Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Answered Prayers

In every office there are innocent people who don’t know the ways of the world but who sometimes end up looking after important work. More than two years ago when I had first reported to work at my Head Quarter (HQ) posting in the city I met one such person. Like me he too had joined at the HQ for the first time so we became sort of friends, going out for tea occasionally and exchanging gossip. We kept in touch after I was promoted and transferred out of the city. My interest in keeping up the friendship was a selfish one. He was now looking after a section that was responsible for sending people on out of state trainings. The file began with him so he was an important contact to have at the HQ. At last he was turning out to be of some use.

Last year, after months of pestering he finally proposed my name for a spell of training at Bangalore. Unfortunately I was not able to make it due to the floods at Kurnool that cut off all train and bus links on that route. Now, after some last minute suspense in the previous week he called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to Shimla for a training. Wanted to? I told him I was dying to get somewhere out of state even if was for just a couple of days. Such was my desperation after joining at Suryapet.

When I got the call about the Shimla trip I felt that someone up there must have finally got wind of my regular rants about finding copies of Conde Nast Traveler and reading about exotic places but being unable to go anywhere to have similar experiences. At last I’m being sent on a trip to a place I have never been. Actually, it isn’t Shimla that I am going to but to Mashobra which I have discovered on the net is quite a place. Normally it should have made me glad beyond words but it isn’t. Instead I feel an unknown anxiety about the trip that is going to last at least ten days. The training is for a week, Monday to Saturday but adding the time to travel I will be gone for two weeks. I cannot bear the thought of not seeing my kid for two weeks. I have been away for three months at Andaman without seeing the kid but this time it is different.

So, next month I will be proceeding (that’s bureaucratese for ‘going’) to Shimla. The only problem staring at me is how to get hold of a camera?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Sunday Haul- Cops, Legislators and Books

Those who don’t really know much about cops have this impression, falsely portrayed in countless Indian movies, that cops are bumbling and incompetent people who cannot even read to save their lives. Nine out of ten people have this impression. But my impression is something else. One of my closest friends is a cop who is a voracious reader. Back when I was working in this cop outfit I used to meet a lot of cops who were bookworms. Every other cop I met seemed to read a lot. For a long time I thought I was the only person who read too many books until the day I met a top cop. He had not only read most of the writers I knew but also told me about new writers I had not even heard of. The truth is cops of officer rank read while the lower cadres don’t. So it does not come as a surprise when I see cops in their civil dress picking up books at Abids.

It is quite easy to tell a cop from the others. In the city, most top cops go around with a flunkey dressed in a safari suit following them. There was one such cop at Abids last Sunday picking up books on socialism. He picked up the books and handed them to the flunkey who put them in the jeep. Of course, he paid but I did not get to see the titles of the books.

There was another person on the same day going around with a burly person wearing a safari suit and sneakers following him. He did not look like a top cop. Later I came to know that he was an MLA. It made me happy that there are legislators in our midst who actually read books. He too was picking up books by the armfuls and handing them to his guard who took them and dumped them in the vehicle. He bought enough books to last his five year term I guess. But I bought only two books and a magazine last Sunday.

The first book was Robert Ferrigno’s ‘The Horse Latitudes’ that had a blurb by Elmore Leonard on the cover- ‘An Awesomely Good Writer’ so I picked it up without a second thought. When Elmore Leonard calls another writer an awesomely good writer one doesn’t pass it. The other book I bought was by Elmore Leonard himself, which ‘Touch’ and lay in a heap of books selling for twenty bucks. This was my second copy of the book. In January I had found a hardcover copy of the same title. It isn’t the usual crime thriller and deviates from Elmore Leonard’s usual pattern of novels.

The other find of the day was something very expected. I found the December 2009 issue of ‘Condé Nast Traveler’ that was in good condition. This issue has a dream list of 24 unforgettable experiences and needless to say India is nowhere on the list. There’s also a lengthy feature about Palermo, African safaris, on St.Croix in the Caribbean and one interesting feature about etiquette in Russia.

Since the summer holidays have begun for some schools my kid too tagged along with me to Abids looking for books of ‘X-Men’ to add to his growing collection of such books. Boys aged 6-13 seem to be fascinated by ‘X-Men’ for my kind sits glued to the TV sometimes when their show is on. Till recently it was ‘Ben Ten’ but now it is Wolverine, X-Men and the like. He was disappointed though but settled for a ‘Pokemon’ book.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another Milestone

I am calling it the Quarter-Final draft because the manuscript of my first novel needs at least two more revisions before it can be anything complete. So it will be a while before anyone at Penguin/Harper Collins/Rupa & Co can lay their eyes on it and immediately begin losing their minds. It appears to be too long in the making but since I have anyway spent four years on it another couple of weeks won’t make any difference. Finishing the current round of revision put me in a rather good mood especially after taking a print of the draft. I realized that there is no point on keeping on revising it endlessly and hence decided to let some more people read it and tell me what is wrong with it.

I have even more reason to be happy about it because two of the three people who read the latest draft have said some rather good things about it. Of the two one was a friend and the other was my own brother. It doesn’t mean that their feedback is to be taken lightly. The friend, Hari happens to be an author who has written not one but two books and the brother happens to be the sort who reads authors like Nassim Nikolas Taleb. In fact, he is the inspiration behind my reading habit. I took up reading after watching him read books by the dozen even when he had just joined college. Anyway, I was on Cloud Nine after hearing Hari’s feedback and also after reading what he wrote on his blog. It’s all here-www.harimohanparuvu.blogspot.com/2010/03/ram-gets-nandi-award.html

After reading it I felt very confident, almost to the extent of feeling like a published writer of a book selling in the millions. The other reader, my globe trotting brother too gave me some very good feedback that brought me down to earth. One of the important things he told me was that the story lacks a time frame to peg it on, that is, it is difficult to say when the story takes place. He happens to be right so I have to work on it in the next revision that I have already begun.

In case anyone is wondering how many more months I’m going to work on my revisions, and how many more years it will be before the book will see the light of the day all I can say is that I don’t know. As of now I haven’t really thought of what to do next apart from revising it a couple of times. I hope to finish it sometime in May which is my final deadline. I don’t intend to work on any more revisions after May since I am already up to my ears with the story. After May, I plan to send the book into the publishing world. Until then, keep the fingers crossed. Of course, there’s always June.

Right now, however, I am feeling rather sheepish because I’ve completely forgotten to write here about the launch of Hari’s second book- If You Love Someone, that took place a couple of weeks back. One reason it escaped my mind is probably that, thanks to Hyderabad traffic, I was late for the launch that was at the Banjara Hills branch of Landmark. By the time I made my way through the dense crowd on the second floor of the bookstore the stage was already aglow and glittering with Tollywood luminaries. There was the hero Sumanth, Swati, Gunnam Gangaraju, Indraganti Mohana Krishna, Tanikella Bharani apart from Ram, Hari’s brother and the man behind Art Beat Capital, the production house that brought out the super hit movie, Ashta Chemma. Incidentally, it was also announced that Hari’s first book ‘The Men Within’ was being made into a movie with Sumanth in the lead with Swati opposite him. The film is slated to be released on September 5th. That was all I got to know at the launch and missed whatever happened before that. Since I did not get to hear what everyone said about Hari’s latest book, here’s what I have to say about it.

When I was given one of the early drafts of Hari’s second book to read, the title was ‘The Tryst.’ The different title ‘If You Love Someone’ is one of the better changes in the book. IYLS, as the title suggests, is a love story, not the syrupy kind but one involving two very strong personalities as the couple in love with each other. Interestingly, after a short initial confrontation the two (Aditya and Meghna) meet again at Goa at an inter-collegiate festival after which they spend a couple of days together. Needless to say they fall in love but don’t express it. Aditya is a rebellious artist with some pretty strong convictions and Meghna is an equally headstrong and independent minded girl with lot of ambition. They don’t promise eternal love but promise to meet again when Meghna turns firty, at the same beach in Goa. The rest of the story takes along until Meghna reaches fifty. The story is from the point of view of Meghna, who marries a rather wimpy scion of a traditional business family. Physically she is in the life of her husband but in her thoughts it is Aditya who rules. The story ends on a dramatic note. You’ll love the book if you are a girl/woman but if you are a guy like me, you will have some trouble accepting the almost too perfect Aditya.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Sunday Haul- Five Books and a Magazine

It was a nice haul of five books and another travel magazine that I came up with last Sunday. Three out of the five books I found were by Penguin which made it quite a qualitative haul considering the fact that two were collections of short stories. The first Penguin and also the first book I found on Sunday was a book of short stories by an author I had not heard of before. I picked it up on a whim and it turned out to be quite a good book. The book was ‘Goodbye Harold, Good Luck’ by Audrey Thomas. I found it in a pile of books heaped on the pavement near Dayal’s store. In the same pile I found the second Penguin that had a curious connection with Audrey Thomas’ book. It was Edward Hoagland’s ‘African Calliope; A Journey to the Sudan’ which was mine for only twenty rupees. As the title suggests it is a travel book and somehow I am very intrigued by Africa. My first book of Paul Theroux was ‘Dark Star Safari’ that I borrowed from the British Library. Nothing in Africa is boring I guess.

The next find was Lawrence Block’s collection of stories titled ‘Some Days You Get the Bear’ at another place. I haven’t read any of Block’s books except one his book on writing ‘Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print’ that I found very interesting. The next find was a bestseller and also a Penguin book. It was Mohsin Hamid’s ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ that I did not expect to find at all as a second hand copy, least of all at Abids. It was a good copy and I was glad I found the book and gladder still that I got it for only fifty rupees. I had just then reached the joint where I take my tea break. Sipping the Irani I flipped through the books and came across something I thought was quite coincidental. In the first story (Elevation) that I quickly read in Audrey Thomas’ book were two words I did not know the meaning of. The first was ‘sessile’ and the second word was ‘calliope,’ the same word that is on the title of the other Penguin that I found. It wasn’t exactly an earthshaking coincidence but I found it quite odd. I was also glad that I picked up Audrey Thomas’ book of short stories. If the first short story was anything to go by it promises to be a fantastic read.

James A Michener has written a number of books and only a few of them are less than three hundred pages I guess. All his books are tomes that take a long time to finish if one has the patience to sift through all the details he provides. With a penchant for penning such bulky books it isn’t such a surprise that his memoir is no less a tome. At 520 pages James A Michener’s ‘The World is My Home’, is quite a weighty book. This is my second copy of the book that has some fascinating stuff. I had read only the section where he gives an account of his writing. It is quite an instructive chapter coming from a diligent and hard working writer. The best thing was that I found the hardcover edition of more than five hundred pages for only twenty rupees. Only the jacket was torn here and there but otherwise the book was in excellent condition.

The only magazine I picked up on Sunday was the May/June 2003 issue of ‘National Geographic Traveler’ which, as the cover said, was a ‘Special Collector’s Issue.’ It is because it lists out ‘101 great food & travel experiences’ of the world. Unfortunately, no place in India makes it to the list. Too bad no one in NGT has tasted the biryani out here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Death on the Highway

One of the unavoidable side effects of living in a place abutting the national highway is one becomes an unwilling witness to horrific road accidents. If one has missed seeing any such accidents than one is sure to read about it in the next day’s newspapers. Not a day passes for me without coming across the mangled remains of cars, bikes and passenger autos lying on the roadside on the highway I take once a week. Only once did I get to see a body lying beside the road, a casualty of an accident that seemed to have happened just minutes before. It was that of a young motorcyclist, a student judging from the knapsack still strapped on his shoulders as he lay on his side, hands up as if trying to avoid something. His motorcycle lay beside him, its front wheel totally twisted out of shape. Needless to say there was no helmet on the head. I was on a bike and my colleague immediately slowed down. For the rest of the journey we were silent, each lost in our own thoughts. It was the time of Sankranti and I guess the boy was going home for the holidays.

Last week, I was sitting in the office that is just behind a government hospital called the ‘Area Hospital’ which seemed to a referral hospital considering the number of ambulances that stream in several times a day. It is quite a big hospital for the patients from the neighboring hospitals. One of the reasons why I dislike sitting in my office is something that is very disconcerting. At least once a day I hear loud wailings coming from the direction of the hospital. At first I did not know what caused it but now I realize it is the relatives wailing when they watch their dead being wheeled out. The crying does not stop until the body is taken out of the hospital premises. Till it happens I am totally distressed. On a particular day last week there seemed to be an unusually large number of ambulances streaming into the hospital, their sirens blaring away. There was also continous wailing that increased with the arrival of the ambulances. Later in the evening when I was returning in an autorickshaw after my evening tea at Anand Café, I heard the driver tell someone that there was a road accident in a nearby village that left eight dead.

Next morning, it was the first thing I read in the newspaper at the hotel where I had gone for my morning tea. I read that a truck had run over a passenger autorickshaw on the national highway near a place called Mothey, about twenty kilometers away from Suryapet. It seems twelve people, including kids, were killed instantly in the ghastly accident. The local supplement of the Telugu newspaper was filled with pictures of the site of the accident, a stream of blood snaking from out from under the mangled autorickshaw. The bodies lay scattered on the road and a couple of them were still in the autorickshaw. Only days before a tractor carrying a large number of people in its trailer had plunged into a canal killing more than a dozen people in another village in the district. It is very distressing to look at the pictures of the bloodied bodies of innocent kids who die in such accidents for no fault of theirs except being with their parents. It is equally distressing to watch the pictures of small kids orphaned by the death of both the parents in the accidents.

I wonder when how many more have to die before it enters our heads to keep autorickshaws crammed with people, off the highways. I wonder when we will learn the simplest of traffic rules- to wear helmets and to drive safely. One would be surprised to watch the number of truck drivers, bus drivers who talk on their cell phones even as they are negotiating the traffic in the busy highway. People who drive cars seem to do it more often than those who drive buses and trucks. It only shows that we are some of the dumbest and most stupid people endangering the lives of our loved ones and also those of others by such irresponsible acts. God save us.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Sunday Haul, A New Pen Store- Reopening of a Secondhand Bookstore

One normally doesn’t expect to find any mention of fountain pens or even a picture of a fountain pen in a magazine devoted entirely to leisure travel. But that’s what I found in the glossy pages of a reputed travel magazine that I found at Abids on Sunday. It might sound incredible to anyone who reads this blog regularly but finding Condé Nast Traveller at Abids every Sunday has become quite a normal and in fact, a predictable thing for me. This week it was an incredible coincidence finding the magazine. Once again, I found another issue of Condé Nast Traveller (September 09, the Brit edition with Traveller spelt with a double ‘l’) at Abids on Sunday. Only last month I had found the American edition of September 09. I don’t think even those who subscribe to the magazine get to read the magazine as frequently as I do. Whereas they get it once a month I get a different issue almost every week. This week I had a chance of reading two different editions of the same magazine. Surprisingly there wasn’t anything common between the two editions.

However it was an interesting issue in more ways than one. First there was an article on good old Goa. Then of course, were the mentions of fountain pens. The magazine offered a Mont Blanc Meisterstuck fountain pen to those who write the best letter/recommendation/suggestion to the editor. The other mention was a nice picture of a fountain pen that was unique in more than one way. The Sentryman Limited Edition Explorer fountain pen by Dunhill is not only a fountain pen but also has a ballpoint pen somewhere inside that can also write at -20 degrees if one happens to be living in areas where the temperature goes down to that levels. It writes even when your fingers cannot move in such temperatures. If you happen to need to put something on fire (a natural thing to do considering the temperature) there’s a flint in the barrel that one can take out and strike against the cap of the pen to produce a spark. The cap of the pen also has a luminous ring on the top. This wonderful pen with killer looks comes at a killer price of only £ 2995. While we are at it I might mention something interesting about pens I saw on Saturday.

In Saturday’s Deccan Chronicle I saw an ad for a new pen store- Editions- that has opened in the Inorbit Mall at Madhapur. It is from the Odyssey stable. The store has pens of fifteen famous brands like Visconti, Delta, Online, Curtis, david oscarson, Krone, Marlen, Stipula, Fransesco Rubinato, DiplomatWaldmann, Kynsey, Conklin, Cleo Skribent, and Naldi. ‘Editions’ couldn’t have opened at a more opportune time because I have reached a major milestone in writing my novel that calls for some kind of a reward for my writerly self. The man behind Deccan Chronicle, T Venkat Ram Reddy, is an avid collector of fountain pens I am told. For the record, I would like to say that I owe a lot to Deccan Chronicle for the paper has helped me in my journey as a writer by publishing some of my middles way back in the late nineties. I plan to keep them on this blog sometime soon.

I love to read memoirs, especially of writers. They reveal a lot on how the writer developed over the years in his/her journey as a writer. I read them mostly to see if any writer has led the sort of life that resembles mine even faintly. Sometime last year I found a book that I thought would help me during the revision of my book that I was still struggling to finish. It was Donald Murray’s ‘The Craft of Revision’ that I found at a second hand bookstore for fifty rupees. I found the book quite useful while revising my drafts. I looked for other books by Donald Murray which too were on writing mostly. But I wasn’t able to get any until last week when I came across “My Twice Lived Life’ by Donald Murray. It was a brand new hardcover book with the jacket intact and which I got for only twenty rupees. I read a few pages after I got home. He writes about his changed attitude to life after a heart attack, and also about growing up and ageing. It has a brutal honesty about it one cannot find in many memoirs. I haven’t finished reading it so cannot say much about the rest of the book except that it promises to be a good read.

I found two more books apart from Donald Murray’s ‘My Twice Lived Life.’ One was the copy of Elmore Leonard’s ‘Bandits’ that I had seen a couple of weeks back. Since no one seemed to be buying it I picked it up since I had promised a friend that I’d give him one of Elmore Leonard’s books. In keeping with another promise I made to another friend I also picked up Paul Theroux’s ‘Riding the Iron Rooster’ that I found in the same pile of books selling for twenty rupees. It was a brand new copy and the interesting thing was the bookmark. A beer label peeled off a bottle was inside and my guess is that it was being used as a book mark. The brand was ‘Three Horses Beer’ and seemed to be from Madagascar! It looks like the copy came a long way.

Frankfurt Books had a nice collection of books though it tended to move from place to place. The last time I saw it was somewhere at Punjagutta a couple of years ago before shutting shop. It has reopened again, this time at Begumpet just before the foot over bridge near the airport. I found a screenplay by Tarantino that I plan to pick up on my next visit.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Some Things I Forgot

A Gift of a Ballpoint Pen

Though I prefer to write with only a fountain pen I don’t mind writing with ballpoint pens or even pencils. It isn’t that I love only fountain pens: I love all writing instruments- ball points, pencils and even typewriters. There’s a wider variety of ball points than fountain pens. They come in all shapes and sizes plus they are available everywhere. Whenever a ballpoint pen catches my fancy I pick it up. Most of my work in the office I do with a ballpoint pen so there are quite a few of them in my desk at the office. Sometime in December a friend who stays in Australia gave me a nice Waterman ballpoint pen. It was a black colored one with gold trim and was quite arresting in appearance. I loved it so much I carried it around in my shirt pocket for a few days though I wouldn’t be seen dead without a fountain pen in my pocket.

Getting the Fountain Pen Hospital Catalog

Sometime last year Jai showed me a beautiful catalog of Fountain Pen Hospital that he had with him. He told me the FPH people send a free catalog to anyone who registers at their site. I did the same and forgot all about it until a couple of months later a sealed cover landed at home. When I opened the catalog and looked at it I very nearly lost my mind. There were pictures of beautiful fountain pens and also ball point pens of several companies like Parker, Sheaffer, Mont Blanc and a lot of companies whose names I had never come across anywhere. There were literally scores of pictures of fountain pens, each one as different from the other and as good looking as anything else. FPH is in New York and if I ever go to NY I will not return without paying a visit to FPH.

Sixteen Years on the Job

One of the hardest or rather the hardest things about a government job is a struggle that is almost a daily one. I don’t know about others but every day I struggle to maintain my individuality. I struggle not to become one of those faceless bureaucrats more concerned about their salaries, their allowances, holidays and such things except about work. A government job brings transformations in one’s attitude, personality and world view one cannot perceive until others point it out. So far no one has mistaken me for a government servant when I am out of office. There are only a few things I like about my job in the government other than the kind of work I enjoy doing. This list of things I don’t like is growing with each year and it’s been sixteen years that I first joined this job with the plan to quit but never did.

On the last day of the previous year, that is on the thirty first of December 2009 I completed sixteen years on the job. I can’t believe that I have stayed for so many years when my original plan was to quit after a couple of years. Why I did not quit maybe because I lacked the confidence to take the risk or maybe because I have come to enjoy the job, which is unlikely. Whatever, the only thing I look forward to is the possibility of voluntarily quitting after completing twenty years on the job. For that I have to wait until 2013.

Tooth & Nail by Ian Rankin

I managed to read Ian Rankin’s ‘Tooth & Nail’ that I had picked up sometime last month. It is about Inspector Rebus being called to London to assist in tracking down a serial killer. It is quite engrossing but what I liked about Inspector Rebus was that he turns out to be a book collector! I automatically consider those who write with fountain pens and those who collect books as my friends but since Rebus is a fictianal character it has to be a fictional friendship. After learning about his love for books I plan to read more of the Inspector Rebus series of books.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Sunday Haul,

Conde Nast Traveller Again

Will somebody in Hyderabad please tell me why it is falling only on me (me and me alone) to pick up Condé Nast Traveller magazine at Abids on Sundays? Out of the multitudes of those who crawl the pavements at Abids so slowly as if reading each and every title on sale why does it have to be only me to spot the magazine and also buy it? No one else seems interested in buying it and sometimes it appears like I am the ‘Chosen One’ to pick up every Condé Nast Traveller magazine that is on sale at Abids. Needless to say, it has happened once again this Sunday, me finding yet another issue of Condé Nast Traveller’ of December 2009. This perhaps is the zillionth time I am finding the magazine. Not that I do not like to read it but one has to understand what it does to people like me who work for the government. I admit that there’s nothing I enjoy more on a Sunday afternoon than reading about exotic resorts, spas, etc., abroad. The problem is, of late, it has begun certain undesirable side effects on my life.

More than the feeling of amazement and wonder that reading Condé Nast Traveller always produces, a feeling of intense regret is increasingly felt. It is the regret that I can never hope to visit even a single place described in the fine magazine. What with the miserable pay I get working for the government forget about visiting the places, I cannot even afford to buy a new copy of the magazine. Nowhere does this feeling of regret weigh on me more than when I am in my small, dusty room in faraway Suryapet where the only thing I enjoy doing is getting into a bus to Hyderabad whenever I can. When I cannot do it I simply stand watching the buses go by. I guess that sums up my angst at reading Condé Nast.

However I don’t mind finding Condé Nast Traveller and also reading it but what bothers me is how many more issues do I have to pick up and read before something happens that puts a cheque for a million dollars in my hands so that I can make a round the world trip and never, never again crib about not being able to visit places like Ko Sa Mui. Jokes apart, sometimes when I see people ignore the magazine at Abids and walk away I feel only an overwhelming pity for the poor souls for they don’t know what they are missing.

The Magazine Itch

If I had my way I’d love to do nothing more than buying all the magazines on the racks in bookstores and spending days together reading them. With three mouths to feed (four, if you add mine), two houses to maintain (one at Hyderabad and one at Suryapet) surely one doesn’t expect me to splurge on new magazines especially when it is quite apparent how much I spend on books. But I am also a magazine junkie and I need my regular fix. So what I do is walk upstairs to my brother’s house and read Outlook, India Today, The Week, Outlook Traveler, Harvard Business Review and such stimulating magazines that he doesn’t have the time to read because he is busy criss-crossing the globe. For that reason Tehelka doesn’t form part of my weekly magazine reading. So when I spotted an issue (of Jan 30 2010) at Abids on Sunday with a cover story on books I picked it up.

The issue presents the results of a national readership survey done in the country. Though there is a claim of the surveyors having traveled across the country I couldn’t find Hyderabad mentioned anywhere. I am unable to understand the reasons why Hyderabad did not find a place in the survey. Perhaps they could not find Hyderabad on the map. Or maybe the Tehelka folks thought that we Hyderabadis don’t read and that the more than dozen major bookstores here were opened just for fun and not really to sell books. Or maybe the Tehelka people don’t really like Hyderabadis for some reason. Anyway I was only joking, but the survey was a fairly interesting one.

The important finding of the survey was that we Indians read books mainly for self-improvement and not for the pleasure of reading. The other important finding was that women seemed to make up only a dismal 15% of Indian readers in English, that women are less habitual readers, and that when compared to men only half as many women read poetry. It doesn’t really sound true but may be that is what they came up with in the survey. There were a few essays but they did not hold my attention. There were also observations by two booksellers, R Sriram of Crossword and Ram Advani of Ram Advani Booksellers, Lucknow who hit it on the head when he said that there is a shortage of educated booksellers.

The most interesting part was the section where a few writers talked about writing and books- Amitava Kumar, Mridula Koshy, Amitabha Bagchi, Anjum Hasan and others. A few celebrities mentioned the book that changed their lives and not one of them is worth mentioning here. But if I were to be asked about the book that changed my life, my answer would be - ‘the dictionary.’ Analyze that.

A Book

It wasn’t all mags this Sunday at Abids because I happened to pick up a book too. I bought Scott Spencer’s ‘Endless Love’ mainly because it was a Penguin book and because on the blurb it said that it was ‘soon to be a major Zeffirelli film.’ I have no idea if it was made into a movie but I got the 375 page monster for ten rupees.

Oxford Bookstore Opens in Hyderabad

No one knows when the Oxford Bookstore opened in Hyderabad. Not even the people working in the store seemed to know. When I asked one sales guy he hemmed and hawed and said maybe three or four months. Another guy at the counter said it was opened five, maybe six months back. Whatever, the happy news is that Oxford Bookstore has finally opened shop in Hyderabad. A couple of years ago I had lamented on this blog about how nice it would be if the city had one such store after I had been to their place in New Delhi. But I really don’t know from where they got the idea of opening the store on the busy Road No. 1 Banjara Hills. The store is too small and the parking space even smaller with space for just a couple of cars. The only saving grace is the trademark ‘Cha Bar’ that is on the first floor. Obviously, there weren’t any customers around when I dropped in at the store the other day. The guy at the ‘Cha Bar’ seemed so grateful that at last they had a customer that he hovered around me until I had finished drinking the last dregs of the wonderful ginger tea he so lovingly prepared for me. I felt I shouldn’t have tipped him so much because he accompanied me almost to the parking lot in the cellar muttering his thanks.

An Old Books Exhibition and Sale

If anyone has managed to read this post until this paragraph here’s the reward. There’s a sale of used books organized by the Nampally Unique Books people at the corner of the Lakdi-ka-pul traffic junction. It is at the corner of the right turn that takes one to Khairatabad. The collection is quite good but the books are pricey. I spotted Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’ that I hope to buy sometime next week.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Unconnected, Tax Problems and an Announcement

My Mobile Phone problems

As someone working for the government I haven’t had the good fortune of enjoying some of the perks the general public thinks we get for free, like subsidized accommodation (quarters, in our lingo), or free transportation or anything like that. The only such perk I rather enjoyed was something others pay through their noses for. But last week even that perk was withdrawn in typical government style without giving any reason. Last week my departmental SIM was deactivated leaving me without a mobile connection for a few days.

For a little over four years I did not have to worry much about my cell phone bills. I could talk to my heart’s content up to Rs 650 a month of talk time. However, I never reached that figure not that I talk very much. With just a few colleagues, friends and the family to talk with regularly my phone bill did not cross four hundred rupees a month, something which the government should thank me for. But instead, last week as I said earlier even that facility was withdrawn. We were told about it almost a month before but I did not much bothered to get a personal SIM card.

On Friday last I applied for a BSNL connection since I was impressed by their service. Another reason was that it happens to be a government enterprise and also since I feel that we government types should encourage each other. The lady at the counter told me that my connection would be activated by evening but it did not happen. Today happens to be Monday and as of writing this I am still waiting. I am resigned to being connected sometime on Tuesday, that is, if the lady remembers manages to locate my application.

I’m in no way handicapped by the absence of the mobile phone facility and am actually happy about it. However I cannot get over the feeling that half the world is trying to get in touch with me so I was slightly anxious. The delay in getting connected got on my nerves after a while and I started cribbing about it to everyone I came across. But it appears the mistake is all mine and I’ve learnt about it just now. Incredibly enough, even as I was writing this post I got a call from the BSNL lady on the landline saying that she had activated my phone long time back. Turns out, I had to switch off the phone once and switch it on for the SIM to connect to the network. No wonder I got a job in the government.

My Tax Problems

Out of the several things I am not good at, managing money (mine, that is) happens to be one. It is the prime reason why I am not able to make it to the Forbes list of World’s Richest Individuals. Not that I am not trying. But what I am really good at is making others rich, that is, putting my money into their pockets, especially the government’s. Out of the thousands of lakhs of rupees that the Government of India hopes to earn as taxes, exactly Rs 11,800 happens to be my contribution. One would get a good idea of how good I am at managing my finances if I reveal that this month I had to cough up Rs 11800 as Income Tax. It happens to be a little less than half of what flows into my salary account every month. It also means that I have to make a lot of sacrifices on the financial front if I am to make both ends meet during this month. So no books, new ones that is, in March. No weekly dinners at the Grand Kakatiya either. I was only joking about the dinners but want to be serious about the books, really.

…and My Spending Problems

However it hasn’t deterred me from buying a brand new book, something I rarely do, from a book store I happened to visit yesterday. At the Landmark at Banjara Hills I picked up Biswanath Ghosh’s ‘Chai, Chai’ that I had been planning to buy since a long time. Luckily, the book was in a list of bestsellers on sale at 25% discount. So I got the book originally priced at Rs 250 for Rs 188. Bishwanath Ghosh also happens to be a fountain pen aficionado which was what made me read his blog after reading his column in ‘The New Indian Express’ where he used to work earlier. His is one of the few blogs I read regularly. Here’s the link


On Friday, 5th March Hari is launching his second novel titled ‘If You Love Someone’ at Landmark in Banjara Hills at 6-30 PM. The book is being launched by Gunnam Gangaraju (producer and director of Telugu movies) and Indraganti Mohana Krishna (Director of ‘Ashta Chemma). Those in Hyderabad reading this blog are welcome to the launch.