Friday, May 29, 2009

Hanging Out at Odyssey

Recently, the day before in fact, I was at the Odyssey store at Jubilee Hills along with Hari. He had fixed to meet someone at the store so I tagged along to see what the Jubilee Hills types were up to. While we were inside CCD having coffee I saw a young and famous Tollywood director enter the store with a pretty young thing in tow. He was quite famous, having directed a movie that broke all records and earned him crores of moolah but nobody in the store paid any attention to him. The young lady was quite good looking but I thought she couldn’t be a Tollywood actress because she actually took out a book from the racks and read for a few minutes. (I know two three who read- Sonali Bendre, Sophie Choudry and Shriya Saran.)

Anyway, looking around the store I saw that a book I had spotted when the store was inaugurated almost a year ago, was still there in the same place I had seen it. It was Cartier’s ‘The Art of Writing’ which was all about Cartier fountain pens. It is a coffee table book that was expensive, something around five thousand or so I remember. I had found the same book in the book fair last year where I got it for just three hundred and fifty bucks. If the book still remains unsold I guess it shows that there aren’t many people in Hyderabad who love fountain pens and if there are, all of them might not have visited the store.

Another book I saw was Elmore Leonard’s ‘Cat Chaser’ that I briefly wondered whether to buy or not. Similar was the dilemma with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book of short stories. Now I feel that I should have picked up the book of short stories. In fact I would have picked up all those books if I had happened to make a pile like the Tollywood director did. One thing I noticed was that the sales assistants at Odyssey were quite helpful. You only had to look around helplessly before finding an eager and smiling feller before you asking how he could help you. Of course, those at the cash counter were even more polite, greeting you and actually smiling at you, something which I rarely see in other places.

Also by then I had bought the ‘Holiday Special’ issue of Tinkle, the May 2009 issue of ‘Tinkle’ and a sketch book for my kid so I was way over budget. I might drop in after pay day and if I find Marquez’s book of short stories, then it is mine. Assuming, of course, that none of this blog's Hyderabadi readers who love Marquez hare off to Odyssey and pick it up before I do!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Sunday Haul

The smart thing to do when one spots a good book or magazine at Abids is to pick it up the moment one sees it. But that wasn’t what I did last Sunday when I saw a few copies of ‘New Yorker’ magazine one of which had a lengthy article on Jack Kerouac’s ‘The Road.’ When I turned up at Abids this Sunday I found them gone filling me with a twinge of regret. I commit this mistake often, not bothering to pick up such books, but when I spotted two issues (Feb and March 2009) issues of Condé Nast Traveler magazine I did not hesitate. I picked them up for fifty bucks for the two issues. It had been quite a long time since I had found this magazine so I was happy.

Back at home, after lunch I was leafing through one of the issues when I chanced upon an article by Nicholas Shakespeare on the Polynesian Islands. It was then that I decided on the spot that this would be the place I would go on a vacation with my family soon after I got the million dollar advance for my book. Ha ha. If the pictures of the place were so beautiful I wondered how the place would look when one actually went there. There was also an article on an equally picturesque destination- Madagascar. Both these articles reminded me of my time in the Andamans. It was exactly three years ago I was there. I still cannot forget those beaches and the lonely times I spent in them. Maybe I'll go to Andamans first after I get the advance.

I had also seen another book titled ‘In Babylon’ by Marcel Moring. It seemed a good book from the looks of it and was published by Morrow? It was quite bulky and I hesitated to buy it. One reason was that the guy did not bargain much and I was not ready to pay anything more than fifty bucks. So I did not take it. But when I Googled the book I found that it is quite a good so if I find it next Sunday I might pick it up.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Trip No. 13- To Kurnool

It was anything but cool at Kurnool the two days I was there sometime last week. I was there on another of my seemingly never-ending official trips that are taking me almost all over the state. I was reluctant to go as there was a major family event on one of those days but I had no choice. I hoped we’d be back early on Tuesday but it was not to be so. I was tagged on to an officer known to be uncompromising so rather than whine to be let off I went along. On Monday morning he called me up at half past four in the morning to ask if I was ready since we were supposed to catch a five am bus to Kurnool.

He was already waiting for me inside a bus at the bus complex, holding a place for me. I dozed off all the way to Kurnool where we arrived, hot and hungry, at half past nine. We were put up at the sprawling state guest house in a room that could accommodate a large family. Luckily, it was an AC room that we got. After a quick breakfast we started off on our mission which, basically, was to brief the officers of the district about a departmental scheme for two whole days. I knew it would be boring and that I would have nothing to do so I took along a book. I had Elmore Leonard’s ‘Be Cool’ that I planned to read for the two days I would be at Kurnool.

On the first day we (sixty officers) sat in a meeting hall so small and stuffy that we all started sweating even though there were three AC units that weren’t working. It was uncomfortable all day, wiping one’s sweat and trying to appear attentive. I sat to a side, pretending to take notes. I couldn’t get to read the book. The boss who came with me was at the mike all day. Lunch was an ordinary affair. Every one was restless as it was terribly hot inside the stuffy meeting hall and the proceedings were terribly boring. The only interesting finding was seeing an officer dressed like a farmer, in dhoti and shirt among those present in the meeting.

I was wondering if we’d get time to go around Kurnool town in the evening. But my boss did not have any such ideas so he went on until late in the evening. We got back to the guest house in time for dinner. Someone had said that next to Tirupati, Kurnool district has the maximum number of temples- Mahanandi, Srisailam, Matralayam and so on but they were all far away and there was no way we could go to see any of them.

Before going to bed I opened ‘Be Cool’ to read. It is a sequel to Elmore Leonard’s classic ‘Get Shorty’ and is as good a read as the first book. I was hooked to the story and sat reading it for a couple of hours. I finished half the book and went to sleep.

The next day the meeting was at another hall which was large and airy. I sat on the dais, behind the row of senior officers, placed myself strategically so no one could see what I was doing. I sat reading ‘Be Cool’ in snatches while appearing to be listening to the drone of the speakers. Were it not for ‘Be Cool’ I would have died of boredom. I had thought my boss would conclude the meeting early on the second day for we had to leave for Hyderabad. By the time we were ready to leave it was seven in the evening. There had been a sharp shower in the evening so it was pretty cool when we left Kurnool. I got home sometime after midnight after a five hour journey with a break for dinner at Pebbair. It was a dull, uninteresting trip to Kurnool.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sunday Morning Calm and Dave Barry at Abids

It was the morning after the election results came in much to the surprise of everyone. I had expected the Necklace Road to be littered with the remnants of celebrations but it wasn’t so. I was at Necklace Road early Sunday morning that has now become a habit. Even though I spend just about an hour at the lakeside, it fills me with a calm that lasts about a month. There is something about being near lakes, beaches etc early in the morning that soothes. I feel pleased that I have stumbled upon this quite unknowingly. There was nothing to disturb the peace of the morning this Sunday so I sat on a bench lost in thoughts.

Of course, the only thing on my mind was the revision of my book that is moving at a snail’s pace. It might be early July before I have a draft that I can give out to friends to read. The only decision I took last Sunday morning was to do at least ten pages of revision every day. By the time I am ready for the next visit to Necklace Road I hope to have a readable draft in my hands. Later on, I spent another hour at Adarsh reading the paper. I could get only one paper as all other newspapers were sold out. Every body must have been eager to read more about the results even after being bombarded with the results and the trends on television.

It wasn’t so hot last Sunday so I ventured out to Abids afterwards. I found another Dave Barry book, this time it was ‘Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits’ and needless to say it is a very, very hilarious book containing, as the title suggests, some of his best pieces. I got the book for thirty bucks and one of my friends is going to be the lucky recipient of this book though I am tempted to keep it for myself. I also saw a couple of old issues of ‘New Yorker’ and one issue had an article by Louis Menand on revisiting Jack Kerouac’s ‘The Road.’ Incidentally, I haven’t yet read the book which I found sometime last year. I am saving it for a special occasion to read.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Fear and Loathing in the Pool

It is quite common knowledge that one gets ripped off at petrol filling stations. One way they do it is adulterate the fuel and another way is to fill in lesser than what you paid for. The latter is usually done at the level of the guys who fill in the fuel. Either way you are the loser. Sometime last week I fell for a very common trick they employ. It happens like this- you pull up at the petrol bunk and after you tell them how much to fill, the guys try to distract you by asking for change or by asking you again how much petrol to fill, anything to keep you from looking at the meters. It is the guy who has the money bag who tries to distract you in that manner.

If they succeed in distracting you for a few seconds it is enough for them. To answer their queries that they ask you repeatedly you have to look at them and when you turn your head away, you’ve had it. Though I was aware of this trick having been fooled quite a number of times, I just turned away for a second to look at the cashier and when I looked at the meter, it showed that they had filled sixty rupees worth of petrol in one second. What the guy did was fill the petrol without putting the meter back to zero after filling the guy before me. I couldn’t do anything about it except tell them I knew the trick.

Corporates usually don’t do any kind of social service unless there is something in it for them. Last week I had stopped at a traffic signal near Rasoolpura. I saw uniformed guys holding up a banner which said it was illegal to talk on the phone while driving. The guys were from Pizza Corner and no sooner had the traffic stopped than another batch of uniformed guys scattered among the motorists distributing menus of their pizzas. I heard one motorist say it would have been better if Pizza Corner gave away pizzas instead of the menus.

The swimming pool is one of the few places where one can witness different styles of parenting that some kids are subject to. This is the third year I’m taking my kid to the swimming pool and as in the past two years I am seeing the same type of torture some parents inflict on their young children.

I really do not understand why some parents think that their kids should start swimming on their first day at the pool. One should see how some parents intimidate their kids into jumping into the pool straight away. I feel sorry for some of the kids who are scared of entering the water. I’ve seen parents drag their reluctant kids and throw them into the pool. This is the macho style of parenting that believes that one has to use force to get the kids to learn something the parents are interested in more than the kids. Yesterday I saw a father hurl his terrified four or five year old kid into the water. Before that I saw the kid hang on to his dad’s shirt, then to one of the ropes wailing pitiably and pleading not to be thrown into the pool. After hurling the kid the dad looked at the other parents triumphantly. I shudder to imagine what that poor kid might feel about swimming in a pool again.

I expected dads to be more intimidating towards their kids but I noticed that moms also toe the same line. Everyday I see a mom, her face in a permanent scowl, snarling at her two small kids when they refuse to do what the coach asks them to do. I wonder if kids feel any different seeing this tyrannical side of their parents. I think it has something to do with the other parents. Parents of scared kids might have a point to prove to other parents at the pool. The kids jump into the pool more out of fear of further punishment at home. I’ve actually heard a parent (a mom, incidentally) threaten her six or seven year old daughter that she would get a hiding once they got home if she did not get into the pool. I guess that kid will never enjoy swimming again.

Yesterday a different dad threw his reluctant kid into the water and I was surprised by the kid’s reaction. He was older, maybe eight or nine years old. He had tears in his eyes as he hung on to the pool side after emerging from the water. There was a look of pure loathing in the kids face as he screamed at the father. I would hate to have my kid do that to me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Heat and Dust- Returning Home from Vizag

Transportation wise, my trip to Vizag was sort of jinxed. Thanks to my bungled planning I could get train tickets at the oddest timings for the onwards journey to Vizag. The only saving grace was that I traveled by AC which wasn’t the case on the return trip home. I traveled by train when I should have caught a bus and got into buses when I should have traveled by train. All because I couldn’t get train reservations from Vizag due to the summer rush.

I had actually planned to start from Vizag on the second day of my stay but since I couldn’t get tickets I decided to start early the next day. This had the unintended bonus of getting time in the early morning to spend at the beach. Apart from this I had one more interesting and out of the ordinary thing left to do. Since Rajahmundry was on the way I decided to get down at Rajahmundry and check out the fountain pen makers. On my last visit to Rajahmundry I did not get the time to check them out though I actually spent two days in the place. I couldn’t believe it so to make up for that serious lapse I made the decision to stop at Rajahmundry. There was an early morning train, I was told, the Simhadri Express at seven in the morning. So after tea with my local contact I got into the train. This was the first mistake. The train was crowded and I couldn’t even find space to stand. I stood almost all the way upto Rajahmundry. I had breakfast on the train, standing. If I had taken a bus I could have at least got a place to sit.

At Rajahmundry, I went to the Guider store and picked up two fountain pens- one for myself and one for a friend. It was damn hot in Rajahmundry. I had lunch there and learnt that the buses to Hyderabad started only in the evening. It was one in the afternoon so I decided to go to Vijayawada from where I planned to get an AC bus. It looked like a good idea so I caught a bus to Vijayawada. It was hell traveling by bus in that scorching sun which turned the bus into an oven. Everywhere the bus stopped, and it stopped everywhere, kids gathered around the windows selling water satchets, mangoes and stuff like that. Hot winds blew as the bus made its way to Vijayawada. The bus passed through places I had only heard about, for example, Hanuman Junction. Finally at around five in the afternoon the bus reached Vijayawada.

There were no seats available in any of the dozen or more AC buses to Hyderabad. I was impatient to get home. I was tired and exhausted so I decided to catch another bus at six in the evening. I freshened up and had some hot snacks in the bustling bus complex at Vijayawada. I got into the bus which I was told would reach Hyderabad before midnight. I could have caught a train but I was too tired to go to the railway station and find out if there were any trains available. Our bus started on the dot at six. Somewhere on the way, the driver stopped the bus at a roadside dhaba at Jaggayyapet for dinner. It was half past eight when we resumed the journey. Finally, at half past one, in the dead of night, I got down at Hyderabad. I was bone tired and weary. All this traveling in the hot sun took its toll. I fell sick for a couple of days running a mild fever and sneezing like a machine gun. I couldn’t avoid drinking cold water all these days. It was that triggered off the sneezing spells.

I’m told there is another trip in the offing. I wonder where it will be this time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Midweek Haul

I had missed going to Abids the previous Sunday as I had just returned from Anantapur and the weather too was too extreme. After returning from Visakhapatnam late on Thursday night I was at Punjagutta getting new lenses fixed for my spectacles. I had time to kill so I went to Odyssey which was deserted. There were no customers there inside. I looked around for some time and decided to go to the second hand book store beside the flyover opposite Lifestyle. I picked up two books of my favorite writers that I already have.

The first book was Dave Barry’s ‘Dave Barry Talks Back’ which is, needless to say, one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. There were two copies of another book by the same author- Dave Barry’s Guide to Guys which I thought of buying but did not because by then I had spotted another book. It was ‘Be Cool’ by Elmore Leonard. ‘Be Cool’ is supposed to be a sort of sequel to his classic ‘Get Shorty’ and so I picked it up though I already have one copy with me. The copy I saw seemed to be in better shape and also had a different cover. I got the two books for hundred rupees.

I had also seen Paul Theroux’s ‘The Happy Isles of Oceania’ but I did not buy though it was for only fifty rupees. I have a hard cover copy of the same book as well as a paperback one so I let it be. If I find it in my next visit then maybe I will pick it up. There were copies of two more books of Elmore Leonard- ‘Maximum Bob’ and ‘Killshot’ but I did not buy them.

This Sunday, though I did not go to Abids in the morning as usual because it was too damn hot and I wasn’t feeling well. I was in some kind of a heat induced stupor after the fifteen hour journey by train and bus from Visakhapatnam to Hyderabad. I went in the evening to Abids and picked up a photography magazine- Outdoor Photographer of January 2007. I gave it to a friend who might find something useful in it. I did not find any book worth picking up at Abids. Incidentally, the place was deserted even as late as six in the evening. If there is no let up in the heat then maybe it is a better idea to stay at home rather than risk sunstroke.

Monday, May 11, 2009

To Visakhapatnam Again, On Trip No. 12

It was one long week filled with two faraway trips- first to Anantapur and a day later, to Visakhapatnam. My travel stars seem to be shining a bit too brightly for my own good for I am making too many trips. The week before even while I was sweating it out in some godforsaken village in Anantapur, I got a call from my office saying I have to go to Vizag for two days, alone. I couldn’t say no because I had refused to go on a one day trip to Vizag only recently because of bungled train bookings. This time I had no choice so I agreed and also because I love to visit any place that is by the sea. The trip had more downs than ups but when it is an unscheduled and unplanned one it is only expected.

It was sometime after midnight on Saturday that we reached Hyderabad from Anantapur nearly four hundred kilometers away. I had just one day to recover from the heat of Anantapur before catching a late night train to Vijayawada. I planned to catch another train to Visakhapatnam, the Ratnachal Express that starts at half past six in the morning. I thought I’d have two hours at Vijayawada to freshen up. The train I had caught was a special train and instead of reaching Vijayawada at its scheduled time of ten minutes past four in the morning it was still somewhere on the outskirts at six in the morning. It stopped at a place for a long time making me anxious if I’d be able to catch my connecting train. The train reached Vijayawada at half past six and luckily for me the connecting train was just across the platform ready to leave. Moments after I got in, the train started moving.

It was past noon when I reached Visakapatnam for the second time in six months. It was in December that I had last been to this beautiful place. The first and also the best surprise of the trip happened right away. My accommodation was arranged in a guest house right on the Beach Road with the sea only a few meters away across the road. I was ecstatic. It was a simple room with a double bed and a window that opened out to a great view of the sea. All weariness vanished and after lunch I was joined by another local officer and we left in a Bolero to a village in Bhimli. It was another of those boring tasks where I have to visit interior villages and meet the farmers. I could manage only one such meeting before returning to the guest house late in the evening. It had become dark and I couldn’t spend time at the beach though I took a walk along the road that was crammed with people. But it was morning I was eagerly waiting for.

The last time I was in Vizag I had to walk for quite a distance to get to the beach but this time it was different. At the crack of dawn I simply woke up and sauntered across the road to the beach to look at the sunrise. It was wonderful. The cool breeze added to the joy. Of course, there were a lot of people around, people taking their morning walk, people running and some (like me) simply sitting on the wall and watching others. I guess people who live by the seaside are more relaxed than those who live in the interior. It shows on their peaceful countenances as they walk by. I had my morning tea sitting by the sea enjoying the cool morning breeze. I thought this moment was worth the long trip.

I had planned to return on the second day but tickets were not available and moreover I got late in the villages. This time around I traveled by a variety of vehicles. If it was a Bolero on the first day, it was an ancient white Ambassador for half of the second day and a Maruti Omni van for the rest of the time. In Visakhapatnam there is a lot of jungle on hills that dot the landscape. There is plenty of greenery but it doesn’t mean it isn’t hot. It was very hot as I traveled from village to village. The sweat clung to the body like a second skin. I must have passed through dozens of villages in the two days I was there in Visakhapatnam.

Of course, my hosts were very generous treating me like I had landed from the moon. We had lunch at a small village. One thing I love about the people who live in the villages is their hospitality. Every one joins to make you as comfortable as possible. The villagers made me, the visitor from Hyderabad, feel as if I was from another planet. They stood around me, dishes in hand, ready to fill my plate the moment I finished some item. They were so serious in their intention to ensure I had a good a meal that it filled me with a lot of gratitude for them. And when I am in such a mood I don’t like to say no to anything, not even if it is food that I am allergic to. So I had double helpings of thick, white curd, sweets served lovingly by the simple folk. It was a wonderful meal made memorable by the love with which the total strangers served it. Half hour after I had that heavy lunch I had butter milk at another place. Then minutes later I had tea at another village. Another village and I got a glassful of sugarcane juice fresh from a crusher. I simply couldn’t say no because they were so insistent that I have something in their village and I did not have the heart to disappoint anyone.

Whichever way you look at it, agriculture is a boring and deadly dull subject. It doesn’t help that those working in the agriculture department are also boring and extremely dull. Not that I am very interesting myself, but almost every one I meet in the department turns out to be dull and boring. But on this trip I met two individuals bound by a mutual passion- music. Both of them turned out to be serious fans of the great singer- Ghantashala. Not only that they too were singers. So they sat in the car and sang one song after another of Ghantashala. One of the guys had a voice that was good, almost like the great singer himself, and also sang quite well. They sang all the way to Visakhapatnam discussing each song in great detail.

On every trip anywhere I plan to do at least two unexpected things. The visit to the beach in the early morning was the first but I did something else on the third day, the day I left Visakhapatnam, that made me pleased but also left me quite exhausted. I’ll leave it for the post on Friday.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Trip No. 11? Going Nuts in Anantapur

If it was a three day trip as planned I would have gone totally nuts though I felt no less being near nutty in the two days I was in Anantapur last week. The company I had, the intolerable heat and then the thing we actually went for- nuts, or rather groundnuts- any one of these who have made me crazy but luckily there were other compensations like the transport and accommodation that made the trip tolerable. In the end I returned armed with a theory (mine) about why the place is so violent.

Actually we were told we have to go to Kurnool but because of some intrigue we were sent to Anantapur instead. There were three of us, a scientist, another senior officer and myself, the junior most, which resulted in me doing all the legwork. We were one of the several teams being sent to areas where groundnut is being cultivated, to verify something that came in the newspapers. So on Wednesday evening I got a call that I have to be prepared to go to Kurnool. On Thursday at the office we were briefed about our mission (!) and also introduced to the others in the team. We almost took off the same evening but did not because our vehicle had not yet arrived from Warangal.

On Friday morning we got back at those who had conspired to send us to Anantapur. We left in our airconditioned Bolero quite early. The others, five of them, followed in a rickety jeep. No matter how many calls we got we did not answer our mobile phones. I felt sorry for the guys in that ramshackle jeep that I later saw. But for the cool comfort of the Bolero that we traveled in, the trip would have been hell. Of course, half the time we had to be out of the vehicle so it wasn’t exactly like we were riding inside an ice cream van all the time. We had to stop at innumerable villages and meet the farmers in their homes. Some of the places were so small and hot it felt like going straight from a fridge into a cauldron. The heat of the dry, arid Rayalaseema region sapped the energy out of us all. It was so hot that we were drinking dozens of liters of water and in the process accumulating a similar number of water bottles. At one time there were more bottles inside the vehicle than there were people inside. Our driver it gave them away to kids in the villages.

As if the heat wasn’t enough, there was the company I had. As I said earlier I was the junior most officer of the three and also of a lesser cadre than the other two, which meant I had to do whatever they told me. I had no problem with it except that one of them told me something and the other told me the exact opposite. It wasn’t that they were at logger heads with each other. They stuck together and made elaborate plans down to the last minute about when we would start on the return trip to Hyderabad. They were feeling rather upset that they had to spend Sunday away from home. They discussed how they would execute the work, when they would have lunch (and also, what they would have for lunch) and so on. But they hadn’t reckoned with my own plans.

Since they had entrusted the task of talking with the farmers to me, I took my own sweet time asking the questions and filling up the forms we were supposed to fill up. So what could have been easily done in an hour took two hours or more. I sat inside the farmer’s home sweating it out while the two sat outside, chatting. So it went on for about three villages when it dawned upon them that we were getting late and that their plan to be in Hyderabad on Sunday wouldn’t materialize unless they did something with me. They began to butter me up saying my handwriting was terrific (it isn’t) and that I wrote pretty fast. They began to look at me in a new light when I took out my camera and started clicking pictures of every thing in sight. Short of touching my feet, they did every thing to please me so I could hurry up with the work. Of course, I too wanted to be home on Sunday so I gave in.

It worked like this. We would go to a village where one of the locals who had come along would gather the farmers. We would enter the farmer’s home, make ourselves comfortable and begin talking with the farmers. All talk centered around groundnuts. Anantapur happens to fall in that area known for its faction fights. It is home to a leader who was killed in a brutal fashion a couple of years ago. People routinely throw bombs at their rivals. The bomb culture is so prevalent that I heard people carry home made bombs in their pockets. They also carry hunting sickles and axes, of course, when they want to kill someone. So I had expected to come across those types at least once but I was disappointed. The people were very friendly and appeared not of the bomb throwing variety. We finished our talk in about half hour and took off in the Bolero for another village. We covered so many villages, met and talked with so many farmers that every village appeared the same. It became monotonous after a while talking of nothing but groundnuts.

Groundnut is the only crop that grows in the arid soils of Anantapur. You see it every where, bags of groundnuts in the farmer’s houses, the women shelling the groundnut pods all the time and every where. They talk of when they would get the groundnut seed on subsidy and so on. There is really nothing else other than groundnuts in Anantapur. That way we covered half a dozen villages on the first day and arrived at Anantapur to spend the night. The second compensation was that we were provided AC rooms so we escaped the deadly heat and slept reasonably well.

The next day we started again on our usual rounds. About the only sight seeing we did was check out the ISKCON temple which was in form of a chariot drawn by four giant horses, all of them in lurid pink. Afterwards, we went around again to the villages getting down from the cool cocoon that was our Bolero to step out into the open and enter the house of some farmer. Only once did we get to sit under the shade of coconut trees in someone’s courtyard. By late afternoon we finished our task and returned to Anantapur for the return journey after lunch. I had thought I’d taste some Rayalaseema stuff but the hotel ran out of jowar rotis so we settled for something called Olige which was quite wonderful. Afterwards the locals began telling us the tales of factionalism in the area.

I have a theory about how and why guys in these faction ridden places get into their minds to carry bombs in their pockets. I forgot, while we were returning to Anantapur for lunch on the second day we found cops checking all vehicles. Since ours was a Government Vehicle we were let off. It was while watching the news on television that we learnt there was a faction killing in the district. A politician was hacked to death it seems in a neighboring town called Dharmavaram. So that completed the experience.

Back to my theory. One is surely to go nuts when every thing around is just nuts, nuts and nothing but nuts. Just imagine- one wakes up in the morning to find the women folk busy popping the groundnut pods, one goes out to the fields and one sees nothing but groundnut fields everywhere and when one meets someone the talk is all about groundnut prices, the condition of the crop and so on. There is nothing else so it is quite natural that with nuts taking up just about every aspect of life, it is not really difficult to go nuts oneself and start carrying bombs, hunting sickles etc to settle scores if one happens to have rivals.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

'Rich'ession in Hyderabad

The rich in Hyderabad (especially the Banjara Hill/Jubilee Hill types) face a peculiar problem. Quite surprisingly, the poor too face the same problem, which is- of not having enough food to eat at home. So, the poor, being what they are, hit the streets to either beg or steal. Likewise our Jubilee Hills rich too hit the streets but in search of a suitable joint to stuff themselves. But they don’t have to go too far as they have an embarrassing (that is, embarrassing for us) number of eateries to choose from.

I don’t know what it is about Jubilee Hills that attracts people to open fancy restaurants. There might be more number of restaurants in Jubilee Hills than there are homes there. Not a week passes by without reading about the opening of a new joint. Sometime last week I read about the gala opening of Zara somewhere in Banjara Hills. Then there is the hoarding of Sanjeev Khanna at Liberty crossroads inviting us to have lunch and dinner at Yellow Chilli which is again located somewhere in Jubilee Hills. Of course, I’m very happy for the rich in Hyderabad because they don’t have to agonize like us where to eat and what to eat because they can simply drop in at any of the numerous joints and hog on Italian, Spanish, Mexican, Thai, Mediterranean… until it begins to come out of their ears.

Whatever fancy restaurants there are I guess the real eating in Hyderabad happens in joints like Paradise, Abhiruchi, Astoria, Garden, Niagara, Shadaab and a million such places where the only sound is the crunch of bones and the clatter of plates. In such joints the focus is solely on food and only food. In the fancy places one also gets pretty crockery or murals hanging on the walls. But I guess the rich are lucky, for if the food is not good at least they can do something with the décor. Eat it, maybe.

At the same time economists should look at this development with positive concern because while the rest of the world is talking of recession and shutting down firms, people are actually opening new hotels and that too in upscale places. Which goes to prove only one thing- that for the rich in Hyderabad there is no word like ‘recession’ in their dictionaries.

Monday, May 04, 2009

My Son, the Artist

One major benefit of putting kids in unconventional schools isn’t what they are not made to do but what they make out of the kids. I’ve realized this truth when I decided to put my kid in a slightly unconventional school where the kids don’t have to wear uniforms, shoes, don’t have to face examinations until higher classes and so on. Of course, they need books and I have to pay fees. Sometimes I think I might have made a mistake putting him in such a school and affecting his future. But after finding that he goes to school without any fuss and doesn’t ever talk of skipping school, and is in fact happy to be in the school, I felt that maybe it was a right decision after all. I think it isn’t an entirely wrong decision after I noticed that he was becoming good at something that I hadn’t even dreamed of.

Somewhere in the third standard or so his teachers started appreciating his drawings. He would sit at home making drawings of cartoon characters that he sees on television all the time but I did not realize he was actually good at drawing. Now every time they need someone to draw something for a project, he is given the task. Understandably, he is rather proud of it especially when the teachers write on his reports that he is good at drawing. He also won a few prizes in drawing contests which convinced me that this talent emerged because of the school atmosphere. He makes his own toys out of paper and cardboard

I’ve started collecting all his drawings of Spiderman, Superman, deities, jet fighters, racing cars, Ben Ten characters, Pokemon and so on. But what I cherish are the birthday cards he makes for me every year without fail. He begins two or three days in advance taking care I don’t see him doing it. I’ve saved all the cards he made for me since he started drawing. Somewhere in the drawings above that he made on the computer one is of his proud papa.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Sunday Haul- Going to Extremes

It is damn hot in Hyderabad with the temperature shooting up to forty degrees and above. I’ve no idea if it is normal temperature for this time of the year but it sure indicates that the days ahead are going to be hotter. Somehow I can tolerate heat better than I can tolerate cold. I don’t mind sweating it out a bit. It is hot enough in my office to wish for air conditioners but the best we get is a ceiling fan though there are places which are air-conditioned. Coincidentally, with the sort of weather we’re having I am reading ‘Desert Solitaire’, an account of the author, Edward Abbey, who opts to stay alone in a National Park in the US where it is like a desert.

Though it wasn’t very hot on Sunday, I went to Abids along with my friend (Uma Shankar) looking for books. We found Raymond Carver’s ‘Fires’ in a heap of books selling for ten bucks, Annie Proulx’s collection of short stories- ‘Close Range’, Len Deighton’s ‘Billion Dollar Brain’, a beautiful, brand new copy of JD Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and finally Irving Wallace’s ‘The Writing of One Novel’ which he picked up. I have copies of all these books so I insisted he buy them for himself. On my part I picked up a book, a sort of travelogue, ‘Going to Extremes’ by Joe McGinniss which is an account of his two year stay in cold and remote Alaska. It seemed just the book to read in this weather. I plan to begin it immediately after finishing ‘Desert Solitaire.’