Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Coffee in an Irani café versus Chai in an Udupi hotel

There are certain things no true blue Hyderabadi would even dream of doing much less think about actually doing them. One such thing happens to be ordering coffee in an Irani café. When one is in an Irani cafe one drinks only chai. Even if chai is not available (which is quite impossible, by the way) no one even accidentally thinks of ordering coffee in an Iran café if he knows where his mind is at. Even the dumbest Hyderabadi doesn’t get such an idea. So the moment anyone does such a thing, he is revealed as someone not from Hyderabad.

Similarly, it is at one’s own peril that one orders chai in an Udupi hotel. Those Udupi guys can’t make chai even if their life depended on it. However, they can make wonderful coffee which is the sole reason why I sometimes step into Udupi hotels notwithstanding the loony waiters one finds there. They stand there, nose up in the air, like you’ve just stepped out of a garbage truck even if you are wearing your best clothes. In my forty eight years of life I’ve yet to come across a smiling waiter in an Udupi hotel.

Anyway, I like to think that the Irani hotel chaps make coffee better than the Udupi guys can make chai because one can at least drink half a cup of the Irani coffee without puking whereas the chai in Udupi joints is something I cannot even bear to look at. Once, in an experimental mood, I made the grave mistake of ordering chai in an Udupi hotel. When the waiter repeated ‘Chai?’ and gave me a peculiar look like I was the first guy in the hoary history of the hotel to have ordered Chai I knew I was in for something. Needless to say it tasted like they have made chai for the first time in their lives. It was the first time in my life that I ever took an oath. That day onwards I vowed never, never to order chai in an Udupi hotel even if it were the my last drink on this earth.

The other day I was at Adarsh café enjoying a couple of chota samosas and chai when two guys walked in and settled down at my table. When one of them looked around for the waiter I knew the guy wasn’t a Hyderabadi. In Irani cafes one dimply doesn’t look or call for the waiter. One simply waits until the waiter spots you and slowly sort of drifts in the general direction of your table.

Then when the jumpy guy asked the waiter, ‘What’s available?’ my hunch that he wasn’t a Hyderabadi was proved right. I realized they were from some place where they don’t even know what an Iran café is otherwise they wouldn’t have walked into the hotel especially after the waiter’s response to their query. ‘Look in that,’ the waiter said, pointing to the glass shelves display the usual items, ‘check there and call me when you’ve decided.’ He then walked away, hands in his pockets, jingling the change.

Which brings us to another Hyderabadi thing. There’s a certain style of placing your order in an Irani cafe that separates the Hyderabadis and the rest of the world. To place an order in an Irani café you should first know your nan katai from your Osmania and your dil pasand from dil kush. Unlike in an Udupi where you ask the waiter what’s on the menu and wait until he stops listing out the 642 items and then takes your order, in an Irani you just tell the waiter what you want, with just your fingers and wait.

But the question remains- if the Irani cafe guys cannot make coffee and the Udupi hotel chaps cannot make good chai, why do they put it on the menu? That, my friends, is something that happens only in Hyderabad and like all things Hyderabadi, it is something that has no simple explanation.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Some More Glitter
Close on the heels of the Hitex Gold and Jewellery Gold Expo that ended sometime last week comes the news of yet another glitter event. I read that the fourth edition of the Hyderabad Jewellery, Pearls and Gem Fair will be beginning from the ninth of July. However, unlike the previous event which was for the general public this Fair is B2B, that is, only for those in the trade. Only those carrying Establishment Licence, Photo ID proof and visiting cards will be let in. Given the stuff that’s on show they might have as well asked them to come in armoured cars and pack a gun.

Target: Manholes
Well, it’s taken the traffic cops to point out that manhole covers on the city’s roads are either above or below the road surface. My engineering colleagues in the GHMC haven’t noticed this perhaps but now they are making arrangements to bring these manhole covers to the level of the road. It was mentioned that about 450 manhole covers are in this manner. I’m willing to bet that there are more than 450 manholes in Musheerabad alone. Anyway, it is good to learn that someone has at last decided to do something about them..

Another Branch of Tamasha Store
Then there was the ad I saw on television the other day about the opening of a branch of another Tamasha store. Generally, in Hyderabad, there are places or localities in the city, where big stores must have a branch at any cost. One will find branches of virtually every big name in Ameerpet, Kukatpally, Dilshuknagar, Patny. Of late, Hitech City has joined this list like there isn’t enough there already. So yesterday I saw on the television that Chandana Brothers is opening its branch at Hitech City on Sunday.

Mr and Miss Corporate
Like there aren’t events happening in Hyderabad, especially beauty pageants and fashion parades, ‘Marve Entertainments’ has come up with the bright idea of organising a Corporate Fashion Contest called ‘Mr and Miss Corporate,’ a fashion and modelling’ event exclusively for corporates ,especially in the IT segment. So they plan to make this a two part event with the finals sometime in August. By this they plan to give the employees in the corporate to display their fashion and modelling talent. There is no dearth of such stylish folks in the IT industry. I hope someday someone will get a similar idea for those in the government!

Biryani and Kebab Festival

At the time of this writing this event must have begun since events like these are rare. By rare, I mean for rare the man on the road, not for the high and mighty (not to mention, rich) for whom there is always some food festival or the other going on one or the other big hotels. So, this place called Gazebo International is organising a week long ‘biryani and kebab festival’ which is guaranteed to be a hit given the Hyderabadi’s fascination for biryani. But I am still trying to find out where the heck Gazebo International is.

Next Post on Wednesday

Friday, June 24, 2011


A Midweek HaulLast Friday when I dropped in at Crossword in the City Center Mall at Banjara Hill for a book launch I spotted a book that I felt I had to buy. It was Ryszard Kapuscinski’s ‘The Cobra’s Heart’ that was incongruously placed among self help books. ‘The Cobra’s Heart’ is an extract from ‘The Shadow of the Sun’ which anyway I may not find so I planned to buy it before I began to have second thoughts. My heart wouldn’t quite calm down until I bought ‘The Cobra’s Heart’ for a hundred and sixty five rupees. It was No 20 on the Penguin Great Journeys list at the back of the book which meant there are nineteen other books I have to buy.

The Find on SundayRecently I read somewhere that fans of a character called ‘Jack Reacher’ in Lee Child’s books were disappointed that Tom Cruise was playing the role. It got me wondering who Lee Child was and why I had never heard of him or his books though it was apparent he was a bestselling crime fiction author. The name sort of stuck in the mind. On Sunday I was walking around at Abids trying not to buy anything when my eyes fell on the name ‘Lee Child’ on the cover of a book. The book was Lee Child’s ‘Worth Dying For’ the latest in the Jack Reacher series it seems but the price of a hundred bucks put me off. Plus there was this self-imposed ban on buying books that I have not been serious about since the past couple of weeks. Anyway, I walked away only to return but after finishing going around and ended up buying ‘Worth Dying For’ for a hundred rupees.

Etc., I first spotted ‘The River of Smoke’ while I was browsing in a second hand bookstore at Punjagutta earlier in the week. ‘The River of Smoke’ is the second book in Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy. Like ‘Sea of Poppies’ ‘The River of Smoke’ too seems to be quite a long book going by its size though I couldn’t tell how many pages it ran to since it was encased in plastic. I had read somewhere that the book would be launched in June so I was not very surprised to see it. But I was sure surprised to find it in a second hand bookstore.

At Crossword on Friday when I went for the book launch, I found several copies of ‘The River of Smoke’ in a special display. I’ll wait until Amitav Ghosh comes to Hyderabad for the launch which I hope he does. But I may have to wait for a couple of months before that happens. Now that the book is out, it is Amitav Ghosh everywhere. There was a lengthy interview in the Deccan Chronicle on Sunday that I read at Adarsh after my Necklace Road routine. The Crest edition of Times of India too carried a write up on Amitav Ghosh and ‘The River of Smoke.’ I just managed to catch the final moments of Sunil Sethi’s interview with Amitav Ghosh on ‘Just Books’ on Saturday evening. I had hoped it would be repeated on Sunday night but unfortunately it wasn’t.

Spotting a Possible BestsellerOn Friday, apart from Kapuscinski’s ‘The Cobra’s Heart’ I saw another book that I felt could be a good read. The book was ‘Ours are the Streets’ by Sunjoy Sahota which, from what I read of the first few paragraphs, sounds like a very good book. There’s a certain edginess to the writing that appealed to me but not enough to make me buy the book right away. The price of the book also made me think of waiting until I read the reviews of the book that I was sure to come across sooner or later in the papers and magazines.

On Sunday at Abids right next to ‘Worth Dying For’ I saw a book by another writer I’ve recently read about a lot- Robert B Parker. It was of the ‘Spenser’ series though I am not able to recollect the title. I might buy it if it is still available next Sunday. Apart from this book there are a lot of books other I have seen of late that I’m tempted to buy though some of them are books that I have already with me. I saw another good copy of Pico Iyer’s ‘Video Night in Kathmandu,’ ‘Be Cool’ by Elmore Leonard, and Pankaj Mishra’s ‘Butter Chicken in Ludhiana.’ I plan to buy ‘Butter Chicken in Ludhiana’ since I haven’t read it yet though it was published ages ago. That’s because I haven’t come across a second hand copy till now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Morning Calm & Grim Thoughts on Father’s Day

The need for solitude amidst nature burns inside all the time but due to work and other distractions it is not always possible. I’ve made it a habit to drop in at Necklace Road early in the mornings one Sunday a month to get some much needed solitude and try calm down. It had been nearly a month and half since I was last at Necklace Road. In the monsoon reason one is not sure of watching the sunrise what with the skies being covered with clouds. Last Sunday surprisingly a clear sky welcomed me when I reached Necklace Road. The other surprise was that there wasn’t a single soul around for quite a long time, at least not until the sun began to come over the horizon. Usually, there are morning walkers and exercisers crowding the place but this Sunday I was alone. I had only the chirping and cooing birds for company. A lone, dark duck waded into the frame just when I clicked the rising sun with my digital camera as if to make the picture complete.

I sat for over three quarters of an hour at the trying to get over a minor heartache and found some of the tumult in my heart began to recede. I had been overlooked for a trip to Chennai to attend a four day training session. Earlier in the month I was overlooked in favour of someone else for a five training session at Pune. It had been so long since I had been out of Hyderabad that I was dying to get out somewhere. However when the opportunity came I was passed over. It rankled in my heart and left me uncharacteristically aloof at work.

After sitting at the lakeside alone watching the sun I was able to get over the disappointment completely. I also figured out what to do with my novel that I am revising probably for the hundredth time. I resolved to finish it by the end of July at any cost and with that decision I left for the second phase of the Necklace Road routine- the paper reading session at Adarsh Café.

I bought the Sunday papers and settled down at one of the tables in the Irani with the intention of spending a long time sipping chai and reading the two newspapers. When I opened them I realized it was Father’s Day. I read the accounts of many celebrities recounting how their fathers helped them in life. I am a father myself now but even after twenty three years I still cannot get over my father’s death.

My mother used to say, and still says, that I am the unluckiest member of the family. I did not know how unlucky I was until that fateful day in August 1988. I was the only one in my family who did not get to take a last look at my father. That day by some curious coincidence two of my brothers were in Delhi and I was in a train on my way to Delhi. When I reached Delhi in the morning when my closest friend came to the railway station to receive me I was a bit surprised. He gave me the news that my father was seriously ill. I was so naïve and did not realize he was already dead. My two brothers had already left Delhi the previous day. I have no idea how I got to the small town where my father was born and where his body was taken for the last rites. By the time I reached it was all over. I was too late. All I got to see were the dying embers on the funeral pyre.

I still don’t understand what made my father persuade me to take the test at Delhi when I was totally against it. He let us all do our own thing and did not bother much about what we did. But that day he actually came along to the railway station to see me off. He never dropped any of us at school or come to pick us up. He did not accompany us on the first day of college or on graduation day. So it was a big mystery why he did what he did. But why I agreed to go was one decision I cannot come to terms with. I’m almost every day tormented by the thought- what if I had said no and refused to make the trip to Delhi?

Monday, June 20, 2011

What's New in Hyderabad?

Another Hotel Crops Up and Another Waits To
To begin with a topic now become too frequent on this blog, another hotel has opened in Hyderabad. Last Thursday I opened the Metro Plus supplement of The Hindu only to find an advertisement announcing the opening of ‘Le Café’ an ‘Europen Style Sidewalk Café.’ ‘Le Café is located along the corridor connecting Novotel to HICC way out at Madhapur. It sounds like just the sort of thing the neighbourhood in Jubilee Hills lacked so I am rather glad for those Jubilee Hills folks. Now they have yet another place to go to in case they miss such a place in Hyderabad.

Yesterday while going towards City Center Mall in Banjara Hills I noticed that another hotel –The Banjara Gateway- is coming up. Since from the looks of the place it might be another month or so before it finally opens, the Jubilee Hills folks can go easy on the drooling for the time being. However, The Banjara Gateway looks like the sort of place the Jubilee Hills crowd may not think of much because for one thing, it is located bang on the roadside on the busy Road No. 1 and another, it doesn’t sound exotic enough for them to drive all the way from Jubilee Hills.

The Longest Wait for the Shortest Book Launch
Meanwhile, I attended a book reading at the Crossword store in City Center Mall on Friday. I had been looking for a good excuse to drop in at a bookstore so when I read about the book reading of Kanika Dhillon’s ‘Bombay Duck is a Fish’ I made plans to be present. Like a sincere government bloke I reached the place well before seven in the evening. After waiting for forty five minutes I was just planning to leave irritated by the announcements of a screechy compere when the author made an appearance at a quarter to eight. In the meanwhile all the 30 odd chairs were filled up with the press people carrying enormous camera bags and tripods like they were going to a war. When the stylish author walked in the cameramen began their photosession right at the entrance that lasted longer than the actual book launch which lasted not more than ten minutes. During those ten odd minutes exactly four questions were asked and answered. I was glad I dropped my plan to buy the book since I saw another book that I picked up. I will write about it in The Sunday Haul post on Friday.

A Unique Expo
I saw an ad on the back of a bus sometime last week. It seems Hyderabad is hosting a ‘National Expo on Obesity Treatment’ somewhere in Ameerpet sometime in the coming days. No wonder with so many hotels and so much to eat in Hyderabad they’ve chosen our city for the event. I wonder how many of those visiting this expo will be from Jubilee Hills.

Next post on Wednesday: Morning Calm and Father's Day Thoughts

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Sunday Haul- Two Mags and Three Books

It had been quite sometime since I had come across one of my favourite magazines- the Conde Nast Traveler- at Abids. The last time I found it was almost three months ago in March. So when I saw the March 2011 issue of Conde Nast Traveler last Sunday at Abids I picked it up feeling quite happy I’d get to read about travel though I am not doing much of it of late. There was another surprise in store when I found the April 2011 issue a little later with another seller.

Finding the two issue of CNT seemed a sign that I was in for a good haul of books though I wasn’t really keen to buy any book. It is becoming hard for me not to pick up any books at Abids on Sundays. Perhaps the only solution to this craziness would be to stop going to Sundays. Otherwise if I go to Abids I cannot return without a book in my hand. This Sunday I came back with three more books apart from the two issue of Conde Nast Traveler.

The first book I found was Amit Choudhry’s ‘Freedom Song’ that I got for thirty rupees. It is a bit difficult to find second hand copies of books by modern Indian authors at Abids. The other week I had found ‘Lunatic in My Head’ and this week it was ‘Freedom Song.’ I had also spotted Tishani Doshi’s ‘The Pleasure Seekers’ last Sunday but this Sunday I could not locate it.

The second find of the day was Jonathan Raban’s ‘Arabia’ which appeared familiar to me. After some hesitation I finally bought the book for fifty rupees. Later after I got home and went through my list I found that I already possess a copy of the same title. I had forgotten that I had bought it three years ago for thirty rupees. I did not regret it though since there is always someone who likes to read travelogues.

The last find of the day was Elmore Leonard’s ‘Out of Sight’ that I found in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees. I already have copies of this book but this copy had a different cover. I was surprised to find that ‘Out of Sight’ was made into a movie starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. Now I want to reread ‘Out of Sight’ once again and try to find the DVD of the movie and watch it. How dumb of me not to have known about the movie!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lunch by Accident at The Grand Kakatiya

It isn’t everyday that one (if one happens to be a government servant) gets to dine at hotels like the Grand Kakatiya. Last week I had lunch there unexpectedly. The last time I dined at Grand Kakatiya was way back in the year 1998. Quite coincidentally, on both occasions, I’m pleased to state, I did not have to pay for my meal. The first time, it was actually a prize. Something I wrote won me a free meal for four persons. So I gathered four of my friends and had a nice la carte meal at Kakatiya which one of my friends still remembers. Last week however I was at Grand Kakatiya to attend an official meeting at short notice. Lunch was by accident. More later on how it happened, but first, the food.

No matter how many articles on haute cuisine, how many books by top chefs I’ve read so far, my taste buds remain steadfastly loyal to Hyderabadi stuff, especially biryani. I looked at the items on the buffet spread at the Grand Kakatiya and felt a bit giddy. Since I am a vegetarian by choice, I started off with vegetables and stuff like that but couldn’t really relish it. On the contrary, the dum ka murgh and kacche gosht ka biryani appeared really interesting so I decided to have a go at them so I could write about it here and make everyone drool. Also, I could get to write about how the biryani in Grand Kakatiya compares with the stuff in joints like Paradise and Bawarchi.

I really cannot say that the biryani at Grand Kakatiya was better than the biryani at Paradise etc but it was really good. Biryani goes down well when you eat it with bare fingers, sitting down in a noisy, crowded Irani joint where the air is redolent with the aroma of biryani. But since that day I had to have my lunch standing in the stately Hyder Mahal, with a spoon in one hand and the plate in the other, I couldn’t really tuck it in. But I had enough to say that the food, especially the biryani, was really good stuff, with almost no oil, just spicy enough and light on the stomach. The meat was tender, well cooked, and tasty enough to make me wonder, albeit briefly, why I had chosen to be a vegetarian. The biryani at Grand Kakatiya gets 99 out of 100 marks. The deduction of one mark is for the absence of any aroma though I’d understand that they don’t want everyone in the hotel to know there’s biryani on the platter that day like in places like Paradise where you can begin to smell the biryani from Ranigunj itself.

After biryani the only thing that one can eat is stuff like either Qubani ka Meetha or Dabal ka Meetha and nothing else, if there’s any space left in the stomach. Though I was not exactly in the mood to eat anything else, the guy at the dessert table ladled out two large spoonfuls of Qubani ka Meetha in a bowl and gave it to me like he wanted to help me put on some weight. I was glad I accepted it because the meetha was really good, thick, viscous and so really sweet that I finished off the whole bowl which wasn’t a good idea. The moment I put back the empty bowl the guy immediately asked me if I wanted to try out the Hot Chocolate Mud Pie. Though I did not want to try anything at that moment the guy looked at me like he had himself prepared it. So, in it went, the Hot Chocolate Mud Pie, the first time I was eating something with Mud’ in the name which, quite surprisingly, was rather good.

It was such a pleasant experience, the lunch at GK after the numbing office routine and the usual food that I felt like thanking everyone present in GK that day. But I realized I had to thank myself for doing something I wasn’t expected to do. What happened was that the other week I had been asked to prepare a report for a Parliamentary Committee quite urgently. I managed to do it with the help of my two colleagues and forgot all about it until last week when I was told I had to be present at the Grand Kakatiya at ten sharp. I ended up in GK feeling quite nervous since a PC was something one couldn’t afford to take lightly. But mercifully it went off quite smoothly and I thought that was it when I was told about the lunch.

Next Post on Friday: The Sunday Haul

Monday, June 13, 2011

What's New in Hyderabad?

Last week, I found there’s growing evidence that people are realizing that there’s life in Musheerabad after all. After Cafe Coffee Day, now Musheerabad (Padmaraonagar to be exact) has a Jawed Habib Branch. I learnt this from a handbill that dropped out of the newspaper one morning sometime last week. Though I have no actual need to visit Jawed Habib I was glad about the development. According to the handbill Jawed Habib now has branches at Banjara Hills, Himayatnagar, Karkhana, Kompally, Koti, Madhapur, Marredpally, Mehdipatnam, Penderghast Road, Srinagar Colony, Tarnaka and also, quite intriguingly, at Moosarambagh. I can understand a Jawed Habib branch at Kompally, but Moosarambagh? The only thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Moosarambagh is the Musi nala, which, in case you didn’t know, is the birth place of almost all mosquitoes in Hyderabad and is widely regarded as the Mosquito Headquarters of Hyderabad.

More Glitter
It wouldn’t amount to an underestimation to say that there could be anything between 500 to 1000 gold and jewellery stores in Hyderabad alone. One could think the number is enough to cater to the needs of the Hyderabadi crowd since gold isn’t something one gotta have in order to breathe properly though the women folk might differ from that view. Anyway, finding that these outlets aren’t enough somebody in the jewellery trade got the bright idea to organize an 'Hitex International Gems and Jewellery Expo' out in Madhapur. According to the news item from where I got this information, there would be over a hundred exhibitors from Amritsar, Agra, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad etc including exhibitors from Myanmar and Thailand with stalls selling everything from gold, gems, beads, ornaments, pearls, jewellery etc. In short it means that there is a whole lot of glitter on sale so quite naturally you’ve got to pay even to look at it. The entry fees of Rs 200, I’m sure, isn’t a deterrent to the sort of crowd that would have driven all the way to Hitex from places all over Hyderabad and beyond to buy more stuff. In case you were planning to go there, alas, today was the last day.

Yet Another Hotel
So while that’s the latest development on the gold and jewellery front, there’s another development on the hotel front. A new hotel with a mouthful of a name has come up at Madhapur. I heard that Aditya Sarovar Premier, a complete hotel with rooms, a pool and a poolside grill, 24 hour coffee shop, 10,000 SFT banquet facilities, conference facilites, and of course, an oriental restaurant and lounge bar has quietly come up in Hyderabad. This too is located at Madhapur, which everyone in Hyderabad knows, isn’t too far from Jubilee Hills. So, the Jubilee Hills crowd has one more place to fill up in case they are feeling too bored with the places in Jubilee Hills.

So that's what is new in Hyderabad.

Next post is on Wednesday titled 'Lunch by Accident at the Grand Kakatiya'

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Sunday Haul

It is only natural that after more than two decades browsing for second hand books one acquires or develops an instinct for the good book. Seldom has it happened in my experience that I had picked up a relatively unknown (to me) title on a hunch and found it to be a good pick. Recently, Jo Nesbo’s ‘The Leopard’ was one such find but the one I remember quite well was picking up ‘The Saddest Pleasure’ and later finding that it was a bestseller. I felt my instincts were on spot when I read in TGS about this same book. On Sunday my eyes fell on the title ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ and I picked it up. I felt it was a different book, one that could turn out to be a good read. Of course, the blurbs at the back had a lot of praise but I’ve learnt not to trust it too much. Anyway, I picked it up for fifty rupees and later when I read the online reviews I found that my hunch had been right. It was indeed a very good book so I felt justified in breaking my resolve not to buy any books.

However, there was another book I bought, one that I couldn’t resist buying. Only the week before I had given one of the copies I had of Elmore Leonard’s ‘Freaky Deaky’ to a friend so when I found the same title again at Abids I couldn’t help buying it. But this was a different edition, of Arbor House- William Morrow with Elmore Leonard’s photograph by Anne Liebovitz on the back cover. It was for sale for only thirty rupees so the temptation was doubled. Anyway, there was a book I did not buy though I should have. I saw a hardcover copy of Tishani Doshi’s ‘The Pleasure Seekers’ which I had to leave behind. The guy asked two hundred and odd rupees for it so I felt it would be better to buy a new copy sometime in the future and moved on.

The only thing that got my attention in this month’s The Literary Review was the front page article by Parvathi Nayar about books by doctors. I’m currently reading Atul Gawande’s ‘Complications’ which was mentioned in the article. I learnt that his first book was ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ that I want to read someday. Another article was Vikram Kapur’s column where he bemoaned how some writers don’t write because there’s no place to publish. His idea that well known magazines like Outlook, India Today should publish short stories seemed good but impracticable when it is clear that these magazines have more ads than articles.

The Literary Review also had a detailed piece on Rupa’s new venture ‘Aleph’ with David Davidar at the helm. Though I had a vague idea of some of the publishing houses in India and could recognise some names like David Davidar, Ravi Singh etc I never really paid much attention to the names in publishing world. But ever since I started writing my first novel I began keeping track of who works where. In TOI the other day I got a complete low down on the latest happenings in the publishing world in India.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tamasha Stores- 2

If there’s anything one should give credit to the Hyderabadi men for, it is the manner in which they spare no expense when it comes to decking up their women. So much so that the guys really don’t bother about their own appearance and don’t spend much on clothes which has the unfortunate effect of making them appear so unstylish that you can pick out a Hyderabadi guy from a crowd just by his clothes alone if not from the dumb expression on his face. Or else there’s really no reason why there should be at least one store selling gold and jewelry opening almost every week in Hyderabad. Last week I read that ‘Hyderabad’s biggest gold store’ –‘Jos Alukka’s’ was being inaugurated by, of all the people, Mahesh Babu, the actor. (Odd how these supposedly ‘macho’ heroes are peddling women's stuff - NTR for Malabar Gold, Nagarjuna for Kalyan Jewellers.)

I get the impression that after food, it is perhaps gold that the Hyderabadi spends on most. There are whole streets lined with gold and jewelry stores, like in Punjagutta, Abids, Basheerbagh-Liberty and even Pathergatti in the old city and so on, where almost every shop is packed with people buying gold and gold jewelry like it is going out of fashion. On the same day I also read about the Postal Department joining hands with Reliance Money Infrastructure Limited to sell gold coins through post offices as if there aren’t enough stores already selling the yellow metal. If there’s proof needed about how loaded the Hyderabadis are then one only has to look at the crowds in these stores. Then there was the jaw dropping news item that I read in the same page in the same newspaper about MBS Jewellers’ plans to sell gold and silver in the form of bars and coins like gold and silver jewelry wasn’t enough. It’s on page 2 of The Hindu dated June 4, 2011.

Then there was the news of the opening of ‘Women’s World’ at Punjagutta, a mall exclusively for women to buy their stuff from. I wonder why they had to open such a store (though I agree it is a good idea) when almost every second store in the city sells only stuff meant for women. There’s little for guys to choose from and fewer shops to buy. Wherever one goes, one sees only stores where the majority customers are women. There’s nothing wrong in it though but I wonder who they dress up for considering how the average Hyderabadi man has eyes only for biryani. I also wish these tamasha stores wouldn’t advertise so often, so loudly and so widely through handbills, newspaper and television ads, hoardings and what not. It gets a bit too much after a while and gives the impression as if we Hyderabadis don’t really have anything worthwhile to do except eat, drink, and shop.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Sunday Haul

I know I cannot trust myself to return from places like Abids empty handed, without at least one book in hand. The other Sunday I had resolved not to buy any more books at Abids for at least the time I manage to read about two dozen books. But last Sunday that resolve of mine crumbled when I chanced upon a book I that I had been on the lookout for. This book was on my ‘to read’ list and I was just waiting to save enough to pick a new copy someday at a bookstore. But when I saw a second hand copy at Abids I realized I could buy it at a fraction of its original cost. Somewhere at the back of my mind was another resolve of mine- not to buy used copies of books by the latest Indian writers and to buy only original, new copies at bookstores. But it was impossible to resist buying the second hand copy of Anjum Hasan’s first novel ‘Lunatic in My Head’ that was for sale at seventy five rupees. Anjum Hasan is one of the finest poets in the country and I’ve been following her work since a long time so finding the book was a lucky thing.

I’m waiting for next Sunday because it would be the first Sunday of the month which means that there will be ‘The Literary ‘Review’ supplement in The Hindu. There might be something about Philip Roth winning the Man Booker and the attendant controversy. I keep coming across Roth’s ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’ and ‘Goodbye Columbus’ at Abids in case anyone is interested. Though I have ‘Goodbye Columbus,’ I am yet to read it. Another piece of news that sort of made me glad was the one about the Naipaul-Theroux patch up that I read had happened last week. Both VS Naipaul and Paul Theroux are writers I enjoy reading so the spat between them was something which bothered me a bit. Also, this patch up could just be the excuse I need to read Theroux’s book ‘Sir Vidia’s Shadow’ which in a way contributed to the breakup between them. I had bought this book more than a couple of years ago and it sits on my bookshelf waiting for me to pick it up and start reading.

I was disappointed that Best Books have not held a sale of second hand books this summer which they otherwise do regularly. I wonder what the reasons could be. Maybe they couldn’t get space at YMCA, Secunderabad where they usually have their sale. Another grouse is that the program ‘Just Books’ hasn’t been telecast on NDTV Profit channel last week too and I wonder if they have decided to do away with the program altogether. It might not be the case but it sure hurts to learn that the television channels do not give as much importance to books as they do to other stuff.