Friday, July 30, 2010

Another Milestone- 3/500

Certain occasions often prove to be unnerving. Since the past couple of days I’d been growing panicky trying to come up with plausible excuses to explain away my inability to write a better post on this significant occasion. Late last night I realized that the occasion could itself be the excuse. Completing three years of the blog with five hundred posts on it is an achievement worth crowing about especially if one works for the government. But I am still unable to understand that I was able to do something like that. I’m still wondering how I spent three years writing five hundred posts as if writing a novel since four years wasn’t enough agony. The 500th post is going to be about the experience of blogging and other related stuff.

The single most important thing I have learnt in my three years of blogging experience is that it isn’t easy. At least, that has been my experience. No sooner than I finished putting a post that’s taken me a couple of days to write than the anxiety about the next post begins. It doesn’t help that one isn’t a particularly talented or experienced writer. It takes time and effort to write an interesting post both of which I seem to have in abundance except for the writing talent. When I started the blog in 2007 I did not expect that I would be still at it three years later. I’m still undecided whether to go on or put a stop to it. I’m going to think about it during a week-long break I want to take from blogging.

Even if no one were reading my blog I would have gone ahead posting stuff on it week after week without fail. But since the blog got noticed by a few regular readers (which I think of as nothing less than a miracle) I must acknowledge my gratitude to all of them for encouragingly lulling me into the feeling that I am a writer. Uma had once asked me to do a post on the readers of this blog. I really do not know much about the readers of this blog except that a little more than a dozen people read it quite regularly. Half of them are people I knew before I started the blog and half of them happen to be readers who’ve turned friends through the blog. Most of them happen to be in Hyderabad which is a happy coincidence because I get to meet many of them. And if what I’ve gathered over my occasional meetings with them is anything then I am understandably proud of my blog. All of them, without exception are people genuinely in love with books and reading with a taste in authors that is far, far better than mine. Needless to say they are all fine people and smarter than, who else, I.

As I wrote on an earlier occasion the biggest gain from writing this blog has been the priceless friendships I have made. I couldn’t have ever met them otherwise given my nature and also, if I might add, my job. In that sense the time and effort spent on blogging is more than worth it. The biggest drawback of blogging, one that I have stopped minding too much, is the time it takes away from my novel. Were it not for the blog I would have finished the book long ago but it is also true that were it not for the blog I wouldn’t have finished it at all.

There are many unfulfilled promises I made on the blog, about writing reviews of a few books, about writing about something interesting and such things that I have been unable to do. Either I forgot about them completely or I did not get the time to do what I promised to do. One also has to remember that I am a government guy which sounds like a nice name for another blog- The Government Guy.

I thank my readers once again. Thank you and please give me a break until next Friday.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


For someone who spends more time out of the house than inside it is quite difficult to be confined within the four walls all day. Only two things keep me indoors- bad weather and ill health. As if determined to keep me house bound for some time a combination of both had me not only indoors but bedridden for the past three days. Sometime last week while returning from a village on a bike I was caught unawares by a sharp shower. Even before I could find a shelter in the open I was drenched totally. The tree under which I stood until the rain stopped wasn’t much help. A couple of hours later the sneezes began and before long the fever was on its way. The next day when I got home after cutting short my trip the fever had taken hold.

Some experiences however minor alter one’s perceptions permanently and some only temporarily. Whenever I’m not well, especially when I am down with a fever my perception of everything changes. Though many in this State are suffering from seasonal fevers I imagine that I am the only one suffering (horribly at that)from fever. The mind goes into some kind of a state of its own churning out vague fantasies only one of which is related to my state of health. According to this fantasy I am rushed in an ambulance to the hospital, an oxygen mask strapped to my face and various tubes running in and out of my nose. The doctor says, ‘He’ll live but the fever will be permanent.’ It is when I start getting this fantastic dream that I begin to doubt if the pills my trusted homeopath gave me will work or not. Being a Sunday I do not have to worry about going to office but feel sad that I have to miss the trip to Abids. It does little to cheer me up that it is raining outside. The silver lining is that others too won’t be visiting Abids.

When at work I sometimes like to imagine lying in bed all day and sleeping like a log. At such times I wish I could catch a fever and get the deserved rest. But when the fever comes it is a different story. A fever brings its own troubles. The body aches all over and as if it is not enough, the head feels like there is a huge rock inside it. Which aren’t exactly the sort of conditions that will bring you fitful sleep. You toss and turn and toss and turn and lull yourself into a bit of a short nap before waking up again and lie staring at the ceiling until morning. And this time I couldn’t even do any reading unlike the last time when I managed to finish a couple of books in the couple of days that I was in bed with fever.

On the third day the small white pills begin to take effect and the fever comes down. The body aches disappear and the head feels as if it belongs to me. Outside, the weather too has improved with the skies clearing up into its normal blue state with the sun just beginning to come out. It is a sign that I should move out of bed and go outdoors.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Sunday Haul

Had I picked up the book I saw on Sunday it would have marked my first step towards an adventure into something I’ve been dreaming about for quite a while. I had been eying the book- Cooking Basics for Dummies- at Abids since the past three Sundays but haven’t picked it up yet. The very idea of learning something like cooking from a book seemed decidedly odd to me (as it would to anyone else) but that’s how I learnt a lot of things. But if anyone I know finds out that I am attempting such a thing then they would be rolling with laughter on their kitchen floors. So that was one reason why I did not buy the book but the more immediate reason had to do with its price. The seller either assumed that I was terribly interested in the book or thought it was some kind of an out of print, rare book and hence was adamant about the price. It is true that I wanted the book but not at that price so I too was adamant about not buying it.

The ‘Dummies’ series of books are something I enjoy reading. I learnt something about DOS from ‘DOS for Dummies’ in that age when DOS was the rage. The Dummies series demystify the subject and are written in simple language liberally sprinkled with humor. The biggest plus point are the entertaining illustrations that make the subject clear to understand. I had thought that after buying ‘Cooking Basics for Dummies’ I would get my cooking fundas right before stepping into the kitchen but the idea got nipped in the bud. But I will wait until the buyer realizes that such a book will have no takers in Hyderabad and thus will offer me the book at my prize. Unless, of course, there’s another dummy looking for such a book.

Another book I missed buying on Sunday at Abids was Alice Sebold’s ‘Lucky’ which is a sort of memoir about a traumatic experience she had. Next Sunday maybe I will pick it up because I’ve read that Sebold is a damn good writer. Since I haven’t read any of her books it might be a good idea to pick up along with ‘Lucky’ another of her book- ‘The Lovely Bones’ copies of which abound in Abids and elsewhere.

Though I did not buy any book last Sunday I got another title of Sidney Sheldon- 'If Tomorrow Comes' . Daniel is a serious fan of Sheldon and presented me with the book at Abids. Last Sunday was a memorable one in that at Abids I met Uma and Daniel, two people I made friends with through my blog. It is quite a coincidence that they both stay close to my home. Midway through our browsing we took a break for tea and sat in an Iran café talking about, what else, books and writers. We talked about a lot of things but I forgot to tell them about the book sale coming up next month.

Sometime during the week I had been to Best Book Centre at Abids where I learnt that they are having a sale of secondhand books at YMCA, Secunderbad from August 1- 16. I am eager to check out the sale since they stock good titles but their rates are rather steep. Another secondhand bookstore ‘MR Books’ have revamped their store at Begumpet into a swank one complete with brand new shelves and glass panels at the front. Till recently their collection of fiction, non-fiction and children’s books were arranged at random on tables but now they have been sorted according to category on the shelves. They have so many books that it would take a good part of the day to look at each and every title. But during the hour or so I was there I spotted two copies of Elmore Leonard’s ‘Be Cool’ and a copy of ‘Rum Punch.’ What got my attention was a hardcover edition of Haruki Murakami’s ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ that I plan to buy on Saturday maybe if it is still on the shelves.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Creators of 'Crater Hyderabad'

If anyone is looking for proof that will illustrate the popular adage about the cure being worse than the disease then they needn’t go far to find it. They can find sufficient proof and lots of it right here in Hyderabad. They only have to step out of their houses and look down at the road they’re standing on to find the evidence staring at them in the face.

Nowhere in the world do roads become filled with potholes as fast they do in Hyderabad. Hardly does the road roller disappear around the bend after laying a new road than the electricity/water board/phone cable guys make their appearance. Jackhammers in hand they dig up the new laid road like they are looking for buried treasure and leave behind potholes and craters for us to marvel at for eternity. I agree that there is nothing more heartbreaking then finding a newly laid road dug up but what happens later is more backbreaking. I’d be happy if they let the potholes be since we get used to them in no time, but when the engineers decide to fix the potholes it is time to worry.

Often I get the feeling that in the near future, if it hasn’t happened already, the roads of Hyderabad are going to put us on the global map, courtesy of our civic engineers. The day is also not far off when we will have a different kind of tourists in the form of engineers from all over the world who will fly down to Hyderabad to study, among other things, the manholes of Hyderabad. Like Kolkata’s manholes Hyderabad’s manholes too will gain notoriety albeit for different reasons. One look at the manholes in Hyderabad and people wonder if the engineers are building manhole covers or monuments. The round manhole covers, rising a minimum of one foot above the surface of the road do resemble tombs. When one spots another manhole, inches away but with the manhole cover at least six inches below the surface of the road then one wonders, just wonders, if the engineers are building them like they should be or like they want them to. It seems to be the prevailing trend in Hyderabad, to do things as one wishes, especially when it comes to driving, so it is no wonder that the engineers too are following the trend.

A repaired pothole is worse than the actual pothole. And a repaired trench is worse than the actual trench dug across the road to lay pipes or cables. After the trench dug up across the road is repaired by our engineers it assumes the form of a speed breaker which in Hyderabad resembles a small tunnel. Apart from that there’s the debris and the dug up bitumen which soon solidifies and becomes another obstacle the drivers have to look out for.

One can go on and on about the roads, the potholes and such things our engineers so casually create. As it happens I travel regularly on a stretch of road described recently in the columns of ‘The Hindu’ as the worst stretch of road in Hyderabad- the stretch of road from Musheerabad to Kavadiguda. No wonder it makes me qualified to write about the bad roads in Hyderabad in case anyone is wondering what makes me do it again and again.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The sunday Haul- Three Books

Hardly had I recovered after finishing Anthony Bourdain’s ‘The Nasty Bits’, a delightful collection of essays, articles on food, restaurants, cities and chefs, than I stumbled on another similar book. After reading ‘The Nasty Bits’ I had ideas of my own to put aside the pen and pick up a pan to try dishing out a different fare from what I am serving here. Apart from that aberrant thought I had also thought (and still think) that there’s no one better than Bourdain to write so passionately about food. As always, I couldn’t think of any Indian writer who could write on food in that manner. Not very soon I had to change my mind after finding Vir Sanghvi’s ‘Rude Food’ at Abids last Sunday.

Not being much of a television watcher I once or twice saw Vir Sanghvi on Travel & Living channel but did not pay much attention to what the programme was about. I know Vir Sangvi better as a serious political columnist who writes with great insight on current issues. What I really did not know that at the age of twenty two he created history in Indian journalism circles by becoming the youngest editor to edit a magazine. At that age I was still struggling to piece together sentences but couldn’t get beyond writing stuff which even I could barely understand. Anyway, only a fortnight ago I had read his column somewhere and was mighty impressed enough to wish we could get Hindustan Times in Hyderabad.

What I did not know was that he is a dedicated lover of good food and has done so much of food writing that Penguin has decided to come out with ‘Rude Food’, a book of his columns or as the book says ‘the collected food writings of VS.’ When Uma pointed out the book to me at Abids I was eager to savor (pun intended) the writing but hesitated to buy it. The copy I found not only had pages that had moisture stains but there was enough mold on such pages that would take days to be scraped off. After calculating the chances (none) of finding a decent copy of the book at Abids I went ahead and bought the book for fifty rupees.

The second find of Sunday was a book by another author I wished I had read more of- Nikos Kazantzakis and the book I found was ‘Report to Greco.’ It was a writer’s autobiography, something that I can rarely resist buying however many pages it has. ‘Report to Greco’ is more than five hundred pages long and I wonder why of late I am picking up books on food and also books that are more than four hundred pages in length. So the book too ended up a part of the haul on Sunday. While reading through the introduction I came across the interesting information that Jawaharlal Nehru had invited Kazantzakis to visit India. He didn’t, by the way.

But the best find of the day was Herman Raucher’s ‘Summer of 42’ that ranks as one of my favorite books. I already have two copies of the book and last Sunday I couldn’t resist buying another not because it had a brand new look to it, not because the price was only twenty rupees but because of something, a feeling the book produces that I am not able to put into words here. It has some wonderfully zany humor of the adolescent kind and is also very poignant especially at the end. I do not hesitate to recommend ‘Summer of 42’ along with Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ to young people who ask me about good books to read.

Three good books and a long, long talk with Uma over chai about books, writing and writers was what made the day last Sunday which is one reason why I look forward to Sundays. When one works for the government it is such small pleasures that make the boredom tolerable.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bribes are for Taking

There’s probably nothing more exciting than being offered a bribe to make one feel like a government servant. Not that I look forward to it but I too need to be reminded now and then that I work for the government. There’s something about this whole business of bribes that it is connected only with government people. It is as if that if one is working for the government there, inevitably, has to be a bribe somewhere whether one takes it or not.

It had been a long time since anyone’s offered me a bribe. Not that it is anything unusual for me. Less than a year ago, when I was posted at the Head Office in Hyderabad, not a day would pass without at least two offers of a bribe. I was in a lucrative post which meant an extra income for those who look for such things. I was dealing with files relating to issue and renewals for manufacture of insecticides. One would be amazed to know how many people assume that just because someone is in an important post he/she needs to be bribed unasked to get their work done. So it took a lot of my time convincing people that I wasn’t the sort to accept bribes.

Most of the time it is the general public who attempted to offer me bribes but a couple of weeks ago it was a fellow officer who made the offer. In the present post I had assumed that there wouldn’t be much corruption but I was mistaken. There's no department in the government where there is no corruption. Corrupt people wherever they are look for ways to make money. There’s a lot here but not as much as in the field posts. To my surprise, I was sent on an inspection tour to a far off area in the district. Normally, others would welcome such an assignment but I am wary of such inspections because I know what happens during such inspections. However I was taken by surprise by what happened on that day.

The local officer, a young person was someone I liked because he appeared very intelligent. Also he was very deferential. He was accompanying me on the inspections that involved going around villages and checking on dealers who sell seeds to farmers. I had spotted a truck laden with fertilizer bags while passing through a village. I told the local officer to check it out as a matter of routine since seeds, fertilizers and insecticides have to be sold only by licensed persons. I got busy with another inspection and did not notice that the officer was gone for a long time. He came back just as I finished my inspection and after he told me that nothing was unusual about the truck I did not think much about it.

We were on our way to another village when he got a call on his mobile. I got down from the bike to stretch. Just as I was getting on the bike he told me he had something to tell me and suddenly took out six five-hundred rupee notes from his shirt pocket. He told me that the person who got the truck had no licence and had given him the money to let him off. It was a major contravention to sell fertilizers without a licence. We should have seized the truck and the fertilizer bags I told him. He said that the bags were already unloaded and disposed off and the truck too had left the village. You take whatever you want sir, he told me holding out the stack of currency. He said that though he knew I wasn’t the type to take bribes he assured me no would know. I wanted to ask him why he offered me the money if he knew I wouldn’t take money. I felt betrayed and insulted. There are certain types of people who want to test first hand whether what they have heard about someone is true or not. I don't know whether he wanted to find out if I really was what I claimed to be. It wasn't the first time I was tested but I felt offended.

I told him he had made a big mistake in letting the truck go. He was the local officer and only he had the power and authority to take action. I could only guide him but he chose to go his own way. I remained silent after I told him I wouldn’t have anything to do with the money. All through the journey until that moment I was doing the talking telling him about my Shimla trip. For the rest of the journey he kept babbling nonsense probably to cover up his guilt. I added him to the list of my own colleagues who had tried to bribe me. Of course, he was not the first one and I also know, won’t be the last. As long as I am in the government I have to face such situations.

It might surprise the general public to learn that the corrupt government employees not only ask bribes from them they also ask for bribes and also offer bribes to their colleagues in the government. Though I have learnt to live with corruption in my seventeen years of service in the government what I cannot stomach is working along with the sort of people who think that taking bribes is their birthright. One would be amazed at the justification they give for taking bribes.

Corruption in the government staff is too large and important issue to be dealt in a post but I want to make a beginning somewhere. Sometime in the future I will begin with an article about corruption in a section of people no one expects to be corrupt.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Sunday Haul- Four Books

For someone with a limited appetite and an even lesser desire for eating my growing hunger for books about food, cooking (not cookbooks though), chef’s memoirs and everything gastronomic is something I cannot understand. Of late I find myself unable to resist buying such books. I am truly baffled. One of my lesser ambitions has been to learn to cook, if not to become a chef. Currently I am reading Anthony Bourdain’s ‘The Nasty Bits’ which might explain why I was drawn to Joan Smith’s ‘Hungry for You.’ I found this book in a heap of books selling for only ten rupees at Abids last Sunday.

‘Hungry for You’ is an anthology of extracts from novels, tracts, songs, self help books, poetry and biographies all of which relate to just one thing- food. The 390- page book is divided into six chapters, each dealing with one aspect of food and eating. Each chapter begins with a thought provoking essay by Joan Smith. Smith writes that there are other aspects of food then merely eating it which is what I thought was the purpose of food. I dipped into some of the extracts and was fascinated to read about the various ways authors have perceived and used food and eating in their works. It is beginning to make me look at Irani chai and biryani in an entirely new light.

The second find of the day was a book that I’ve been looking for since years. I was surprised to find that the book- James M Cain’s ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’ was so short, just 121 pages. I was able to finish reading it in just a couple of hours. Cain’s style is spare, in just a few words he could tell quite a lot. The story too is very interesting. It is about a rough bum who murders for the sake of love and gets away with it. The copy that I found at Abids wasn’t anything great with yellowing pages that were brittle. But it yielded an interesting piece of information. On one of the front pages was a stamp saying ‘AMJAD, New and Secondhand Booksellers, Chikkadpally, Hyderabad.’ I would have loved to check out the place but I know that there is no such place in Chikkadpally as far as I know.

The third find of the day was a book I’ve been eyeing since about a year. There’s a guy in Abids who thinks that every book he has on sale is worth more than the price on it. To be fair, he has a rather good collection. But never does he agree to my price. I usually do not buy from him which is the reason why I did not pick up Wallace Stegner’s ‘Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West.’ I had seen it with him last year and he had rather haughtily said he would not give it to me at the price I asked for it. It became a matter of ego and I did not ask him again. Though I coveted the book I walked past every Sunday until last week. From a temporary wooden shelf that he puts his books on the guy had relegated the book to the pavement. It was from the pavement that I bought it for only thirty rupees.

‘Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs,’ too was a collection of sixteen essays divided into three chapters. The first chapter is about his childhood, the second about living in the West and the third and last chapter was about reading and writing. I read the last essay titled ‘The Law of Nature and the Dream of Man; Ruminations on the Art of Fiction. In the essay Wallace Stegner makes some insightful observations on writing fiction. He writes that ‘Because a good writer is not really a mirror; he is a lens… Ultimately there is no escaping the fact that fiction is only as good as its maker. It sees only with the clarity that he is capable of…’

There’s a lot in the book and it needs a separate post to write all that. Like many of the books I buy, this book too led to other books I feel I ought to buy soon. In another essay Stegner writes about John Steinbeck’s ‘The Flight’ a short story. After reading his essay on how Steinbeck came to write and publish it I want to look out for ‘The Long Valley.’ Steinbeck had included ‘The Flight’ in this collection of short stories. There were other essays about writers like George Stewart, Walter Clark and Norman Maclean that I still haven’t read.

The last book Sidney Sheldon’s ‘Windmills of the Gods’ was a present from my friend and fellow blogger, Daniel who I met at Abids quite unexpectedly. I had earlier found Elmore Leonard’s ‘Touch’ and gave it to him.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

News Joy

Rare are those days when one feels happy after reading the newspapers. Nowadays one feels only depressed after reading about the killings, suicides, deaths and other such tragedies that seem to fill the papers. But the other day there was something in the newspaper that brought a bit of cheer into my otherwise drab government life.

After two weeks of making the sort of tours that involved rushing out of my house at Suryapet early in the morning without even breakfast I finally got a break of one day. Last Wednesday, I decided to have breakfast at a different place near Anand’s in Suryapet. Breakfast over I bought the ‘Deccan Chronicle’ which is the only English newspaper I get in Suryapet. Later I walked over to Anand’s which is not very crowded at half past nine in the morning. I sat at a table and ordered ginger tea which would take another ten minutes to be ready. There’s something about reading the paper leisurely sitting in a hotel while waiting for your favorite beverage. It puts one in a relaxed mood.

There was something in the paper, an article that reflected something that happens in my life too often. An article titled ‘Daydreaming Fosters Creativity’ was featured somewhere in the middle pages. Daydreaming is something I am very good at since it is one of my favorite pastimes. I do it almost all the time even when I am in the office. I feel guilty about it but after reading the item I was pleased. It seems daydreaming is actually beneficial sometimes. It makes one creative and also helps one get through boring tasks.

There was also something in the paper that would have made my colleagues in the government everywhere happier had they found the time to read it. The first thing that crops whenever people discuss government staff is how inefficient, how corrupt and how this and how that they are. Never does anyone seem to have a good word for all my hardworking, sincere and honest colleagues in the government. In the ‘Hyderabad Chronicle’ supplement I read the account of a Delhi college girl (Devika Dutt of Hindu College, University of Delhi) who interned in a government department. This is what she wrote:

'I half expected to meet paan-chewing living-for-lunch government employees around every corner who laze around all day and make a stealthy getaway whenever they get the opportunity.

But surprisingly, most of the people here are hardworking and highly efficient. They run around doing all kinds of things the moment they step in. And some of them don’t even see the sun set because they are in office, working… I certainly have newfound respect for government employees.

It certainly made my day reading the blessed girl’s testimony. If only everyone thought like her.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Sundays Haul

It should have made me pause, hesitate before taking the decision. The cover of the book and also its general appearance made it something I wouldn't normally buy. But I did not seem to be even thinking right when I spotted the book. The excitement made me forget to do the basic checks, like checking out the pages that I usually do but the Sunday before the last I did not do it. When I heard the guy quote the price, it should have rung a bell in my head but didn’t so I went ahead and picked up the book. It had been something I was waiting to find at Abids ever since I read about the author- Stieg Larsson. The book was ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and it would be mine for only twenty five pages. Without any more thinking I picked it up along with another book. I was so excited about the haul that I was eager to go home and begin reading the book.

But when I got home I was surprised to find that the last few pages of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ were missing. My copy of the book ended with 538 pages at the sentence, ‘She smiled a hard smile and steeled herself’ which looked like it wasn’t the last sentence in the book. Though I was disappointed that I had made the sort of mistake beginners make I tried to cheer myself up by looking at the bright side of it. I had 538 pages to read before wondering what to do about finding about the ending. I had the idea that I could go to one of those bookstores like ‘Crossword’ or ‘Landmark’ where chairs are thoughtfully provided for the customers to flip through books before buying them. I plan to read the ending, which I hope is only a few pages long, in a bookstore. I haven’t done anything like that before so I want to try it out this time.

But that wasn’t the only mistake I made the other Sunday. The second book I picked up turned out to be a different title though the author was the same. In the excitement of finding Larsson’s book I forgot to notice that it wasn’t ‘A Short History of Tractors in Ukraine’ by Marina Lewycka that I had picked up. It was ‘We are All Made of Glue’ by the same author that I had bought for twenty five rupees. It doesn’t appear to be a bad buy though because a) it was a Penguin imprint and b) Daily Telegraph’s reviewer’s line on the cover said ‘Had me crying with laughter.’ I hope I am not disappointed with the book.

Last Sunday I picked up yet another issue of Conde Nast Traveller, the April 2008 issue. As usual there were a lot of write ups with pictures of newer places like the Douro Valley in Spain, Quirimbas Islands, Tuscany, Alexandria and many such places in the hefty issue that ran for 224 pages. I was happy that I found it but there was another reason to be happier. Inside, there was a pleasant surprise for me. There was a write up on a landmark hotel in New York called The Royalton which seems to have undergone a total makeover from the dimly lit place it was to something new. A box item in the middle of the article was a piece by my favorite writer, Dave Barry. He had written a piece titled ‘The Black Hole of Manhattan’ in 2002 about his stay in the hotel. It is very, very funny. Here’s a part of Dave Barry’s article:

My room had stark, modernistic furniture and several modernistic, low wattage lams which, when I turned them all on, provided the same illumination as a radio dial. The only way to read was to turn the TV on and tune it to a programme with bright colours. My room was strewn with hip items, many of them for sale, including a hotel T-shirt (black), various herbal substances and an ‘Intimacy Kit’ for $12. If they really wanted to make money, they should sell 100-watt light bulbs: I would have considered paying $20 for one. They did sell a candle, labeled ‘TRAVEL CANDLE’, for $15; I thought about buying it and using it in the elevator, to find the ‘Lobby’ button.’

It was classic Dave Barry and made the CNT more than worth the fifteen rupees I spent on buying it.