Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sunday and Midweek Haul

One problem common to all people who love to read and have to contend with is that of lack of time to read all the books that they have picked up by the dozen. I do not know about others but I pick up books from the pavements and elsewhere at the rate of at least two books a week. At that rate I end up with over a hundred books on my shelves every year. This is normal for me but what is not normal is that only half the books get read what with the demands of the job, family, friends, writing taking up most of the time leaving little time to indulge in the pleasure of reading.

On an average I manage to read five or six books a month which means that there is a very large mountain of books waiting to be read. One book of the many that make up this mountain of unread books in my house is Malcolm Muggeridge’s ‘The Green Stick’ that I happened to find at a second hand bookstore a couple of years ago. Though I haven’t found the time to read ‘Green Stick’ by Malcolm Muggeridge I found and bought another of his books last Sunday. I picked up his ‘Tread Softly for You Tread on My Jokes’ for only twenty rupees at Abids and that was the only interesting find of Sunday.

No one who is serious about his/her passion for reading and books can claim not to know Anne Fadiman, the superb essayist, bibliophile and also fountain pen lover. I don’t really remember where I read about her and the book she wrote- ‘Ex-Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader’, but the title remained in my mind. I was desperately hoping I’d find it in a second hand bookstore or on the pavements of Abids though it appeared quite impossible. But then, like I said several times I am quite lucky when it comes to books, so on one magical afternoon a couple of years ago I found the book. It was in the Best Books Store at Lakdi-ka-Pul where I had gone one afternoon when I had a lot of time on hand. I saw the book on one of the racks and my heart gave a jump. I grabbed it immediately and was ready to pay any amount but seventy five rupees was what I paid for it. All the essays in it are wonderful but one that I read again and again is one about fountain pens with the title ‘Eternal Ink’ which I think everyone who loves fountain pens must read. Anne Fadiman doesn’t seem to have written many books but last week I got lucky with another of her book of essays.

Last week I happened to be at a bookstore where I came upon a treasure trove of books that I hope to pick up from at least one a week. I have a list of half a dozen good titles I plan to buy and the first book I picked up from the trove was Anne Fadiman’s ‘At Large’ that I got for a hundred rupees. Anne Fadiman is one of those rare souls who loves books, writing with fountain pens and also writes extremely well which is where I realize I am different from her. 'At Large' is a hardcover book with twelve essays on nature, coffee and other topics that really seem everyday ones until you read them. I haven’t read all of them except ‘Coffee’ which is really good but I think the essays in ‘Ex-Libris’ are the ones I love more which maybe because they are all about books and the love of reading. Next week maybe I will pick up a title on something slowly becoming a passion with me- cooking and chefs.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The New Pen

Among many memories of my father is one of waiting anxiously until late into the night for him to return from Hyderabad to the small town where we stayed then. I wondered what he would have brought for us from Hyderabad. I knew, along with my elder brother, that there would be the latest Amar Chitra Katha comic in his suitcase along with toys. The suitcase would be opened only in the morning and so I would go to be bed wracked by anxiety. Sometimes we would sneak into his room and take a peek inside dad’s suitcase while he was in another room. On every trip to Hyderabad or some other place he would invariably get something for us kids. Now I am doing the same for my son, getting something for him whenever I go on long trips. This time I bought a fountain pen for him as he has started showing interest in writing with fountain pens.

It had not been in my mind to buy a fountain pen for my son but when I walked into a stationery store at Nehru Place to look for notebooks my eye as usual fell on the fountain pens displayed. I asked to look at a blue Pelikano school fountain pen. I almost returned it when I saw it had a cartridge filling system but the man at the counter said he had a piston mechanism that could be fitted. The pen was for one hundred and eighty rupees and the piston cost me another hundred. I put it in my bag and forgot all about it until I returned home. The first thing my kid made me do, after giving me a brief hug, was to open the bag and show him what I had got for him. Later when he gave me the pen to write with after filling ink in it I was amazed. The nib was so smooth I couldn’t believe it. To use the exact word, the nib was 'smooth as silk' just like the nib on my Meisterstuck. This was the second branded pen I was writing with after my MB. I am so besotted with the Pelikano school fountain pen that I am planning to buy one for myself. Or maybe since I can always write with my son's Pelikano I might go in for a Lamy fountain pen. There was an ad for Lamy in yesterday's papers. Uma has a Lamy pen that he speaks very highly of. Of course, it is beautiful and writes fantastically which is why he bought it in the first place. I plan to buy one, a basic model which is not too expensive, sometime in the near future.

However that wasn’t the only pen related stuff that happened on the Delhi trip. On my way to the Capital from the International airport at Hyderabad I looked into the William Penn store in the departures terminal. Actually I did not know they had a store in Hyderabad so it was a pleasant surprise coming across it. I spent about quarter of an hour ogling at all the beautiful fountain pens displayed in the store and wishing there was some way I could earn a million rupees in a day. I also tried to imagine how stylish I would appear with a Rs 25,000 fountain pen in my shirt pocket. Later in Delhi at Khan Market I saw just the outside of the ‘editions’ pen store. I did not go in though since there is no point just gawking at the pens without being able to afford them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Delhi Haul

My Second Copy of 'The Groaning Shelf'
Only someone who loves books can perhaps understand why I did what I did at Delhi last week. It isn’t unusual for me to buy second or even third copies of books I like. So far I had picked up six copies of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and more than two copies of books by Dave Barry and Elmore Leonard especially his ‘Get Shorty.’ But these were all second hand books on which I did not have to spend more than fifty rupees a copy. I had never bought two brand new copies of any book until last week.

Sometime back while looking in Walden Bookstore in Hyderabad for Pradeep Sebastian’s ‘The Groaning Shelf’ the thought had occurred to me about buying a second copy. Sine the store had only one copy I had to be content with it though I had not entirely forgotten about buying a second copy sometime in the distant future. I wanted one copy to read and one to keep on my shelf unopened, unread and pristinely preserved.

Last week while going around Khan Market in Delhi I spotted Bahrisons Booksellers and stepped inside wondering if they had TGS. Not finding it on the shelves I asked the attendant if they happened to have a copy of it. He looked around for sometime, fished it out from a stack on the floor and put it in my hands. I hadn’t actually planned to buy the second copy of TGS right away. I had not even finished reading from the copy I had at home. Since, on my travels I am a bit extravagant, I quickly took out my wallet and paid for the book before I could change my mind. The second copy of TGS in my hand, I walked out of the store, in a happy state of mind, brushing away thoughts of what the missus would say when she saw two copies of the expensive book on my shelves.

On Friday I went to Nehru Place and wanted to check out the bookstore I had been to on my previous visit in April. At the bookstore I saw Edward Albee’s 'Stretching My Mind' for only hundred rupees. It appeared to be a book of essays, something that I love to read. But I did not feel like buying it because the top half of the book’s cover was torn. I hesitated for a while and took the painful decision not to buy it. Now I feel a bit of regret not buying the book. I also checked out two other sellers who had stacked their books in the open. There was nothing interested in the stack of books most of which had faded covers and not in particularly good shape. I had bought Elmore Leonard’s ‘Get Shorty’ from one of these sellers and the same guy had his ‘Switch’ too but I let it be.

Conde Nast Traveller Comes to India
At the IGI airport on Saturday on my way back to Hyderabad I had a lot of time to kill. The departures terminal was swarming with soldiers in their combat uniforms who occupied half the seats. There were some passengers who kept their bags in the seats beside them as if afraid someone would run off with them. If they thought the floor was too dirty to keep their precious bags it wasn’t so. The floor was terribly neat and good enough to eat off it. Unable to find a place to sit I wandered around and discovered that there were two bookstores in the terminal. One was ‘Odyssey’ and the other with a name that I forgot. It was in this store that I picked up the inaugural issue of ‘Conde Nast Traveller India’. I bought it, temporarily putting aside my rule of not buying anything, especially books and magazines, wrapped in plastic.

I am glad I bought it though the magazine weighed a ton with 320 glossy pages making up the inaugural issue. The magazine would be a bimonthly issue I read. On the cover was Aishwarya Rai. Inside, there was more interesting stuff. First thing I read on opening the magazine was Suketu Mehta’s piece on Indian eateries in New York.

John Le Carre's 'Our Kind of Traitor'- Future Buy
One book that I definitely plan to buy soon is the latest book by John Le Carre "Our Kind of Traitor.' On Sunday I had read Michiko Kakutani’s review of the book in the Deccan Chronicle. She had written that 'Our Kind of Traitor' was far better than some of Le Carre's previous titles that I too had not read. I had not bought them somehow sensing that they may not be as good as his older books. I was right since MK too said the same thing. MK’s glowing review of 'Our Kind of Traitor' means I have to, have to buy and read it. John Le Carre is one of my favorite spy thriller writer on par with another master of the same genre- Len Deighton.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Delhi Post

During my recent trip I did a lot at Delhi than what I went there for though half the time I was practically idle. I had more experiences than I had bargained for considering the fact that it was an official trip. I was not just asked to go but to go by plane as if there was no other means of reaching Delhi. Anyway, some of the experiences include ignoring a famous young actor standing behind me in the queue at the airport, pandal hopping, and traveling by the Metro apart from gawking at Khan Market where I bought something that I already possess.

Almost every time that I had flown by plane (which is not very frequent) I had the experience of meeting celebrities especially film stars. On my first ever flight back in the eighties the entire Indian cricket team accompanied me. On a recent occasion the comedian Brahmanandam was my fellow passenger. This time it was another younger actor. Since I was booked on an early morning flight I was at the airport at six in the morning. I stood waiting in line for the security check when Allu Arjun walked in and stood behind me. He was restless, glancing away at his mobile and looking around to see if anyone had recognized him. Not many seemed to know the actor but in the end a young attendant took him aside and got him a special check. I was glad he wasn’t traveling on the same plane.

The day I reached Delhi, Thursday, turned out to be a holiday for the whole city since it happened to be the last day of the Commonwealth Games. Everything was shut and the roads were deserted. There were gun toting soldiers and cops everywhere. Delhi appeared like a virtual fortress. Since all offices were closed I stayed at home watching television and reading old issues of HT Brunch.

I was staying at CR Park with my brother. In the evening I went out with my two nephews and sister-in-law ( who is a Bengali) to check out the puja pandals. It was quite an experience for me to watch how the Bengalis celebrate Durga Puja with everyone doing their bit. We went around five pandals in CR Park and at every pandal there were dozens of cops armed to their teeth. Roads were cordoned off and entry to cars was restricted to those belonging to the residents only. Everyone stood patiently in line to go through the metal detectors at the entrance. No one seemed to be in a hurry to go anywhere unlike we Hyderabadis who would have been swarming all over the place. That was Thursday’s experience but the experience on Friday too was something that was a first in my life.

I was totally unprepared for the swank Delhi Metro. On all my trips to Delhi I have never failed to visit Connaught Place whatever the weather be. On most occasions it was cold and in April this year on my way to Shimla it was hot as hell in Delhi. But this time it was very pleasant and sunny. On Friday after completing my official business I was all set to go to Connaught Place. My brother told me to go by the Metro. The nearest Metro station was at Nehru Place. I took a bus to Nehru Place and found my way to Kalkaji Temple station where some construction was still in progress.

Once inside the station, my Hyderabadi jaw dropped when I looked around. It was unlike anything that I had seen. It was clean, modern with all steel and glass. I had to buy a token which looked like the sort they give out at malls etc where you keep your bags. The blue plastic token was an electronic one which opened the gates to let me into the station. I was wondering aloud how to get to CP when a young, quiet looking Sardar told me to follow him. He was so tall I could only see his turban above the heads of the crowd. When I saw the train stream in my Hyderabadi jaw dropped further. The doors opened and I stepped in. There were scrolling screens which showed the name of the next station. There were announcements too about the next station and which side the doors would open. I got down at Central Secretariat to catch another train to Rajiv Chowk. The stations were marvels of modernity with silent escalators, sign posts, smartly dressed crew and silent crowds. There was virtually no jostling though there were some who pushed their way in even before those inside got down. Of course, that was the Indian touch.

After going around the virtually deserted and almost unrecognizable CP I caught the Metro train back to Nehru Place. CP had a new look with barricades, newly painted surfaces, and a lot of nice changes. However, I did not find anything worth buying or looking at and simply wandered around gawking. I had been to Bahrisons at Khan Market earlier in the day when I had to visit an office which happened to be at Khan Market. Work done, I spent an hour gawking. I visited the only bookstore at Khan Market- Bahrisons where I found the owner ticking off an employee for disappointing a customer. He had apparently asked for a book and the guy wasn’t able to get it in time. At the store I picked up a second copy of a book that I already possess. It isn’t unusual of me to buy second copies of books I love but this happened to be a brand new book. This was a book worth every rupee of its price. In the next post titled ‘The Delhi Haul’ that I will put up on Friday I will write about this book.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Off to Delhi

The thing I miss most about my previous post is the relentless travel that I had to do. Almost every day I travelled to villages that used to get progressively smaller the deeper I went in. I went to villages that had no roads, to villages that had no building worth looking at and also visited villages far, far away from towns and cities. The only way to reach these villages was by bike or by bus. It was dreary to make these trips that were back breaking. It was worth visiting the villages if only to observe at close quarters how rural India lived. Most of the time I actually looked forward to those visits that took me to newer villages and newer faces almost everyday. However, on several occasions I wished I were somewhere else other than in a dusty village square talking to farmers. I wondered if there’d ever be any change in the way I traveled and also the places I traveled to. I used to dream of zipping around in a car. I did not, however, dream of flying in planes on work. That dream is almost coming true this week.

In my present posting at Hyderabad, confined to my desk, I wondered if I would get to travel anywhere apart from the twenty minute ride to and from office every day. Until yesterday I was fantasizing of going away somewhere faraway in a plane. I never imagined the dream would be coming true so quickly. Yesterday I had been told to be ready to fly to Delhi on office work, so tomorrow I am off to Delhi for a three day trip. It isn't that I am going on some high level meeting but on an errand that someone has to make. For the second time in a year I am visiting Delhi which is something of a record for me because I don't usually visit Delhi so often. The last time I was in Delhi was on my way to Mashobra. I am very keen to take a look at how Delhi has changed after the CWG. Last time the work on the flyovers and other structures was going on. I want to see how Connaught Place has been transformed.

I am told the people in Delhi are staying indoors on Thursday, the last day of the CW Games and the same day I'd be landing in Delhi. It seems the whole city would be shut down. I'll be stepping out on Friday only and after completing my official errand I plan to go around a few places. I want to check the second hand booksellers at Connaught Place and also at Nehru Place if I get the time. The next posts would be on the trip to Delhi.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Latest Food Joints in Hyderabad

Though normally preoccupied with books, bookstores and writers I also keep an eye out for other things that I am interested in, such as the restaurant scene in Hyderabad. That is because the scene changes almost every week, with new joints opening with a predictable regularity. Sometime last week I was passing through Begumpet and saw a sign board that announced the imminent opening of a branch of ‘Chutneys.’ They have a couple of branches in the city with the original ‘Chutneys’ on the main road to Jubilee Hills. This was the place where I was treated to a lavish buffet lunch by the producer of a TV comedy that I happened to contribute a few episodes.

Those who’ve been shocked by the news of the closure of ‘Gayatri Bhavan’ at Himayatnagar are in for another shock. ‘Gayatri Bhavan’ for those living in this side of Hyderabad was a sort of landmark. Many a genteel Hyderabadi especially those living in and around Himayatnagar has partook of the stuff that GB dished out. This idli-dosa joint where I too had eaten quite a number of times had shut down sometime last year. For a long time I thought that the place was undergoing a renovation looking at the construction activity going on. A couple of months back I saw a board that ‘McDonalds’ is opening an outlet at the very place where Gayatri Bhavan once stood. A lot of Hyderabadis who’ve eaten at GB and later passed away peacefully must be turning in their graves at this news.

The road that links Paradise Restaurant with Minister’s Road passing through Sindhi Colony has no fewer than a dozen eating joints. Two names catch my eye- ‘Rotti-Shotti’ and ‘The Idli Dosa People’ whenever I pass through that locality. A loved one’s birthday is coming up shortly and I plan to have dinner at ‘Rotti-Shotti’ to check if their ‘khaana-vaana’ is any good.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

More Book Talk

This is the last of the daily posts of this special week. Next week onwards it is back to the usual schedule- Tuesday and Fridays only.

Like it wasn’t enough compelling me to buy almost brand new issues of two different editions (the US and the UK editions) of Conde Nast Traveller every other week at Abids, fate has brought in another edition. The other day while looking high and low at Walden in search of a copy of Pradeep Sebastian’s ‘The Groaning Shelf’ I didn’t spare even the magazine racks. I got temporarily distracted from the hunt though, having chanced upon something unexpected. On the rack was ‘Conde Nast Traveller India’ priced at a hundred bucks. Coming close on the heels of Lonely Planet that launched its Indian edition recently, Conde Nast Traveller magazine is the latest but welcome addition to the travel magazines now crowding the shelves. I wanted to buy the inaugural issue but it was wrapped in a transparent plastic sheet. I don’t buy anything without first taking a look at it even if it is Conde Nast Traveller.

Most of what I learn about new books and book stores is through the papers. This week the papers had a lot of stuff about books, writers and bookstores. Those living in Tarnaka at last have a new bookstore opening in their midst. On Wednesday I saw an ad about a new bookstore- Shree Central Book Shop- opening in Mudra Complex, beside Big Bazaar in Tarnaka. Funny how there are many localities where one cannot find a single bookstore like Tarnaka, Kukatpalli and such places. I hope my friends in Tarnaka now stop grumbling about having to make long trips to buy books. I guess this is a branch of the bookstore of the same name at Clock Tower in Secunderabad. The ad also said that they are soon opening another branch at Pragathinagar, Kukatpalli.

For the fourth or fifth consecutive year the Nobel has gone to yet another writer I have not had the good fortune to read. However, Mario Vargos Llosa isn’t an entirely new name to me since the name is always quoted along with that of Gabriel Marcia Marquez. Long back I had seen one of his books at Abids but I did not buy it. It is one of those stupid decisions one has to live with I guess not picking up books by such writers.

Now that the Literature Nobel issue has been cleared I am curious to know who will get the maiden The Hindu Best Fiction Award. This month’s Literary Review carried the shortlist with eleven books on it. I am a bit embarrassed to reveal that I have not read any of the titles in the list. However, going by the various reviews of the books on the list I would bet on three likely contenders- Anjum Hasan (Neti, Neti) or Tishani Doshi (The Pleasure Seekers) or Manu Joseph (Serious Men) but Anjali Joseph (Saraswati Park) might turn out a surprise. The world has to wait until November 1 to know who wins the prize.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Midweek Haul- 'The Groaning Shelf'

This is the sixth daily post of this special week. The next one will appear tomorrow.

There are few things I go to great lengths to obtain. I am capable of anything (short of theft and murder) when it comes to books. There’s no saying how far my love for books will take me. Though I have been meaning to buy Pradeep Sebastian’s ‘The Groaning Shelf’ ever since I’ve read about it, I’ve not been able to buy it till yesterday. Something more pressing (a new mobile phone) made sure I was left with little money to buy a new book. Add to it the delay in getting the pay because of my transfer, my desperation to buy TGS reached a new peak. When I read the review of the book in the latest ‘Literary Review’ in The Hindu I couldn’t hold myself back. So on Thursday I set off to the bookstores to look for and buy ‘The Groaning Shelf.’ It turned out to be quite a long hunt.

Though it was quite late in the evening on Thursday I decided to check out ‘Crossword’ at the City Centre Mall in Banjara Hills first. I was disappointed to be told that the book was out of stock. Undeterred, I next went to the Landmark store in Banjara Hills. I entered the store hoping I’d find the book. But alas, Landmark too had run out of stocks of TGS. I wondered if the other booklovers in Hyderabad had got to the stocks much before me. The thought that they might be reading the book much before me made me determined to check every bookstore in Hyderabad till I found it.

The next stop was the small Oxford Book Store in Banjara Hills again. The sales person asked me to spell out ‘Pradeep’ and also ‘Groaning’ which made me wonder about the caliber of the salesmen in bookstores. The ones at Landmark and Crossword too had asked me to repeat the title like they had never heard the word ‘Groaning’ before. But it was at my fourth and final stop at the Walden Bookstore that I got lucky. The young attendant gave me the happy news that they had TGS in stock. But he was unable to find a copy. I was surprised I too couldn’t spot the book, the keen eyed guy that I thought I was having spotted Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Corrections’ last Sunday at Abids. Anyway, I watched in despair, as the attendant looked all over the store. Finally after checking some invoices in a side room he rushed out and went straight to a rack and took out the book. I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t the one who spotted the book.

TGS is a compact sized hardcover book with a little under three hundred pages filled with some inviting essays on books. If the simple cover was arresting in its own way then the pages themselves held another surprise. The outer edges of the pages were notched which gave the book an interesting appearance. Also, the book was light which belied the weight of the words on its pages. Somehow I get the feeling that the author must have chosen the size and had the last word on the overall appearance of the book. But whatever, TGS is a book everyone who claims to love books must have on their bookshelves.

Only after I reached home after my three-hour, four-bookstore book hunt did I feel happy holding TGS in my hand and leafing through it. The brand new book with the pure white on the cover appeared striking beside the sad looking pile of second hand books taking up half of the dining table at home. For what I paid for TGS (Rs 395) I could have easily bought not less than a dozen secondhand books at Abids. But books on books by bibliophiles are not written so often and also hard to find so I really do not mind the big hole in my wallet.

Sometime in the coming weeks I will attempt a review though the thought makes me nervous. Tomorrow, in the next post, I will write about another interesting discovery I made at Walden.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Tragedies on the Job

This is the fourth daily post of this special week.

Never did I imagine, remotely even, that post-mortem reports would form a substantial part of my job-related reading. On a typical day I get to read at least half a dozen post mortem reports. It isn’t that I have to do it compulsorily. I have this habit of reading everything that comes to my table even if they are reports relating to deaths in accidents. I simply cannot resist reading anything that can be read even if it is just a pamplet about home tuitions. I want to read it from top to bottom. Also, I have to confess to a morbid curiosity to know how someone died. Frankly speaking, reading those reports is depressing especially when the reports happen to be those of children.

When someone who is below the poverty line dies an unnatural death in accidents and the like the state government pays fifty thousand rupees ex-gratia to the next of kin. That amount comes from our department. As soon as the accident happens the local officials release the money and later send the details to us for reimbursement. Among the details they forward are the post-mortem report and the FIR filed by the police. The FIRs are a category apart written they are in the language only cops know. It happens to be my job to go through such details before forwarding the papers for approval by the bosses.

Reading about the deaths of adults in road accidents etc doesn’t particularly have any effect but there are certain deaths that cause a lot of anguish. Entire families seem to perish in accidents in our country. Two that I cannot forget are the deaths of families that drowned while the country boat they were traveling in capsized in a river in spate. The other was about a family that died in a road accident. This accident took place on the road that I used to take to Suryapet. Going through the list of names, the details of their age, the injuries they suffered is enough to cause a lot of mental turmoil. I wonder how those members of the family who were lucky to survive would cope with the loss of their loved ones. The day I read about such deaths of families I cannot think normally. Those are the days I wish I wasn’t so addicted to reading.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Sunday Haul- Lucky, Lucky, Lucky.

From Monday to Saturday this week I will be posting daily.

Unlike lightning, luck does have a way of striking one at the same place more than twice, if not again and again. The other Sunday, I had found Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Simple Art of Murder’ at Chikkadpally. I was delighted to learn that I was extremely lucky to have found the book. This Sunday I found another Raymond Chandler title- ‘The High Window’ that I got for twenty five bucks. I hope this is also a lucky find. I have not yet started reading all the stories in the earlier title except the first one. ‘The High Window’ is Chandler’s third book and one that added to his growing fame. Since Chikkadpally comes before Abids I had a feeling that it was going to be a lucky day at Abids if finding Raymond Chandler was any indication.

The first find at Abids this Sunday turned out to be by a writer I had read about only recently. Sometime back I had read about Jonathan Franzen in an issue of Time and also in the issue of Vanity Fair that I found last week. I did not expect to find any of his books in secondhand bookstores stores much less at Abids. I had read that ‘The Corrections’ had sold three million copies one of which I discovered in a heap selling for twenty rupees at Abids. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the name on the cover of the paperback book. This was one writer and one book I had read about only weeks ago and one I had actually looked forward to reading someday. The day has come! ‘The Corrections’ runs to nearly six hundred pages. This is one book that is going to take me days to finish reading but whatever I am terribly glad I found this book.

I have lost count of the number of books on writing that I have read till date and I have also not count the number of times and examples of Ernest Hemingway’s writing that I read in those books. So far I have read only a few stories by Hemingway but not any of his novels. I am more interested in reading his non-fiction but his non-fiction books are few and also difficult to find. ‘Green Hills of Africa’ is one book I read about very recently and it was by a lucky coincidence that I found the book at Abids on Sunday. It was my third lucky find but it came at a steep price. The seller wasn’t budging from the fifty rupees that he quoted for it. I paid because I did not want to break my lucky spell.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

What the Reviews Don't Tell

Until recently I used to marvel at people who carried two mobiles and wondered how they managed to get through life juggling them. As usually happens to me when I wonder at some strange things a similar experience happened to me. For about a month I went around carrying two mobile phones (one personal and the other, official) feeling odd. I was in a dilemma- neither could I leave the personal phone at home nor could I burden y friends with the news that my mobile number had changed again. So I ended up carrying the burden of two chunky mobile phones a month before a solution suggested itself.

The solution was buying a dual SIM mobile phone. I spent weeks trying to decide which phone to buy since I wanted an MP3 player as well as a good camera in it. There were too many models with these features but I had my heart on the LG KS660 model. This model has Touch screen, a 5 MP camera, a ‘powerful’ MP 3 player and a host of other features. I was desperate for it but there was only one problem. I had no money to buy this model that costs over ten thousand rupees. It wasn’t worth spending so much on a mobile phone I was told repeatedly by those watching the stars in my eyes. I made a wise choice and snapped out of my dreams of sporting the LG KS660 mobile phone. Instead I decided to go in for another model. Sometime last week Motorala launched two dual SIM models but they too seemed way beyond my budget so I decided to for another model- the Samsung 2152.

I was told to go for a dual SIM phone in which the two SIMs were active so this model (the Samsung 2152) according to the reviews on the net, had that facility. I had planned to go with a friend to buy the phone because it makes me a bit nervous buying electronic stuff. But last Sunday I was passing through Punjagutta and dove into Hyderabad Central on an impulse. It was my intention only to check out other models and their features.

Going to Hyderabad Central was a minor revelation to me. Inside the lift, the attendant gave a strange look at a couple who said they had come to watch ‘Robot.’ He told them the tickets were sold out for weeks ahead. The whole mall was packed with people and there was no place to move around. People were waiting in the food courts watching others eat leisurely. People were trying out jeans, shirts and what not. There was a small crowd gathered to watch a handful of mobile phones displayed. I was one of them. It did not take me more than a minute to decide on the model I wanted to buy. I bought the Samsung 2152 for a little under four thousand rupees. I asked the salesman, as he put in my two SIMs, questions which I thought were the ones to ask. But I forgot a crucial one. Even the reviews did not have an answer to that problem that I discovered after I reached home.

The model had the feature of having both the SIMs active which meant that one could receive calls on either of the SIM. But if you had to make a call from the second SIM it would take no less than five minutes to do so. Only one SIM is a default one, I learnt, from which one can make calls easily. It was only when I tried to make a call from my second SIM I learnt about a new problem. I had to switch SIMs which involved pressing a lot of buttons for a long time. The phone reboots before it switches to the second SIM. This was one thing none of the reviews talked about, unfortunately. I was told that in the Chinese models one can make calls from both SIMs easily without switching.

Other features or non-features I discovered about my new mobile was that it had only one ringtone to choose from. 'Beyond Samsung' was the name of the ringtone which was so lousy that I doubt even the company people would use it on their own phones. It also did not have a memory card. I am sure there are a lot of surprises in store for me and I am eager to find them out. My phone has more 'non features' than 'features' in it that are useful.

Monday, October 04, 2010

'Joy of Giving Week' in Hyderabad

Starting today, for a week, I plan to do one post daily since I seem to have more time on my hands than money.

Last week something that I had been long trying to find out revealed itself to me in a rather unexpected way. Everyone knows, out there languish talented, hardworking people eager to make a honest living if only they had a bit of money. After years of traveling in rural areas I know how hard it is for some people to make a living. It was in my mind for long to do something to help instead of merely expressing sympathy. I was wondering how to go about identifying genuine people in need of a loan small enough for me but big enough for them to make a major difference in their lives. Last week, while reading the morning papers a small leaflet slipped out. It was the announcement of the ‘Joy of Giving Week’ event at Padmaraonagar which is near my home. I went with family in the evening and met a youngster in a stall of ‘Rang De’ which is an NGO which does exactly what I was thinking of. Now I am planning to go through the profiles of people who need a loan and pick out someone who I can help.

I find it very humbling to know that there are people and organizations who spend a lot of time and effort in helping people with problems like AIDS, learning disabilities and such problems normal people don’t pay attention to. At the fair I went around the stalls of several NGOs working for such people. More surprising was the fact there were eager youngsters mostly from the IT industry volunteering in the JGW. There was a fun element too to the event. School kids were dancing and giving performances. There was an enthusiastic youngster (I do not recollect his name) who I was told is seen often on television, belting out some popular film hits spurred on by the gathering. The crowd made of underprivileged school kids, visitors (many of them appearing well to do,) and others enjoyed the show that created a sense of participation and bonhomie.

An eager, polite youngster working for Microsoft who was in the Rotaract Club stall told me he’d come personally to collect a lot of stuff I wanted to give away. The next day I offloaded a carton full of books that I no longer wanted to read, clothes, ballpoint pens, pencils, an old keyboard and a mouse. The kid gave away some of the books I had bought for him to read when he was young. Apart from these articles there is something better that I can give- a helping hand and that I plan to do through Rang De. (