Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wet Blanket Over the City & Another Eatery in Jubilee Hills

The city appears like someone has thrown a wet blanket over it. Since the past one week or more its been cloudy and raining almost all day. Dark clouds cover the sky all day all week without even a peek of the sun. It was actually depressing weather. No matter how many cups of Irani chai I drink my moods do not seem to improve. I am a kind of sun guy. If the sun is not out then I feel gloomy. As if that wasn’t enough, for the second successive Sunday I had to go to work in the afternoon. Sunday afternoon is the time when I indulge in a rare luxury- of taking a post lunch nap. But no such luxury for me this Sunday as the rains kept us busy. Not only I missed my nap I also missed watching ‘Just Books’ that comes at four pm on Sundays. I couldn’t get to watch it on Saturday either as I was still at office. All this combined to put me in a rather bad mood.

While coming to office on Monday morning I had the first of two realizations of the month. The first realization was that ‘If your Sunday is messed up then the entire week is messed up.

Normally when I am gloomy I buy books to cheer myself up. Though I had picked up two good books on Sunday morning at Abids I still felt downbeat. I needed something else to cheer me up. Being the end of the month retail therapy was out of the question so that left me with only one option-eating at my favourite Irani joint. So on Monday afternoon, still feeling gloomy, I rode towards Paradise Bakery where I made the second realization of the month: No one weighing less than 55 kgs can eat more than two egg puffs at Paradise Bakery. Since I fall into that weight category I know it after I had two of them. My usual favourite- chota samosas- were not available so I went for the egg puffs. Until recently they were eight rupees a piece but now the price is ten rupees for one. In keeping with the increased price the size of the egg puff too seems to have grown. Each egg puff was a monstrous piece, puffed up like a boat with the egg half in the centre. It took me quite a long time to finish off those followed by a cup of the usual nectar at Paradise. The mood improved a bit after that.

Talking about eating reminds me of the news item I read on Sunday. I read that Jubilee Hills has another eatery that opened recently. ‘Quiznos’ a US based Sub Quick Service Restaurant, launched its flagship store in the country and it found no other place better suited for it than our own Jubilee Hills (Filmnagar) with its high population of rich and hungry folks. I read that Quiznos would be opening ten more stores across the city by the end of the year but in the next month two of them would be opened at Inorbit Mall and at Infosys, Pocharam Campus.

In case I happen to be in Filmnagar, Jubilee Hills I plan to drop in there and check out the fare, that is, if it isn’t crowded by the ever hungry Jubilee Hills folks who, I am convinced, will be flocking the store at all times of the day like there are no other eateries for miles around.

Friday, August 26, 2011


A combination of rain and the Ramzan shopping spree due to which the regular shops were open, resulted in a fruitless visit to Abids. It left a vague dissatisfaction in me returning empty handed from Abids last Sunday. But it gave me a reason to drop in at a bookstore and pick up at least one book. Luckily, on Tuesday afternoon, I was able to complete a personal project which I felt entitled me to buy myself a reward. And the only reward I could think of for myself was a book. So off I went and landed at the MR Bookstore beside the Punjagutta flyover on Wednesday evening. I found a book I had missed during a previous visit to the same store.

Sometime last month or so I had seen Pankaj Mishra’s ‘Butter Chicken in Ludhiana’ at the store but did not buy it. I had been looking for this book since a long time and when I found it I did not feel like buying it, strangely. A couple of weeks later when I dropped in at the store and looked for it I could not locate it anywhere. I had thought it was gone and regretted not buying it the moment I spotted it. But last Wednesday I was quite happy to come across the book on a different shelf. I bought it for Rs 110 which was quite reasonable for a new copy the original price of which was Rs 225. I plan to begin reading it one of these days.

There’s another crime writer appearing on my radar. It is funny how when the eye is searching for the hard to find title or the elusive writer it tends to ignore names that appear again and again everywhere. There are a few writers whose books I see everywhere, every week yet I have not felt the urge to check out their books. James Patterson is one such writer I haven’t paid much attention to all these days till the other week. Recently I read somewhere that James Patterson tops the Forbes list of writers raking in the most moolah, way above Danielle Steele, Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer. Even that bit of news did not make me check out his books. Either I am dumb or trying to be too choosy about my reading but I wish I had looked closely at his books earlier.

The other day I was reading an article by Donald Maas and came across James Patterson again. Maas wrote about Alex Cross, JP’s famous creation and how he built that character. There was the title of a bestseller ‘Along Came a Spider’ that I jotted down. I feel it is better to come across titles of books to be read in this manner than finding them out on lists on the internet. Then yesterday I read an interview of James Patterson in an old issue of ‘The Writer’s Handbok’ of 2002. Here again were a few books of his mentioned including ‘Along Came a Spider.’ It appears James Patterson has a thing for drawing upon nursery rhymes for the titles of his books.

Now I plan to look for books by James Patterson especially ‘Along Came a Spider’ and ‘Kiss the Girls.’ I will read only these two books first and if they are any good as they say I will try to read the rest of the 16 or 17 Alex Cross books. If I can find his first novel- The Thomas Berryman Number- then I hope to read it. Another reason I want to read his books is that he tells people not to read one of his titles ‘Season of the Machete’ which was one of his early works and one that he himself does not like. I definitely decided to read his books when I read that he writes in long hand and doesn’t use a computer. Another reason why I want to read his books is becaue I read that James Patterson was a copywriter who rose up the ladder and became head of JWT. Why is it that most writers I like to read happen to be copywriters?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


There is nothing worse, (at least for a government servant I guess,) than waking up to a rain- soaked Sunday morning than being told to come to office. That is what happened to me last Sunday which I now rank as one of the worst Sunday of the year. I had planned to do quite a lot on Sunday- go to Abids, watch Just Books that I missed on Saturday, take a nice post lunch nap, go out with the family in the evening and so on. The moment I got the call from office to come all such plans were swept away in the current of irritation that filled my mind.

If the rain filled morning wasn't enough, the Sunday paper was not delivered until eight in the morning. And when it came it came with the front page sodden. The rain continued to fall until it was time to go to Abids. It is one habit that consumes me on Sundays and it is something that leaves me uneasy if I do not indulge in it. I had initially decided not to go because of the rain. But when I met Uma at about half past eleven the rain had stopped. We decided to make a dash to Abids where there were more disappointments in store.

The regular shops were open for the Ramzan shoppers which meant that the second hand booksellers had to set up shop at other places. Some like the Best Book guys did not even put out any books. It is usually in the heaps of books that BB has that I find some good books like the two Spenser titles that we got the previous Sunday. There weren’t the usual sellers to be seen which took away some of the fun from the hunt. The seller who had Timeri N Murari’s ‘The Arrangements of Love’ that I had seen the other week, asked for a hundred and fifty rupees for it. I was not willing to pay that much so I walked away and later, I regretted not buying it. I came home empty handed.

After a hurried lunch I left for office feeling totally disappointed. It was a couple of hours work calling up district and finding out about the heavy rainfall. The news triclked in that four people died in the heavy rains. It was distressing to read the details. One person in Mahbubnagar was washed away in a stream. When I read the detailed report that said he had three small kids my gloom deepened. There are some things about the job that make you wish you were doing something else than read such things.

At half past five I finally left the office and went to Adarsh for tea. Of late the chota samosas at Adarsh seem to be too hot to taste. Someone in their kitchen seems to be too fond of green chillies and is adding them to the chota samosas in abundant quantities. The overspicy samosas did not go down well with the chai and added to my disappointment.

Anyway, on the way home the rain started again and for almost two hours there was no let up. I sat on the steps of a shop in Himayatnagar watching those in cars go by unmindful of the rain. There were entire families on motorbikes on the road getting wet but keen to go somewhere. By the time I got home it was half past seven. I had not bought a single book at Abids, I missed my nap and also missed watching 'Just Books' that is telecast at four on Sunday afternoon. More than that I missed out on some quality time with the family on a holiday. But that's the price sometimes we guys in the government have to pay.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Sunday Haul- Two Spenser Books

While hunting for books at Abids all alone has its own advantages, going with a friend with similar tastes for the book hunt brings its own surprises. Instead of two eyes there are four looking for familiar authors and hard to find titles. Last week it helped me land two books by an author I have been recently enamored of- Robert B Parker. Both books were spotted by the friend I had with me, faster than I could have done it.

Since a couple of months, Uma has been accompanying me to Abids on Sundays. Before we begin the hunt we sit at a cafĂ© and drink chai while talking about books, writing and authors. It is a time of the week I look forward to because we talk for a long time about these matters. Last Sunday, we were sifting through the books heaped near the demolished movie complex when Uma fished out a brand new, hardcover copy of ‘Back Story’ by Robert B Parker. This from a heap of books selling for only thirty rupees! If I were to buy a new copy it would have set me back by at least a couple of hundred bucks. It was a very lucky find.

Hardly had I recovered from the excitement of getting the book, moments later Uma fished out another Spenser title by Robert B. Parker from the same heap. This was a paperback copy and appeared quite old. The title was ‘Ceremony’ and we got it for just twenty rupees. It was a bumper haul I felt since my collection of Spenser titles has jumped up to six till date. I am sure if I look carefully enough I will find more titles. Next Sunday onwards I plan to do just that.

Apart from these two titles I had also seen Timeri N. Murari’s ‘The Arrrangements of Love’ and Joe Eszterhas’ ‘American Rhapsody’ that I felt I should have picked since it was in the heap of books selling for only twenty rupees. I had also seen a good copy of Anish Trivedi’s ‘Call Me Dan’ but it was not within my range. Then there was the copy of William Dalrymple’s ‘In Xanadu’ that I did not buy for the same reason.

However, I also picked up the February 2011 issue of Vanity Fair that has an article on J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ that I like immensely enough to read it every six months or so. There are other articles in it like the one about Huffington Post, Christopher Hitchens, Justin Bieber and so on that I am yet to read.

The haul of the two new Spenser titles pleased me no end and we decided to have a celebratory chai at Hotel Grand behind the GPO. When we went in, we were for a big surprise. Almost half of the main hall was taken up by a newly built staircase that led up to the first floor. The cement staircase not only marred the old time look of the Grand it also literally cast a shadow. The staircase took up an entire side of the hall towards a lane, and blocked out more than a couple of windows. Somehow I did not feel like visiting the place again. However, being a sucker for the chai in such Irani joints, I might, after all, go because the chai there is something unique.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Holiday Blues & Getting Drunk on Sambar

The Perks

One of the perks of working for the government, one that I really like, is that there seem to be more holidays than we deserve. Last week there was one of those spells of continuous holidays lasting three days due to the weekend holidays- Second Saturday, Sunday and the Independence Day on Monday.

I would have enjoyed these three days of holidays more if I had company at home. The family wasn’t at home so I was all alone with nothing much to do. I cannot sit before the television for more than an hour. Of course, I had a lot of books to read and I managed to finish Robert B. Parker’s ‘Playmates’ in a couple of hours. Rest of the time I was on the road. Another perk (not quite a perk, actually) is getting past security checks. Normally I am not stopped on the roads by cops. But sometimes, if for some reason I get stopped, I’m let go after they take a look at me. How the cops know behind the full face helmet through which only my eyes are visible is a distinguished face is a mystery, but I’m waved through. Of course, there are times when the cops want to see the bike’s papers- RC, Licence, Insurance papers and so on. I show them nothing. I tell what I am (a government servant in case you did not know) and leave. Sometimes I have to take out my ID but that’s very rare.

On account of the security precautions for the Independence Day, there were cops checking all motorists on the roads. There are some cops who are cocky when performing such duties which makes them think they can talk flippantly with anyone. The cop who stopped me on Sunday was one such. He said,’ Licence, RC dikhao sarkaar.’ So he got to see I was actually the ‘sarkaar’ when I took out my Secretariat ID card. When I showed it to him he acted like I had shot him in the chest. In his confusion he almost gave me a salute when I drove away, jauntily.

Drunk on Sambar

During those three days when the family wasn’t at home there was plenty of food for the mind but nothing for the body which meant I had to eat out. I got a chance to check out two places I had been planning to visit since long.

On Saturday morning I had breakfast with a cop friend I had not met for a long time. We met at Chutneys at Begumpet. First we had idlis which were large, soft but rather thin which isn’t what idlis are supposed to be. But I couldn’t complain much because it was followed by a ’70 mm Dosa’ which was large enough to cover the table. Though the idlis and the 70 mm dosa weren’t anything to write about I cannot say the same about the sambar. It was simply out of the world, quite unlike anything I had tasted before. It was spicy and so good I actually drank some of it straight from the bowl. If felt really good. So I had another bowl. Next time I go to Chutneys I’ll go only for the sambar.

On Monday, my kid had to attend the Independence Day function at his school so I brought him home on Sunday night. Early on Monday after the function we went to a place called Nandini at Nallakunta for breakfast. We had dosas, special ones, which were quite okay. They came with a triangular cut on one side that was folded over the other half. The stuffing was on the flap that was cut and was spread out. Frankly, I haven’t seen it done anywhere and I wondered at the creativity. While the food wasn’t anything worth writing about, the service was too good. I asked for very hot coffee and it came piping hot. The waiter actually had a smile on his face while taking the order and also while serving us. One doesn’t see smiling waiters in small hotels anywhere in Hyderabad. Of course, the people at the big ones like Grand Kakatiya and Novotel are always smiling at you, sometimes for no reason.

Since I liked the Nandini waiter’s attitude treating us like we were special I left a huge tip. It is something I do when I come across people who appear to enjoy their work even if it is waiting on tables.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Back-from-the-Break Post

Another New Hotel in Banjara Hills

I may have taken a break but there seems to be no break in this trend of hotels opening in the Hill area. Another hotel opened in Banjara Hills called the Al Faham. As per the write-up in Metro Plus by Serish Nanisetti written in his inimitable style, the place offers patrons a ‘Taste of Arabia’ with a lot of stuff like on the platter. It sounds like something that I shouldn't miss tasting at least once. So the next time I’m in Banjara Hills I hope I remember about Al Faham since I am rather keen to check out some of the dishes there.

A New Newspaper in Hyderabad

At the same time someone else brought out a new daily newspaper called ‘The Hans Times’ which makes it another of the umpteen newspapers coming out of Hyderabad. I bought a copy of the paper the other day to check it out. There isn't anything different in it that the others do not have. Since it has just been launched it takes some time to get everything right. It isn't a newspaper that I would want to read everyday though.


I have been checking out the second hand bookstores in the city now and then which pays off in unexpected ways. I had thought it would be a tough and time consuming task getting together Robert B Parker’s series of Spenser novels but a visit to some of the bookstores here proved otherwise. I picked up ‘Hush Money’ that I read right away in two days flat and also 'Playmates' a couple of days later. I am confident I can get at least half of the Spenser titles at one go. Sometime during the end of the month I plan to take an inventory in all stores and do something very drastic to have as many Spenser titles as possible on my bookshleves.

The SundayHaul

On Sunday at Abids I picked up three books. The first find was Elmore Leonard’s ‘Bounty Hunters’ which is a Western and quite unlike anything I have read by him.

The second find was a book I once had and lost- Len Deighton’s ‘Yesterday’s Spy’ that I got for twenty bucks. I plan to stock up on a few of my favourite Len Deighton titles like ‘Only When I Larf’ and ‘Billion Dollar Brain’ since it has been quite a long time since I read his books. I am planning to reread some of his books especially those featuring Bernard Samson, one of my favorite Len Deighton charecters.

The third find was ‘How to Do the Times Crosswords’ which I got for only thirty rupees. But more about this book, another similar book, and my crossword addiction in a later post.

There were other books as well that piled up on the table. My friend Daniel presented me with Nicholas Sparks’ ‘A Bend in the Road’ that I plan to read quite soon. I have seen his books almost everywhere but haven’t yet read any title. ‘A Bend in the Road’ might be the first book I might read. Then I got another book, one that I was saving up for since a long time, as a present from Umashanker. He gave me a surprise by taking out Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘Living to Tell the Tale’ and handing it over to me at our usual haunt at an Irani cafe near home. It was a beautiful hardcover Borzoi First Edition and I am waiting for the moment I’d finish reading ‘the Bounty Hunters’ and Rohinton Mistry’s ‘Such a Long Journey’ before beginning ‘Living…Tale’

The First Haleem of the Season

It is that time of the season when nothing weights more on the Hyderabadi's mind than plans to eat haleem as many times (and as much) as possible. So being no different in other Hyderabadis in this respect I too had, for a change, only haleem on my mind which normally is occupied with thoughts of books and fountain pens. I wanted the first haleem of the season to be the absolute best so I decided to go to the nearest joint where I can get it.

I took my kid along to Paradise and had the first haleem of the season. The price of haleem per plate was a lot higher than the price of a litre of petrol. At eighty rupees per plate it beat the price of petrol by a clean nine rupees. Maybe you are wondering why I am comparing haleem with petrol. On a litre of petrol I can travel about fifty kilometres or four days of going to and from office. But if I can get a plate of good haleem then maybe I can go through the entire season without refuelling. But that is not what I intend to do- my plan is to taste haleem at least five more times at different places. Next in line is the haleem at Bahar.

That was what I've thought up during the break. The next post would be on Tuesday, as usual.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Milestone Post- 600 Posts in 4 Years of Blogging

After my novel which I’ve stuck to since seven years, it is the blog I’ve been doing for such a long time, that is, four years. I am surprised that I have managed to blog for four long years without too many breaks. It gives me an opportunity to tell myself that I am quite a determined person. I hadn’t exactly started out thinking I would be a serious blogger. It was something that was born out of a whim. Everyone was doing it and I too wanted to do it no matter that I did not have any idea of what to blog about. But I got started and kept on going with the support of a lot of people who read it. Though they have said I have got better over time I do not believe it wholeheartedly. There is a lot I have to learn.

Anyway, it was on August 1, 2007 that I wrote my first post. Four years down the line the posts have grown to six hundred. About half of them are about what I love most- books. Some of them are about what I love, and also detest- Hyderabad. Some of them are random pieces about some of my travels, things that have happened to me, and so on. There is no unifying theme in the blog but surprisingly I had a very small following of some really wonderful people who encouraged me with their comments. I am truly grateful to them. If not for their comments that I was sometimes funny, that I was consistent, that I was prolific, I would have given up the blog long ago.

I intend to carry on for at least another year so I could say I have blogged for five years. But before starting the fifth year of blogging I want to celebrate four years of blogging. I had an unintentional celebration the other day about which I will write later. Another item on my list of celebrations is to take a short break from blogging. I will return to the blog on August 12.