Nast Traveller Magazine on the pavement. I don’t want to blame whoever gave it away because I was lucky getting it for only thirty bucks. At Walden or Odyssey the same issue would have set me back by at least six hundred bucks not that I would want to buy it there. Apart from this magazine I found one more magazine and a book which I swore would be the last book I would pick up for sometime.

Actually the first find of Sunday was a book- Edward Abbey’s ‘Desert Solitaire’, which is about the time the author spent all alone as a ranger in a National Park in the US- the Arches National Monument in Utah. Sometimes I fantasize doing things like that. When I was in the Andamans I wondered how it would be to spend sometime alone on an uninhabited island but, fortunately or unfortunately, I left before I could put that idea into action. The first line in ‘Desert Solitaire’ reads: ‘This is the most beautiful place on earth.’ The book promises to be an interesting read.

The second find was a magazine- the October 2008 issue of ‘National Geographic Traveler’ that I got for twenty rupees. Inside there was an article by someone called Monica Bhide on Mumbai and the Taj was featured in it. I wonder what they must be thinking now after all the bombings in the hotel and the shootings in the city. I guess they must have carried some kind of follow up story but I will never know unless I happen to come across the latest issue.

Conde Nast Traveller too in its January 2009 issue carried a short feature about the best hotels in Mumbai and needless to say, the Taj was listed. I am surprised that they did not mention that the hotel was almost completely burnt down recently. I wonder what it would have to say if someone who read the article in the magazine decided to book a room at the hotel? Maybe the magazine will carry some kind of correction in its next issue.

The same evening I was traveling to Visakhapatnam by train and despite my resolve not to pick up any books I couldn’t resist going to Abids in the morning since it was the last Sunday of the year. I did not want to end the year that way so I had gone. Strangely enough, the entire haul of magazines and the book I found on Sunday were about traveling- the very thing I was doing.