Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gawking in Jubilee hills

As a concerned Hyderabadi I make it a point to drop in at other neighborhoods to check on how they are measuring up with respect to things like potholes and the like. I go on such sorties whenever I happen to be in Hyderabad and have nothing better to do. So it is only occasionally that I get the chance to visit other localities especially upscale ones like Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills. Since they are very far away from where I live I don’t get to visit those places as often as I want. However, last week I happened to be visiting Jubilee Hills for three days.

So far all my previous visits to Jubilee Hills have been purely personal and on my own volition. My latest visit to Jubilee Hills was, of course, for a change, on the orders of the government. In short, I had been drafted to undergo a training at a premier training institute which fortunately is located somewhere deep inside the labyrinthine streets of Jubilee Hills. After days of trudging through nondescript villages I sure felt glad I was getting a change of scenery.

One reason why I love breathing the air in Jubilee Hills is that it smells of money. Jubilee Hills, for those who don’t know, happens to be the only neighborhood where the rich folk of Hyderabad live. They all seem to own palatial homes set in more than an acre of land. Though I haven’t been inside those fabulous homes I am certain every house must have a minimum of twenty rooms not counting the servants’. Anyway I am always glad whenever I visit Jubilee Hills. Given the way things are in Hyderabad- poor roads, poor civic sense, poor driving and poor everything one gets the impression that there may not be many rich people living in Hyderabad. So it comes as a surprise to learn that some people are rich and rolling in money in Jubilee Hills. Sometimes I feel that we Hyderabadis should actually be grateful that there are places like Jubilee Hills so we can go there whenever we can and gawk at our rich. To live in Jubilee Hills you need to be a millionaire many times over but fortunately you don’t need to be one to pass through the area.

Since a long time I had been trying to visit ‘Editions’ the pen store in Inorbit Mall in Madhapur. One day after my training was over I set out for the mall which gave me a mild shock when I saw how big it was. When I first saw it I was certain it would take me at least a week to check out each and every store in it. Fortunately, they all seemed to be the sort of stores stocking goods which I couldn’t anyway afford to buy so I could go around in just a couple of hours. ‘Editions’ was small but impressive with some nice pens on show and helpful staff. Right next door was a Mont Blanc outlet where I found what needs to be done about the hole in the cap of my Meisterstuck fountain pen. It seems I have to leave it with them for at least a month for it to be sent to Rajkot for repairs.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Sunday Haul, Etc.,

Almost all the Sunday second hand booksellers at Abids have fixed spots in front of closed shops where they display and sell their books. Most of the biggies are to be found in the Hollywood Shoes lane where they are protected from the rain. But in the festival season when the regular shops open their shutters these booksellers move to other places. On Sunday (22 August) I felt a bit disoriented at not finding the books or the booksellers at their regular spots on the pavements at Abids. Coincidentally, I did not also come across any title worth picking up. Last Sunday I had seen a book that I wanted to buy this Sunday. It was a sort of travelogue by a mother coming to India to meet her estranged daughter. The book sounded interesting but I have forgotten its title already. The book was not to be seen and I wonder if anyone has picked it up.

But at Chikkadpally where I bought Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Simple Art of Murder’ last Sunday I found another interesting book. It was ‘How to Placate An Angry Naga’ by an IAS couple- Leela Nandan and Jiwesh Nandan. It seemed an interesting Penguin title so I bought it though the person asked for fifty rupees for it. One doesn’t get to read many books by IAS officers because not many write them or maybe they don’t get the time to write them. All books especially second hand books come with their own bookmark. The book I found had a bookmark made of a thin folded strip of paper with a girl’s name written in red on it. I hope the book is interesting because I found the bookmark stuck somewhere in the middle of the book indicating the previous owner may not have read through the entire book. The only book by an IAS officer that I enjoyed reading was the cult classic ‘English August’ by Upamanyu Chatterjee.

One doesn’t get to read ‘Time’ magazine in many places in Hyderabad but I happened to read a latest issue just days ago. A couple of days ago I happened to be visiting Jubilee Hills as a trainee at Dr. MCRHRD Institute. During the lunch break I dropped in at the Institute’s library where I chanced on ‘Time’ which had novelist Jonathan Franzen on the cover. I read Lev Grossman’s article on Franzen and was tempted to read the novelist’s books. One of them ‘The Corrections’ which is said to have sold 2.8 million copies world wide and his second novel ‘Freedom’ is due this week. I also came upon the interesting information that only a few writers have made it to the cover of ‘Time’ magazine. JD Salinger is one among the handful of writers like John Updike, Vladimir Nabokov, James Joyce, and Toni Morrison, to have graced the cover of the magazine. One day I expect to see Elmore Leonard on the cover of ‘Time.’

Since I was in Jubilee Hills, on the way back home from the training, I visited Odyssey as it had been quite a long time since my last visit. I was surprised to see a brand new Jaguar parked in the ground floor of Odyssey where previously other stuff was displayed. I looked up to find that Jaguar Motors had decided to open a showroom in Jubilee Hills. Since I wasn’t very interested in looking up a Jag I made my way up to the bookstore. I saw more than sixty issues of ‘Granta’ displayed right behind the cashier on the first floor. Half a dozen issues were on Travel, and Travel Writing that I could have bought but for the steep price. But one book that I am going to buy very soon is Joan Didion’s ‘The Year of Magical Thinking.’ I made up my mind to buy it after reading the first few pages. It is a poignant account of Didion’s grief after the sudden death of her husband while at dinner in their house.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Kichdi Post

Entry Through Nose Only

I know what it is to be an addict. I have my own addictions. I’m seriously addicted to books, to Irani chai, fountain pens, music and such stuff that need not be taken through the nose. I do not understand how anyone can get addicted to something one has to take in through the nose however good it might be to one’s moods. I fail to understand why anyone would want to take the nasal route when there are perfectly normal (and more agreeable, not to mention hygienic) channels like one’s mouth to put in stuff into.

When there are certain intoxicants (if I can call them so) that one can take in- like good food through the mouth, music through the ears, poetry through the eyes- it beats me why anyone would want to use the nose to get high on something like cocaine. I also fail to understand why anyone would want to sniff something like cocaine when there’s plenty of Irani Chai, beer, and biryani to get high on in Hyderabad. As if the pricey alcohol they are consuming is not enough youngsters in Hyderabad have now started doing drugs like cocaine and marijuana. I guess such things happen when people have more cash than commonsense.

If you ask me, there’s nothing like a cup of Irani chai to give you a high that lasts almost the whole day. No wonder almost everyone in Hyderabad is addicted to it. I guess one reason why the guys are taking to drugs is that there are no Irani joints in places like Jubilee Hills where, I am sure, the youngsters and the pubs they frequent are located. By the way, I am sure if they drink a cup or two of chai they will find no need to take drugs to improve their moods. I know this is a bizarre theory but the only one I could come up with to put a stop to the drugs menace.

Rain, Rain, Don’t Come Again

Of late we seem to be getting more rain than is good for us. At least that is what many Hyderabadis are thinking, especially those caught for hours in traffic jams. Last week a record amount of rain fell in Hyderabad disrupting traffic, everyone’s plans and a whole lot more. Hyderabadis have evolved to such a stage that they don’t know what to with all the rain that is falling from above free of cost but don’t mind spending more than ten bucks to buy bottled drinking water.

Haleem News:

You cannot really call yourself a Hyderabadi unless you have tasted haleem at least once during the holy month of Ramzan. I tasted my first haleem of the season sometime last week. Though a vegetarian I cannot resist tasting a tiny portion of haleem at least once. This time I had haleem of Pista House which seems to have outlets all over the city judging from the number of banners hung almost everywhere. However, the price is a bit too high. At eighty rupees a serving it is too steep to indulge in many times.

But whatever be the price there seems to be no stopping the Hyderabadi from heaping haleem into their mouths every evening.

While on the subject of eating, in a demonstration of how we Hyderabadis this side of the city go about doing things, two new eateries sprang up almost unnoticed and unheralded recently. I was passing through Himayatnagar when I noticed the board of ‘Jharokha’ a new Rajasthani food joint next door to ‘Dadu’s’ at Liberty. Then opposite ‘Bawarchi’ at RTC X-Roads ‘Bollywood Chillies’ has opened its doors. I am sure if it had happened in Jubilee Hills we might have seen endless ads and breathless write ups of such new eateries.

Of course, another eatery came up in Jubilee Hills recently. Minerva Coffee House has opened a branch on Road No. 36 in Jubilee Hills. I saw hoardings to the effect and also went past the new eatery while I was in Jubilee Hills recently about which I will write in the next post.

GLoggers; A recent issue of ‘Outlook’ magazine carried a feature on top bureaucrats in Karnataka and the blogs they are maintaining. The name they've coined for government bloggers is 'Gloggers.' After that story I expect others to follow since many bureaucrats are copycats and have that ‘If he can do it why can’t I’ mentality. I assume (modestly, of course) that I am the only government bloke in AP writing a blog. If there are others please let me know.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Sunday Haul

Sunday (Aug 15) happened to be the last day of the fortnight long sale of second hand books organized by the Best Books people at YMCA, Secunderabad. Since I’d been there thrice already and picked up a couple of books after searching long I did not feel there would be any more books to find and so dropped the idea of going for the fourth and last time. However, just before nodding off to sleep on Sunday night I realized that I should have visited one last time to pick up a book I had forgotten to buy. The excitement of finding Maugham’s ‘On a Chinese Screen’ completely put it out of my mind that I had seen Woody Allen’s new book 'Mere Anarchy.' However I overcame the regret of missing Woody Allen’s book since earlier in the day I had found a good book on my weekly visit to the second hand book bazaars.

Not many know that apart from Abids in Hyderabad, Chikkadpally is also a place one can find people selling second hand books. At least half a dozen people display used books at various spots at Chikkadpally on the road linking Narayanguda and RTC Crossroads. This Sunday I spotted a new seller with a decent number of books arranged before him. I stopped to take a look at what he had and was glad I had stopped. I found Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Simple Art of Murder’, a good enough copy that I got for fifty rupees after a few minutes of bargaining. It was a 378 page affair with eight murder stories and an essay by Chandler on detective stories that has been earlier published in Atlantic Monthly.

In the essay with the same title as the book ‘The Simple Art of Murder’ Chandler takes a critical look at the detective fiction of the times and presents some interesting observations on the genre and it’s English and American practitioners. He finds that the style of the English writers is better and prefers them over the Americans. Chandler states that though a low form of fiction the popularity of the detective story causes a lot of heartburn among the ‘literary’ writers. It is quite true that the common reader prefers something that entertains him than something that is written in a high brow language. Chandler dissects a popular detective story (The Red House Mystery by AA Milne) called as ‘one of the three best mystery stories of all time’ by Alexander Woollcott. After reading the essay (twice) I have decided to read books by Dashiell Hammett, the American writer mentioned in it.

There are eight stories in ‘The Simple Art of Murder’- Spanish Blood, I’ll Be Waiting, The King in Yellow, Pearls Are a Nuisance, Pickup on Noon Street, Smart-Aleck Kill, Guns at Cyrano’s, and Nevada Gas. After reading ‘I’ll be Waiting’ I wondered why it never struck me to read Chandler’s books though I know a little about Philip Marlowe, his famous creation. I have to begin looking for his first novel ‘The Big Sleep’ and his other books featuring Philip Marlowe.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Hotels, More Food

Burp re Burp

I wouldn’t have been more surprised had I read in the papers that the sun had risen in the west. Used that I am to read about new hotels opening only in Jubilee Hills and surroundings I was rather taken aback (and understandably so) when I read that a new hotel was opened in Hyderabad at Abids. For a few minutes I was actually speechless. It was hard to believe that someone had actually opened a hotel in apna Abids. I wanted to personally meet the gentleman behind the venture and commend him for his bold venture of opening his hotel in such an area. The hotel in question is Hotel Mercure whose opening was splashed across the papers last Monday. At last, I thought, there was something to cheer about on the hotel front in this side of Hyderabad.

But my joy was rather too premature and also short lived. Hardly had three days passed than I read in the Friday papers that yet another hotel was opened in Banjara Hills. I read about the (grand) opening of ‘A’La Liberty’ Pure Vegetarian hotel at AG Heights in Banjara Hills which any Hyderabadi knows is practically next door to Jubilee Hills. For the Jubilee Hills crowd the news of new hotels and restaurants opening in their area must no longer be a cause for any special jubilation as it has become too commonplace for them.

Just how frequent and commonplace it has become was brought home when, just two days later (that is, on Sunday) I opened the papers to read that ‘Hotel Daspalla’ was being inaugurated at Road No 37 the same day by no less a person than the Chief Minister. What that means to the crowd at Jubilee Hills I cannot say but it is sure making me depressed. I cannot fathom the reason though I am not such a foodie and certainly not one to travel all the way across the city to Jubilee Hills just to have some overpriced dish. I do hope that the Jubilee Hills folks are aware of the latest developments and also quite pleased about it.


The way the young generation is driving I was half expecting something of this kind to happen. Sooner or later the young generation shows us how much better (or worse) they can do something that the previous generation has been doing till then. My generation of drivers while managing to drive on the roads occasionally drove into other vehicles, lampposts, pedestrians, and most frequently into the road dividers but never into a lake. In a demonstration of where the next generation of Hyderabadi drivers is headed, a youngster drove his car right into the Hussainsagar Lake. Yes, you’ve read it correctly. He took the whole car into the Hussainsagar Lake. He cleared the foot high pavement, the barrier and steered the car (and his friends too) into the placid waters of the beautiful lake. Luckily they all escaped unscathed. What next? I am eagerly waiting for the next feat by the NexGen.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Recent Haul

Hobbies that turn into habits have a way of making one feel empty and restless when not indulged in regularly. Last Sunday I couldn’t go to Abids as is my habit since I wasn’t feeling exactly like a million dollars and stayed at home. I lay in bed wondering how many good books might have been picked up and regretting I had to miss the morning’s hunt for books at Abids. I knew it wouldn’t me any good for the rest of the week so I dropped in at MR Books at Begumpet where I had seen Haruki Murakami’s ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ some time ago. Luckily, it was still on the shelves so it did not take me more than a few seconds to grab it. But I had to pay a hundred and seventy rupees for the hardbound edition which appears to be a first edition. The original is in Japanese though.

Since I was on a week-long training at Hyderabad I had time in the evenings and dropped in at the book sale by Best Books at YMCA. I looked for something to buy but even after an hour or so I couldn’t find anything worth buying. Just before I was leaving I chanced upon a book by an author who is one of my favorites- Somerset Maugham. It was also a title that I had been looking for since a long time. The book was ‘On a Chinese Screen’ that is not a novel but a collection of the notes Maugham made while traveling up the Yangtze river in 1919. It is like his other book ‘A Writer’s Notebook’ where he recorded his impressions of people and places in his inimitable style. I got this book for eighty five rupees which I think was worth it.

One cannot complain at the way the book sellers at Abids or second hand book sales arrange the books in such a manner that you have to keep craning your neck in both directions frequently. But when well known bookstores do it one cannot help feel irritated. I had dropped in at Crossword Bookstore at the City Centre the other day and happened to look through a collection of discount books arranged on a table. They were arranged as if an illiterate had put them together. One title was facing in one direction and another was facing in the opposite direction making it quite difficult to read them. Then I happened to find two copies of a book by Fakir Mohan Senapati and one of them was marked ‘30% Off’ and the other copy was marked ‘40% Off’ though they were both in similar condition. It makes me wonder if the guys at such bookstores really pay attention to what they are doing. Needless to say I did not buy anything there though I wish I had bought one of the beautiful fountain pens displayed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Eat, Eat and Eat

Not unexpectedly it happened once again. It’s been happening with such unfailing regularity that I have ceased to be surprised. I read that in the past three days alone as many new hotels have popped up in Hyderabad, more specifically, in Jubilee Hills. On Friday in the pages of The Hindu I read about the opening of ‘Aisha’ at the Park. It seems that the restaurant has been designed by Tarun Tahliani, who I thought did only clothes. The news report gave all the usual stuff about the hotel except its location. Maybe they assumed that everyone who reads their paper knew where The Park is located. Honestly I do not know and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is in Jubilee Hills.

Two days after coming across that news item, on Sunday I read in the columns of the same paper about two new hotels being opened. Yes, two restaurants and both of them in Jubilee Hills. The first restaurant, described as a boutique business hotel, is the Nanotel located in Madhapur which is just a stone’s throw from Jubilee Hills. I was impressed to read that this hotel is open 24X7 which is exactly what the Jubilee Hills crowd must have been waiting for all these days. What to do if you are feeling hungry at 3 AM?

The second restaurant I read about was ‘Circle 9’ at SVM@36 which is again located in Jubilee Hills. Apart from their swank homes, glitzy cars this is what I’ve come to envy about the crowd out there in Jubilee Hills. Imagine living amidst so many fancy restaurants that you needn’t bother to cook at home. I really do not hold anything against the Jubilee Hills crowd and it really doesn’t worry me that almost everyone who wants to open a restaurant is choosing to do so at Jubilee Hills. However I’ve begun to worry when I read that Nanking has shifted table, plate and bowl to Jubilee Hills like there aren’t enough restaurants there already. It has moved from Secunderabad where it had been dishing out its delectable fare all these years. I do not know what prompted that move but I guess the crowd in Secunderabad wasn’t just up to their mark. Or maybe it was the parking problem. Nanking was the only high class joint that I happened to have dinner at a long time back, twelve years ago to be exact. Of course, I did not dine there again and also do not remember what I had there for dinner that night in 1998.

Anyway, I do not grudge the folks in Jubilee Hills their food but the fancy restaurants there can’t hold a candle to what we get here in this part of the city. If there’s any place in Hyderabad where people cannot complain about there not being enough good eating places to go to then it must be Jubilee Hills. Someday I plan to visit each and every street in Jubilee Hills and actually count how many restaurants are there in that posh area.

Undoubtedly, the most overused part of a Hyderabadi’s body is the mouth which takes in quite a lot from paan, chai, beer to biryani almost all day. Now that Haleem season is upon us there is one more item for us to stuff into our mouths for about a month. It’s something a lot of Hyderabadis have been waiting for eagerly.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Super Sunday Haul

There are Sundays and there are Super Sundays in my life. Super Sundays are those Sundays full of things that I love. Last Sunday, it was one such rare Sunday when from morning till night, almost every hour was filled either with books, reading about literature, writers, and book sales. In the morning of the first Sunday of the month there was the ‘Literary Review’ supplement in ‘The Hindu’ followed by the visit to the second hand book bazaar at Abids where I hung out until well after lunch time. After lunch it was more books at the second hand book sale of Best Books at YMCA where I spent a couple of hours, vacillating between a desire to pick up more books and a stronger desire not to buy any more books. Ultimately I ended up buying just one book at the sale and the book was Geoffrey Ashe’s ‘The Art of Writing Made Simple.’ Even after reading about a hundred books on writing and also attempting to write a novel while also blogging here I do not feel that I really can write well enough to be published. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with the new crop of writers in India. More about them in a future post but there's something that will warm the hearts of writers.

In this month’s issue of ‘Literary Review’ was the welcome announcement of ‘The Hindu Best Fiction Award’ with a prize of Rupees Five Lakhs. I am looking forward to the short list of five books to be announced in October. In November the final award will be announced. It would be an interesting to watch who wins the prize. I have already made a mental list of all the books that are likely to be on this list. I hope this award will be an encouragement to those writers who are striving to write good books.

In a sign that I am moving closer to the kitchen I picked up another cooking related book and this one was by a famous chef who appears on TV. I found Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Playing With Fire’ in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees. Once again I did not bother to look at the book closely and failed to notice that it did not have the last ten or so pages. Anyway after reading the first two hundred and eighty I hope I will get an idea of how it ends. Incidentally I also learnt that Ramsay has already come out with his autobiography titled ‘Humble Pie’ that I want to read someday.

The second find of Sunday at Abids was John Barth’s ‘Lost in the Funhouse’ which was something I had been looking for. I had read about the essay in a book of writing and have been on the lookout for it ever since. Of course, I picked up Alice Sebold’s ‘Lucky’ that I had missed buying the previous book. I got both these books for fifty rupees and it made me quite happy getting them so cheap.