Monday, March 30, 2009

Trip No. 9- Medak

Trip No. 9. Made in Medak

Though about a week has passed since I made the trip to Medak I am still unable to shrug off the feeling of regret for not having done something right. Some days I really regret having a ‘tube light’ mind because now and then it causes me a lot of grief. Last Tuesday I was on yet another (and final, I’m told) official trip to the fields in Medak district. After several trips that had me taking an overnight train to distant places, this two hour trip to Medak was a welcome relief. It was the usual trip that had us passing through villages and trudging through farmers’ fields observing the crops and getting feedback from the farmers It was at the last village that I had the experience that left me with the feeling of regret.

At the first village which we had reached in the morning there was a crowd gathered outside the village. The group of farmers we had come to meet was busy listening a woman holding a sickle in her hand and pointing towards a spot under a tree. We learnt that she had seen a cobra slip into a hole right there. We held our meeting sitting on the ground, a few feet away from that hole the snake had disappeared into. As the meeting progressed I wondered if the cobra would come out of the hole and give me an opportunity to take a National Geographic type of picture. But with the type of camera I had which had no lenses at all I did not think it was a possibility.

Someone in the group of farmers, a local leader told me that there was a death in the village- someone had committed suicide drinking pesticide after a domestic quarrel. They were all tense because the dead man was from another village and living with his in-laws. The villagers faced the threat of being accused of abetting the suicide by the relatives of the dead guy. A short while after the meeting started two cops came our way. One was an inspector and had his pistol tucked into the waistband of his trousers. This was the style in these areas where Naxalites hold sway. They just listened for a few minutes and walked away to the spot where the other villagers were gathered. I assumed the body was somewhere nearby.

The next two villages were nothing remarkable. I did another dumb thing. I had put ordinary batteries instead of alkaline batteries in my camera which gave up after the first few snaps. There were acres of sunflower fields with bright yellow flowers all around that would have made for a great picture. I felt like kicking myself about the camera batteries. I also missed some kind of ancient Islamic structure that was like a mosque, just on the edge of a small lake. It was a beautiful sight which I had to miss. Earlier we had been to the Church at Medak where I was able to take a couple of pictures before the batteries ran out.

At the last village in which we had come unannounced there were few farmers waiting for us. I asked the usual questions to the farmers one of whom was a young fellow. He told me that he had not attended the earlier meetings because of an accident in the family. Later we went around the village. Just before we were getting into our car I saw a heartrending sight.

A kid, barely four or five years old was playing alone. He was barefoot and dressed in shabby clothes with half the buttons of his shirt missing. He was just like any other kid in the villages except that half his face was dark brown. I asked one of the farmers what was wrong with the kid’s face. I beckoned to the kid to come over. He turned out to be the young farmer’s son. It seems he fell into a pan of hot cooking oil, face first. The right half of his face was burnt a dark brown. Luckily, there was no damage to his right eye but he wasn’t blinking. His father showed us the places on the kid’s legs and arms from where the doctors had taken skin to graft on his face. It must have been torture for the young boy. But he appeared quite calm and even smiled shyly when I asked him his name and asked him why he had not gone to school. I felt sorry for the kid who was scarred for life. Seeing the poor kid filled my heart with a strange sorrow. I always feel sad when anything bad happens to children. That maybe because I too have a young kid of my own.

What filled me with regret later was the thought that I had not thought of any idea to help the kid in some way. I had a couple of hundreds in my wallet which I could have given to the kid. They may have protested but wouldn’t have refused the money. It was too obvious that they were poor and the money would have been of some help. It was this thought I’m agonizing over and over even now.

Next Post on Wednesday: The Sunday Haul

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trip No. 8; Nostalgia Time

The Eighth Trip, but a Personal One

Since about a year I had managed to persuade my family that we’d make the trip to Basar soon enough, postponing it every chance I got. But last week I was given a final ultimatum that no postponements would be accepted. I had returned only the other day from Ongole but I gave in. Though it meant skipping Abids we set off for Basar last Sunday. I had been to Basar nearly thirty years ago, when my dad took us there in a jeep. We had crossed the Godavari river in the jeep with its wheels completely inside the water. The jeep is an amazing vehicle. It climbed the steep gradient of the river banks without any fuss. It was then that I fell in love with the jeep which remains till date my favorite vehicle. It was the first vehicle that I learnt to drive. Every time I see a jeep my heart beats faster. But this time we took a cab.

One reason I wanted to go to Basar was that we would pass a town that held a lot of memories for me. It turned out to be a nostalgia trip. It was early morning when we started on Sunday. I was surprised at the super smooth highway with four lanes and snazzy grills on either side when the road passed villages and towns. The villages were cut off from the road. One of the joys of traveling by road is the opportunity it gives to pass through tiny villages and the pleasure of taking a momentary peek into their lives. But now, with the modern highway it wasn’t to be so. At some places the highway completely skirted places that were familiar to me- Toopran, Ramayanpet and Kamareddy.

After traveling some distance on the smooth, wide highway I realized there was something major missing. At one place we had to get off the highway and make a detour through a town. I realized we were on the old highway and then it struck me what it was that I was missing. There wasn’t a single tree lining the new highway. It was totally bare. The old highway had ancient banyan trees lining it on both sides giving shade and offering a pleasure that cannot be described. Each tree had its own character. All such old trees seemed to have been cut down and I could see the uprooted stumps of such trees. I felt sad that trees that were there since decades were cut down just so we could reach our destinations faster. It felt unreasonable but that is the price one pays for development.

Such wide, new roads also meant that the numerous, big rocks on the hillocks that dotted the landscape were also being reduced to rubble. The new highway was laid using the granite from those very rocks. This is a region where small hillocks with rocks abound. Everywhere I noticed rocks had disappeared and hills once big enough were now reduced to small mounds. This was a bigger shock, rocks that had been around since time immemorial and that gave the landscape some character, now turning into something we are treading under our feet on literally. Development extracts an enormous price that cannot be estimated in terms of anything.

At Basar we had a quick darshan in the temple before it closed at one. One feature that is becoming common in famous temples are the touts. Taking advantage of the impatience of people standing in lengthy queues, touts offering short cuts to everything have made their appearance. It was with a sense of unease I noticed well dressed, trendy (obviously, educated) youngsters opting for such shortcuts. Then there was the graffiti scribbled on the freshly painted walls of the temple. It marred the experience. I wonder why these vandals do such things, spoiling every historical place with their inane scribblings.

The highlight of the trip was obviously the boat ride in the river. The river Godavari, wide and deep flowed silently through Basar. We got into a boat that the guy rowed into the middle of the river. I noticed people putting leaf cups filled with flowers into the waters and releasing them. A girl rowed blocks of wood tied together with thermocole pieces. A lengthy rope trailed behind the boat. The boat guy said there was a magnet at the end of the rope that dangled deep inside the river. It was to attract the coins thrown into the river by those who consider the rivers holy.

On our way back home I decided to take my family to a school where I had studied when I was quite young. I wanted to see the old school at Jankampet where we would come from Nizamabad, five or six kilometers away, by a rickety school bus. Somehow things looked smaller now. Our school, Nirmal Hruday, a school for boys only, was now converted into an old age home. The grounds were bare years ago but now there were mango trees and crops. I showed my son the class rooms where I had sat. It was all eerie going back to a place after more than thirty years.

Then at Nizamabad, I showed my family the school where I had studied fourth and fifth classes before moving to the other school at Jankampet. I also showed him the house where we had lived. Every thing was as it was when we left thirty years ago. The government quarters where I spent my childhood was now abandoned and stood decrepit with the doors closed and weeds everwhere. There had been a garage for my father’s jeep, a dark place smelling of petrol and oil. Once I had put my hand through a gap in the gate and something bit my hand. I had to take some bitter herbal medicine for days for what our servant thought was a rat bite. I took a few snaps of my old home for memory’s sake.

It was an odd experience, this trip to Basar. When he saw my old schools and the house I had lived in my son asked me a lot of questions. Who were your friends? Where did you play? What did you play? He was quite impressed by the school in Nizamabad which was a big building amidst a vast ground. Now a junior college has been added. I was glad I showed my son the places of my childhood. I guess no matter how many times one revisits such places the original images are permanently imprinted in the memory and are not replaced by the new images.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Trip No. 7- 'March'ing On Towards 'Own Goal'

If ever our Department had a travel scheme which said that for every six trips I make by train in the state, I could make one trip to a destination of my choice outside the state by plane, this trip would have been it. But unfortunately (but not unexpectedly) I made my seventh trip by train, this time to- One Goal or Ongole. It was just a day’s trip and unlike the other trips, I went alone. The task was to supervise a training session for newly recruited officers which meant that I would be holed up indoors for the whole day. After days of going around the country side this came as a relief. But I had not made any plans in advance hence missed doing something really interesting.

On Wednesday last I took the ‘Simhapuri Express’ that would leave me at Ongole early in the morning. I was up early and looked out of the train window. It was a beautiful sight outside. A fine blanket of mist hung above the vegetation in that magic hour of dawn. It would be a while before the sun would come up and dissolve the mist. Everything looked wonderful but before I could take out my camera the train reached Ongole.

Again, for a change there was no reception party at the station except for the jeep driver who turned out to be an interesting character. After putting my bags in the hotel I took a walk around looking for a place to have tea. I found a hotel where there was a table and a few chairs laid outside. There were the day’s newspapers on the table so I settled in one of the chairs and had my tea, alternating between watching the traffic go by and reading the headlines.

The thing about small, sleepy towns is that every one seems relaxed and in no particular hurry to get anywhere. Ongole was one such sleepy town that I found quite attractive. My hotel was on the Trunk Road so I spent a better part of the morning watching the traffic. After breakfast, the jeep driver appeared again and took me to the training place. Much later, while I was having lunch I remembered that Ongole was famous for its sturdy breed of Ongole bullocks. I suddenly had the desire to see one somehow. When I expressed my desire to my hosts they said it wasn’t a problem as there was a breeding station nearby and that they would take me there at the end of the training session. So I waited anxiously for the training to come to an end. There are some people who love the sound of their own voices so there were a couple of the trainers who droned on boring everyone to death.

By the time the training session ended the breeding station was closed for the day I was told. I missed the chance to take pictures of the famed bullocks. It was my fault for not having done my research in advance. Then, much later, the jeep driver told me the sea was only twenty kilometers from Ongole. This, he told me when it was already evening and too late to go to the sea. I told the jeep driver, Sardar that I wanted to see the main streets in Ongole. When I asked him to join me for dinner he told me that it was Thursday and that he was on a fast. He was a Muslim but also worshipped Sai Baba!

Anyway, I had dinner at a clean place called ‘Arya Bhavan’ and wandered around the main streets. I saw a couple of joints offering ‘Hyderabad Biryani’ and felt that one would have to be nuts to have biryani anywhere other than Hyderabad. I saw a pen store and asked if they had any fountain pens. The guy took out half a dozen ‘Prasad’ brand of pens. I had the same model of pens with me so I did not buy any. But I now realize I should have picked up at least one pen to remember Ongole by since I had neither taken any pictures nor had been to any place worth seeing.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Boss Goes Political

In another couple of months someone I have been working with until last week could well become an MLA or, if he is lucky, a Minister. Though I have been griping quite a lot that mine is a boring job, it isn’t entirely true. Of late it is taking on interesting hues. I guess not many (at least those in the Government) can claim that someone sitting next to them became an MLA or is on the way to becoming one. Recently I got the chance to make such a claim.

Last week the person sitting next to me put in his papers and took the plunge into active politics. I had some sort of an inkling listening to the lengthy conversations he was having on his mobile phone since the past six months. It was the only thing he would do in the office, talk on his phone for hours together asking the person on the other side how the chances were. I thought it was only the sort of idle dream that some like to indulge in but I was surprised when he told me his ticket was confirmed. So, last week we all got together and wished him luck. Frankly speaking, to me it looks like he won’t make it. I have my own reasons which I will write about in June when the votes are counted. I have to wait until then.

To others elections might mean excitement but to us in the Government it is a big headache. We get requisitioned for election duty which means a lot of trouble. To begin with we have no idea where we would be sent. There is a lot of unnecessary tension associated with it because one small mistake and the consequences will be bad. That is one reason so many employees try to avoid election duties. We are given a lot of material that we have to safeguard for nearly three days. Then we have to spend one full day, from seven in the morning to late in the evening on voting day, being totally alert which for many government servants is totally impossible. All they look forward to is the money paid at the end of the day for performing the duty. Which, I might say, is quite a lot for a day’s work.

Sometime next month or at the end of this month, after the notification, the election trainings begin. We have to attend no less than three trainings. After that will be the actual duty. This time it promises to be interesting, the way everyone is looking forward to the elections. I have done more than half a dozen elections so it is nothing new to me. As the election scene unfolds wait for more posts on the election related issues. Sometime soon I will post about the election where I had to sleep in a room with a skeleton for company.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Hilltop Temple at Korukonda- Rajahmundry Continued

The Hilltop Temple at Korukonda

The moment I saw the temple atop the steep hill at Korukonda while on the trip to Rajahmundry, I decided on the spot I would visit it before I left for Hyderabad. I wanted to go up just to find out how far I could see from the top of the hill. My hosts told me it was a steep climb that took about half hour. The steps are too narrow and steep, they said trying to dissuade me. The person who came along with me too did not appear to share my enthusiasm. He made it appear to me that climbing hills wasn’t something we were supposed to be on an official trip. But I made my own plans to go up the hill.

I let it out that we could visit the temple first thing in the morning on the second day of the trip but it did not work up. The guy who came along with me was a natty dresser so he took a long time before the mirror wearing color coordinated socks and combing his hair. Fortunately, we were able to finish the official part of our trip by lunch time. After lunch, I ventured to go alone while they rested. But they came along and up we went huffing and puffing. The temple would be open from nine to eleven thirty in the morning only. The steps were really steep and narrow. I couldn’t rest my whole foot on the steps. Ten minutes into the climb we were breathing hard like we had run for kilometers. The sweat was pouring down from our faces. A ten year old kid had joined us, running up the steps ahead of us.

The view grew more impressive as we went up higher and higher. Far away we could see the heaps of earth dug up for the Polavaram canals. There were more hillocks and lakes in the distance. Coconut trees appeared like small pins. At last we reached the top of the hillock. The temple was more than hundred years old. Some statues had their heads lopped off. There was not much space around the temple. We went around taking pictures. An eagle soared around the temple, gliding smoothly without flapping the wings. It was a beautiful sight. There were only the five of us on the top of the hill. We took more pictures and finally decided to leave.

The descent was as difficult as the climb up. I felt glad when two local officers thanked me saying they had been planning to make the climb but had never got around to doing it. That day they had got the chance to do it. The view was worth the hard climb and I was glad I made the right decision.

This was the second interesting event of the trip after the morning’s visit to the Dowleshwaram barrage. The third happened when we came down the steps. I discovered a unique, local candy- ‘jeeellu’ that I’ll write about in another post.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Banana Highway

On the Barrage at Rajahmundry

One of the advantages of waking up early is the time one gets for oneself. You are free to do anything. When at home I read and when I’m abroad, er..traveling, I use the time to go around the place I am staying. Last week at Rajahmundry I slipped out of my hotel room, at six in the morning, while the guy who came along with me slept on. There wasn’t much traffic on the road and early morning passengers waited in the bus stand which was bang opposite the hotel we were staying in. After a hot cup of tea had at a road side vendor I tried to remember how I made it to the barrage the last time I was at Rajahmundry. I was about to catch an autorickshaw when a rickety local bus drew up. The ticket guy said it would take me to the barrage and a short time later I was dropped near the Barrage.

The first thing I noticed was the sight of the fishermen standing on the gates of one of the side canals and hurling their white, shiny nets into the waters below. The last time I was here they weren’t to be seen. I watched the nearly half a dozen fishermen throw their nets one after the other into the water. The guys hold the net in their hands and gaze at the water below. They wait for the right time and one can tell they are about to hurl as they begin to swing the net in their hands, slowly at first and then the moment comes. Boom, the net is hurled up, and coming down it ballons into a swirl of white before sinking into the water. Obviously there wasn’t much to catch as they flung the nets again and again into the unyielding waters. I watched them for some time wondering how it would have been if I had a nice camera rather than the one I had.

Just as it had been the last time, this year too there were scores of men making their way across the barrage on bicycles laden with bunches of green and bright yellow bananas. The bunches were tied to the handlebars and the rear carrier of the bicycles. Each bicycle had a minimum of six bunches. The first time I saw them I was thrilled to have made the sort of discovery adventurous travelers (okay, I’m not one) make. I had taken pictures at that time too and this time too I went on clicking them as they came in waves and waves of bicycles. An added attraction this time was the presence of three monkeys, two adults and a baby. When there are bananas around can monkeys be far behind?

I watched the monkeys lurk on the pavement of the barrage expecting to snatch a banana from the cyclists riding just inches away. But they were unlucky as the banana guys swerved away from them. It was a sight watching the forlorn faces of the monkeys as hundreds of bananas whizzed past them. However they had stuff to eat- the grains of maize that littered the road. I walked on the barrage for some time. The gates of the barrage were closed and on the other side was the dry riverbed from which an electric tower rose high. I clicked away. One reason why I take so many pictures is to show my son where I had been and what I saw.

My family, especially my brothers, say my mind is like a tubelight- it takes time to light up. So it dawned on me much later that I should have spoken to a few banana guys to ask them where they were all coming from and at what price they sold the bananas in the town, and to whom. But I never got the idea to ask these questions as long as I was on the barrage with the camera in hand.

I came again but in the evening, along with the guy who had come with me from Hyderabad. It was quite late but I discovered there were not one, but three barrages! Next time I’m in Rajahmundry I’ll remember to check out all three.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Sunday Haul- Two More Books

I don’t know why but when I read a book I like immensely I am in total awe of the author who wrote it. I used to wonder if I was the only one who had this tendency to idolize writers I liked. I learnt recently I am not alone. I had picked up a book called ‘Maybe You Should Write a Book’ by Ralph Daigh a long time back. I was leafing through this book yesterday when I came across a line in it where he writes that he has always been an ‘author-worshipper’, a term I guess also applies to me since my type of author worshipping extends to collecting everything about the author especially books or articles that detail how he (or she) wrote the book etc. And it was in this book that I read about Mario Puzo’s ‘The Godfather Papers’ where Puzo wrote everything about ‘Godfather’, the blockbuster novel I read years ago. And it was this book I found last Sunday at Abids.

I had been looking for ‘The Godfather Papers’ since a long time and when I came across it I was prepared to pay whatever the guy asked for. I shelled out sixty five bucks for it which wasn’t much. It was a good enough copy and I was glad I found it at last. I guess I may have to reread ‘Godfather’ after reading the book.

Another book I picked up at Abids was a sort of travel book. It was John McPhee’s ‘Coming Into the Country,’ a book about his journey to Alaska. It is more than four hundred pages long but I got the book for only twenty bucks. My collection of this type of travel books is slowly growing. I have ‘Snow Leopard’ by Peter Matthiessen, books by Pico Iyer, and several others I have yet to read.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Trip No.6; To Rajahmundry

Exactly two years ago in this same month I was in Rajahmundry for a day. It was a semi-official visit. I had been asked to go to Kakinada and while there I learnt that Rajahmundry was only an hour away by train. I had always wanted to check out the fountain pen guys in Rajahmundry so it did not take very long for me to decide to pay them a visit. Of course, I bought a few pens there and returned happy. Last week I was there again but on an official two day visit. Sadly, this time I did not get enough time to pay the fountain makers a visit. However, I saw a great deal while visiting the villages around a place called Korukonda which is near Rajahmundry.

The first day I saw the temple on the hillock with steep step leading up in Korukonda, I decided I would pay a visit. The guys who were with me did not share my enthusiasm but I told them I was going up whether they came or not. Ultimately, they came along but that was on the second day of the trip which I will come to a little later.

It was the usual trip involving visits to small villages and meeting farmers. After four visits it has begun to get boring. On way to a village I saw a tractor that looked like a mountain of hay on wheels. It went up several feet high and several feet wide on the road. From the back it looked like a haystack was moving. But I missed taking its picture because I wondered what my companions would think of me if I asked the driver to stop to let me take a picture. They would think I was crazy. On the second day when I came upon a similar sight I stopped the car and took a picture. The hay isn’t so high but one gets the idea.

On my previous visit I had been on the Dowleswaram barrage early in the morning. The mighty Godavari river is wide and presents an imposing sight. Scores of men on bicycles with bunches of yellow and green bananas hanging on to the handles and the back carrier arrive from smaller villages into Rajahmundry. I had seen the same sight last time and this time too it was no different though I saw a few mopeds instead of the bicycle. A couple of monkeys hung around waiting to snatch a banana or two from the wary men. They sat on the pavement popping maize grains fallen on the road. Maize is grown in these areas and trucks carrying loads of maize pass on that road.

Another sight, a new one this year, was that of fishermen hurling their nets into a smaller canal. It was a pleasing sight but my camera has limited options so I couldn’t get Raghu Rai type of pictures. It needs a good camera to capture some of the wonderful sights one gets to see early in the mornings. Until I come into a fortune I have to make do with my faithful Sony DSC-40 that I picked up at Port Blair three years ago. Like me, the fishermen too did not have much luck with their catch.

Our hosts had put us at a nice hotel though a couple of cockroaches shared the room with us. As usual our generous hosts plied us with great quantities of food. I had fish, prawns and lots of spicy curries. The second day, after a final (and heavy) lunch, I told the guys we’d go up to the temple on the hillock. The temple would be open from nine to half past eleven in the mornings only. However I did not want to go back home without having been up that hillock. They tried to dissuade me saying the steps were narrow and were very steep but I was not in a mood to listen.

The steps were so narrow and so steep we had to stop, heart pounding and sweat pouring down the back, after just ten minutes into the climb. About half hour later we reached the top, breathing hard. The temple was an ancient one but was closed. But the view was stunning. I could see the mounds of earth dug out to build the canals for the Polavaram project in the distance. A lake shimmered in the distance, two hillocks just behind it. A lone eagle flew around the hillock. We remained on the top for a while and gingerly made our way down the stairs. At the entrance of the temple I saw a country toffee being prepared out of jaggery. They were off white cubes, laid out prettily. The smell was heavenly. We saw how it was being made on the spot. I was told it is called 'jeellu.'

It was dinner time when we finally returned to Rajahmundry. I had more than one reason to be pleased with the trip. One of the officers I met on the trip, a lady, was my classmate at Bapatla where I did my first year of graduation. Of course, neither of us remembered each other because we were in different batches but we talked about common friends we knew. I was happy to meet her and relive my memories of that place. It was twenty eight years ago that we had studied there. I have never met anyone after such a long gap. I don’t think I will come across her again.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Sunday Haul

Three Good Books

One of the earliest poets and the one who impressed me the most was the poet Sylvia Plath. I don’t remember any of her poems since I read them long, long back and also haven’t read any recently. But she is such a good poet that I would read anything she wrote. So when I came upon ‘The Bell Jar’, the only novel she wrote, I did not hesitate to buy it. I had read about it somewhere but wasn’t exactly looking for it but when I found it at Abids I was happy. It was a brand new copy and I got it for only twenty rupees. I plan to read it sometime soon.

The other book I picked up at Abids was one I had seen the previous Sunday but did not buy. It was AK Ramanujan’s ‘A Flowering Tree and Other Oral Tales from India’ which is a delightful collection of folk tales. AK Ramanujan is another writer I had read long time back. A bonus of buying the book is the number of stories in it.

The final book was, again, a memoir by a famous writer. It was Pete Hamill’s ‘The Drinking Life’ that I got for only twenty rupees. It is about the Hamill’s drinking habit and his attempts to get rid of it. Curiously enough, I haven’t read a single book by Pete Hamill. I guess I will begin to look for his books if ‘The Drinking Life’ is any good, which it should be, going by the title!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Is it the End...?

All of a sudden, in the past week alone, there were three instances that revealed that all is not well with the publishing industry and the book trade. The recession seems to have hit this sector as well. which is good news for those who read, because books now have become cheaper. But it has far reaching implications on the whole. What those implications are I have no idea but I guess one of them could be that there won’t be as many books coming out as were until recently.

Last Thursday there was a front page article in the Metro Plus supplement of ‘The Hindu’ titled ‘Books Get the Walmart Effect’ by Serish Nanisetti who, incidentally, has an inimitable style of writing that I rather enjoy reading. It seems major book retailers are selling books at huge discounts and that it was the best time to pick them up cheap. The article talks about the tremors shaking up the trade and how retailers are cutting prices to stay afloat.

Then on Saturday, in the business pages of the same newspaper there was a small item that ‘Shopper’s Stop’ has shut down its ‘Crossword’ book stores in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi. There were no details about the reasons for the closure though you don’t have to be an economist to guess. It was news that was hard to digest. If Crossword starts shutting down bookstores in major cities then the others may not be far behind. Of course, I guess only the ‘Crossword’ stores in ‘Shoppers Stop’ have been closed and not the stand-alone ones. I plan to go and check each of their four or five stores in Hyderabad just to be sure.

Though it may not be related to the recession, the fact that the Literary Review supplement in ‘The Hindu’ had less pages than the usual six or eight pages, could also be one such sign that all is not well in the world of books. Normally the supplement is of six to eight pages but the latest issue had only four pages which was really disappointing.

Anyway, as long as there are places like Abids where almost new, hard cover titles are sold for as less as five and ten bucks, there is really nothing to worry. When the economy picks up then the book trade too will perk up. I hope.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


I was supposed to post yesterday.I had it typed and done on my laptop. I was not able to copy on a CD from which I usually copy on to another system connected to the net. But my laptop was acting up and did not copy on the CD. So I did it on a pendrive but when I wanted to copy it to the net there was a power cut. I had no time as I had to leave on a trip. So thatis the story of the missed post.

Right now I am out of Hyderabad. I will post on Thursday evening after I return from this exciting(?) place. Until then keep guessing where I could be and pray I return safely.