Friday, December 30, 2011

Books Read in 2011

Though I’ve read only fifty two books this year, which is roughly half the number of books that I bought, I am happy in a way. Some of the books I’ve read this year are truly outstanding. This is the list of the fifty two books that I read in 2011. Some of these books are those that I am reading for the second or the third time. Anyway, I’ve managed to read one book a week, on an average.

1. ‘Up in Honey’s Room’ by Elmore Leonard
2. ‘A Case of Exploding Mangoes’ by Mohammed Hanif
3. ‘Utz’ by Bruce Chatwin
4. ‘If It Is Sweet’ by Mridula Koshy
5. ‘Global Soul’ by Pico Iyer
6. ‘Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
7. ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ by Mohsin Hamid
8. ‘Moth Smoke’ by Mohsin Hamid
9. ‘One L’ by Scott Turow
10. ‘Diamond Dust’ by Anita Desai
11. ‘White Album’ by Joan Didion
12. ‘Istanbul’ by Orhan Pamuk
13. ‘Freaky Deaky’ by Elmore Leonard
14. ‘Eats, Shoots and Leaves’ by Lynne Truss
15. ‘Complications’ by Atul Gawande
16. ‘Counsel of Strangers’ by Gouri Dange
17. ‘Out of Sight’ by Elmore Leonard
18. ‘Playing with Fire’ by Gordon Ramsay
19. ‘The Cobra’s Heart’ by Ryszard Kapuscinski
20. ‘After Dark’ by Haruki Murakami
21. ‘Worth Dying For’ by Lee Child
22. ‘Such a Long Journey’ by Rohinton Mistry
23. ‘Chance’ by Robert B Parker
24. ‘Hush Money’ by Robert B Parker
25. ‘How to Write a Damn Good Novel’ by James N Frey
26. ‘How to Do the Times Crosswords’ by Brian Greer
27. ‘Playmates’ by Robert B Parker
28. ‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’ by David Ogilvy
29. ‘Ceremony’ by Robert B Parker
30. ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ by Haruki Murakami
31. ‘Back Story’ by Robert B Parker
32. ‘Butter Chicken in Ludhiana’ by Pankaj Misra
33. ‘Shining Through’ by Susan Isaacs
34. ‘Art of Dramatic Writing’ by Lajos Egri
35. ‘Love and Other Infectious Diseases’ by Molly Haskins
36. ‘The Joy of Running’ by Thaddeus Kostrubala
37. ‘The First Five Pages’ by Noah Lukeman
38. ‘Along Came a Spider’ by James Patterson
39. ‘The Courage to Begin’ by Robert Bingham
40. ‘Lunatic in My Head’ by Anjum Hasan
41. ‘Yesterday’s Spy’ by Len Deighton
42. ‘A Nice, Quiet Holiday’ by Aditya Sudarshan
43. ‘To Jerusalem and Back’ by Saul Bellow
44. ‘God Save the Dork’ by Sidin Vadukut
45. ‘Rough Weather’ by Robert B Parker
46. ‘Your Sacred Self’ by Wayne W Dyer
47. ‘An Expensive Place to Die’ by Len Deighton
48. ‘One Day I Will Write About This Place’ by Binyavanga Wainiaina
49. ‘Mole’ by Ashokamitran
50. ‘Balipeetam’ by Ranganayakamma
51. ‘Right To Write’ by Julia Camerson
52. ‘Write Away’ by Elizabeth George

In 2012 I hope to read more books than I plan to buy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 11 of 2011

Sometimes it is hard to believe that one can find the sort of books one can find on the pavements of Abids and in second hand book stores in Hyderabad. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to find some really good boks on my visits to Abids on Sundays and also in sales of second hand books. In this year, that is 2011, I’ve found more good books than in any other year in the past. By end of the last week of December I have picked up a total of 103 books.

Of those 103 books a lot of them are by Robert B Parker and many titles are travel related. Of the books I’ve picked up in 2011, these are the top 11:
(1) ‘Sands of Arabia’ by Wilfred Thesiger
(2) ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ by Joan Didion
(3) ‘The Sands of Arabia’ by Freya Stark
(4) ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ by P. Sainath
(5) ‘The Emperor of all Maladies’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee
(6) ‘Playback’ by Raymond Chandler
(7) ‘A Case of Exploding Mangoes’ by Mohammed Hanif
(8) ‘Get Carter’ Screenplay by Mark Hodges
(9) ‘The Continental Op’ by Dashiell Hammett
(10) ‘The Cobra’s Heart’ by Ryszard Kapuscinski
(11) ‘A Small Death in Lisbon’ by Robert Wilson

This is the list of all the 103 books I bought during the year.
1. ‘Beyond the Mexique Bay’ by Aldous Huxley-
2. ‘The Autograph Man’ by Zadie Smith
3. ‘The Girl Who Kicked the Dragon Tattoo’
4. ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion (2nd copy)
5. ‘At Home With Books’
6. ‘Lucky Man’ by Michael J. Fox
7. ‘The Almost Moon’ by Alice Sebold
8. ‘A Case of Exploding Mangoes’ by Mohammed Hanif
9. ‘If It Is Sweet’ by Mridula Koshy
10. ‘The Liveliest Art’ by Arthur Knight
11. ‘Shining Through’ by Susan Isaacs
12. ‘Newspaper Days’ by Theodore Drieser Rs
13. ‘Diamond Dust’ by Anita Desai
14. ‘The Finkler Question’ by Howard Jacobson
15. ‘Wonderland’ by Joyce Carol Oates
16.‘The Elephant Vanishes’ by Haruki Murakami
17 'This Boy’s Life’ by Tobias Wolff
18 'Life is Elsewhere’ by Milan Kundera
19 ‘Stephen Fry in America’ by Stephen Fry
20 ‘Get Carter’ Screenplay by Mark Hodges
21 ‘The Arrangement’ by Elia Kazan-
22 ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ by Che Guevara
23 ‘The Continental Op’ by Dashiell Hammett
24 ‘Encore Provence’ by Peter Mayle
25 ‘Dave Barry’s Guide to Guys’ by Dave Barry
26 ‘Better- A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance’- Atul Gawande
27 ‘After Dark’ by Haruki Murakami
28 The Man in My Basement’ by Walter Mosley
29 ‘All the Pretty Horses’ by Cormac McCarthy
30 ‘Complications’ by Atul Gawande
31 ‘A House for Mr Biswas’ by V.S. Naipaul
32 ‘The Leopard’ by Jo Nesbo
33 ‘Perdido Station Street’ by China Mieville
34 ‘Beyond the Blue Mountains’ by Penelope Lively
35 ‘Lunatic in My Head’ by Anjum Hasan
36 ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ by Pascal Mercier,
37 ‘Freaky Deaky’ by Elmore Leonard
38 ‘Freedom Song’ by Amit Chaudhri
39 ‘Arabia’ by Jonathan Raban
40 ‘Out of Sight’ by Elmore Leonard
41 ‘The Cobra’s Heart’ by Ryszard Kapuscinski
42 ‘Worth Dying For’ by Lee Child
43 ‘Chance’ by Robert B Parker
44 ‘The Great Plains’ by Ian Frazier
45 ‘Danziger’s Travels’ by Nick Danziger
46 ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro
47 ‘Such a Long Journey’ by Rohinton Mistry
48 ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius
49 ‘The Simoquin Prophecies’ by Samit Basu
50 ‘Hugger Mugger’ by Robert B Parker
51 ‘The Tao of Cricket’ by Ahish Nandy
52 ‘How to Do the Times Crossword’ by Brian Greer
53 ‘The Bounty Hunters’ by Elmore Leonard
54 ‘Yesterday’s Spy’ by Len Deighton
55 ‘Playmates’ by Robert B Parker-
56 ‘Backstory’ by Robert B Parker-
57 ‘Ceremony’ by Robert B Parker-
58 ‘Hunting Mister Heartbreak’ by Jonathan Raban
59 ‘Driving Over Lemons’ by Chris Stewart

60 ‘The Penguin Book of Modern Indian Short Stories’
61 ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ by Joan Didion,
62 ‘Sun After Dark’ by Pico Iyer,
63 ‘The Wayward Bus’ by John Steinbeck
64 ‘The Quiet American’ by Graham Greene
65 ‘The Glass Key’ by Dashiell Hammett
66 ‘Valediction’ by Robert B Parker
67 ‘Where the Wild Things Are’
68 ‘Going to the Movies’ by Syd Field
69 ‘The Lady and the Monk’ by Pico Iyer
70 ‘The Southern Gates of Arabia’ by Freya Stark
71 ‘The First Five Pages’ by Noah Lukeman
72 ‘The Emperor of All Maladies’ by Siddhartha Mukerjee
73 ‘Flaubert’s Parrot’ by Julian Barnes
74 ‘Stardust’ by Robert B Parker
75 ‘To Jerusalem and Back’ by Saul Bellow
76 ‘Along Came a Spider’ by James Patterson
77 ‘Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul’
78 ‘Structuring Your Novel’ by Meredith and Fitzgerald
79 ‘Love of Fat men’ by Helen Dunmore
80 ‘Mandingo’ by Kyle Onstott
81 ‘The First Forty Nine Stories’ by Ernest Hemingway

82 ‘An Expensive Place to Die’ by Len Deighton
83 ‘A Nice Quiet Holiday’ by Aditya Sudarsnah
84 ‘Sleepers’ by Lorenzo Carcaterra
85 ‘How to Write’ by Stanley Wood
86 ‘The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver’ by Syd Field
87 ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen
88 ‘God Save the Dork’ by Sidin Vadukut
89 ‘Balipeetam’ by Ranganayakamma
90 ‘Solstice’ by Joyce Carol Oates
91 ‘One Day I Will Write About This Place’ by Binyavanga Wainaina

92 ‘An Expensive Place to Die’ by Len Deighton
93 ‘Sands of Arabia’ by Wilfred Thesiger
94 ‘Of Human Bondage’ by Somerset Maugham
95 ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding
96 ‘The Discomfort Zone’ by Jonathan Franzen
97 ‘Playback’ by Raymond Chandler
98 ‘The Old Patagonian Express’ by Paul Theroux
99 ‘A Small Death in Lisbon’ by Robert Wilson
100 ‘Mole’ by Ashokamithran
101 ‘Widow’s Walk’ by Robert B Parker
102 ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ by P Sainath
103 ‘Almost French’ by Sarah Turnbull

In the next post I'll put up a list of all the books I've managed to read during 2011.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Sunday Haul

It was a slightly upbeat Sunday for me this week. One reason could be the knowledge that I had picked up a few good books over the past week on my three visits to the Book Fair. Another reason could be that after two Sundays I am finally at home. One Sunday I had been at work at the Assembly and the other Sunday I was travelling. So I missed my regular Sunday routine for two successive Sundays and finally last Sunday I got a chance to visit Abids and also do other things I find to do time only on Sundays.

In the past I’ve sometimes picked up books on a mere hunch. There’s something about the cover or the title of the book that marks it out as something different. Last Sunday at Chikkadpally where I usually stop before going to Abids, I saw ‘A Small Death in Lisbon’ that I knew instantly was something different. And when I read the blurb I knew my hunch wasn’t wrong. ‘An intense reading experience. You will turn the last page of this compelling novel almost out of breath’ was what The New York Times’ blurb said on the cover of the book. I did not need anything more to convince me to pick up the book which I did for forty rupees. Later when I googled for Robert Wilson I knew I had landed a good book which adds to my growing collection of crime fiction.

A couple of weeks ago I had seen Ashokamitran’s ‘Mansarovar’ that I did not buy right away for two reasons. One reason was the fact that the seller was one who wasn’t the sort to give it away for a bargain and the other reason was my over confidence that no one would pick it up. Sadly, it was gone when I checked later and I felt very bad about letting it go. However on Sunday I found another book of his - ‘Mole’ - which is all about the seven months that Ashokamitran spent at the Iowa University in connection with some international visiting writer event. I’ve been dreaming of doing some sort of a writing workshop at Iowa University Writing School ever since I realised that my writing talent was almost non-existent and also that whatever little of it I have is taking me nowhere. Sadly, it remains out of my reach and perhaps will remain as another unfulfilled dream of mine.

I felt glad I had not picked up the copy of P Sainath’s ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ that I saw at the book fair last week. I would have had to shell out two hundred rupees for it otherwise. On Sunday at Abids I found a copy of the same book that I got for only a hundred and twenty rupees. I feel sort of guilty about buying a second hand copy of the book since I had made a decision long back to buy only new copies of a few good books. Anyway, after I read the book which I now feel I shoud have read long time ago, I might buy a few new copies to gift to people who do not have any idea of what really farmers go through in our country.

Another book that I picked up was Robert B Parker’s ‘Widow’s Walk’ which Uma had spotted. I did not have an idea then that I already possess a copy of the book that one of my brothers had given me. With the Sunday’s haul of four books the total number of books I picked up during the month so far comes to eleven. It might go up by another couple of books because the Book Fair is not yet over and I have plans to drip in one last time.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

At the Book Fair and the Haul

It is never a good idea to drop in at any event on the first day itself, anywhere especially in Hyderabad, especially if it is the sort of an event that goes on for more than a week, This I say from long experience. Most of the time things are rarely ready or even half ready on the first day when the event is supposed to be inaugurated. Though I know half the stalls will not be set up I always make it a point to drop in at the Book Fair on the very first day every year. Like I expected about a third of the stalls in the 26th Hyderabad Book Fair at the Necklace Road were empty. In some stalls the guys were feverishly arranging the books on the shelves and tables.

In one such stall of a second hand book seller, with the shelves only half arranged and with cartons lying around unopened, I managed to spot a book that was on my list of travel books to buy. Wilfred Thesiger’s ‘Arabian Sands’ is the No.1 on the list of Top 30 Travel books on World Hum, a travel website. It was a book that I did not ever expect to find but my luck is such I always find a good book when I least expect it. On the first day of the Book Fair I got lucky and found this book that I had been looking for since more than five years. That was only the haul on the first day. I had seen good copies of Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’ with a fantastic cover, P. Sainath’s ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ that I wanted to buy right away but did not. There was also an old copy of Somerset Maugham’s ‘Of Human Bondage’ that I planned to pick up along with the other two books before the Book Fair ended.

So next day itself I landed up there, money in wallet and anxiety in the heart whether the books I had seen the previous day were in the shelves or gone. As expected I could not locate Marcus Aurelius’ ‘Meditations’ however hard I looked. I did not pick up P. Sainath’s ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ because I found other books that I wouldn’t otherwise find. However I picked up ‘Of Human Bondage’ for a hundred rupees and also William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ at the same seller. At another stall I found Raymond Chandler’s ‘Playback’ and got it for hundred rupees again. ‘Playback’ is my third Chandler find this year and I am feeling very happy the collection is growing. At one stall of ‘Best Books’ (their other stall is ‘Great Books’) I found Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Discomfort Zone’ that I got for Rs 95.

I went again the next day, on Saturday in the evening, on my third visit to the Book Fair in as many days. I went with my family which meant I couldn’t head straight to the book stalls. First we filled up ourselves with some snacks, had coffee and looked at the people staggering out of the book fair holding bags filled with books and with expressions like they had found an unexpected treasure. Later I too found something no less a treasure. I spotted Paul Theroux’s ‘The Old Patagonian Express’ that I had read long back but did not possess a copy. I got it for Rs 150 though a copy of his ‘Isles of Oceania’ was for Rs 100 in another shelf. I did not yet feel like buying P.Sainath’s ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ and thought I’d wait until the last day when the outstation sellers give away the books at any price.

There were altogether more than half a dozen stalls at the Book Fair selling second hand books. There were the Hyderabad based second hand book sellers like like Best Books, Great Books, Unique, and MR Books. Then there were the outstation ones like Prateek Book Stores, Neha Books, Pooja Books, Student Book Centre and others from places like Thane and Delhi with some really good books. I cannot believe the number of titles by James Patterson that are crowding the shelves in almost all the second hand bookstalls. However, I did not come across any new titles of Robert B Parker’s Spenser books different from the ones that I already have. I guess I will find more books but I am not sure if I will pick them up because I have far exceeded my budget for books this year. I’ve picked up six books at the Book Fair in the first two days and there’s still less than a week to go.

Wait until I post about the haul of books I had on Sunday at Abids. I picked up four books on Sunday as if the six books I had picked up at the Book Fair weren’t enough. Sometime in the coming days I will post a list of all the books I’ve picked up this year and also a list of the book I have managed to read during the year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Journey within a Trip

When one finishes reading a good book it takes a while to leave behind the world the writer has created and return to one’s world. Last Sunday I was in a bus trundling out of the city with a book in hand to my native town. Less than three months ago I had made the same trip as part of a large contingent of our families. Me and my brothers had wanted to show our families the ancestral house we were born in and our numerous relations especially our elderly uncle, my father’s eldest brother. It was a happy reunion. Our kids saw for the first time some of their cousins, their aunts and grandparents in their eighties for the first time. I wondered when I would be returning again to my town. Not more than three months have passed and I am making the trip again.

This time I was making the trip all alone to attend a ceremony of the same uncle who had died the previous week. After breakfast on Sunday morning, I caught a bus sometime around half past nine and settled down for the four hour trip. The weather outside was gorgeous and I spent a long time looking out of the window at the passing landscape that seemed to change with every mile. Now we were speeding by on the National Highway and now we were passing through small crowded roadside towns bustling with people. There was evidence of the effects of the drought here and there in the form of dried up crops which had turned brown. The only greenery was the green patches of groundnut crop irrigated by borewell water .

Some places the grass had turned golden that looked just wonderful in the midmorning sun. At periodical intervals the bus made a few halts at small towns where some of the passengers got out and newer ones got in. One thing I miss in the Secretariat posting is the frequent travelling that I used to do in my earlier posting at Suryapet which entailed travel by local buses and watching a variety of people. In between watching the landscape outside the bus window I lost myself in Binyavanga Wainaina’s ‘One Day I Will Write About This Place’ that was engrossing. Outside there was rural India and inside, in my hands was rural Africa.

‘One Day I Will Write About This Place’ is a memoir by Wainaiana about his life in Kenya, South Africa, his childhood, his relations especially his parents, sister and studying which he doesn’t seem to be very interested in and a lot about Africa especially its politics, its numerous tribes and flashes of humor that makes for a fascinating read. Wainaian describes the African landscape, the places he visits and the people he meets and about his desire to write more than anything else. I was lost in that book that took me to Africa while I was travelling in my own homeland. I felt like it was a journey within a trip. Then there were a few things I had in common with Wainaina- a love of reading, a desire to write and also, the fact that he was involved in agriculture extension, that is, giving advice to farmers which is what I am supposed to do in my job. Though the copy I am reading is an uncorrected bound proof there was no sign (at least to my eyes) that there was anything wrong except for a couple of typos. It would be interesting to read the actual published edition that I hope I will find in the bookstores here.

Lost in the book the four hours passed quite quickly and at around two in the afternoon I reached the small town. I walked through the narrow road of the town to the large house where I was born. I felt sad and couldn’t properly express my feelings to my aunt who lost her son and her husband within the span of a couple of weeks. I was also amazed at the fortitude my unlettered, hardworking almost eighty year old aunt displayed. On my previous visit two months ago under happy circumstances in the company of my brothers and their families I had told my aunt that she would live to be a hundred years. She had shaken her head and said she did not have such a wish. She had seen enough of life she said. Now she wiped the tears from her eyes and asked why I did not bring along my kid. Grandmothers are always like that, they want to see the kids. I had thought of bringing along my son but he was preparing for his midterm exams. But still I wish I had taken him along because my aunt and my mother who was with her would have felt happy.

After lunch I was on my way home at Hyderabad. But this time I made the return trip cocooned in a cousin’s car. It was an unremarkable trip that lasted just three hours. We did not stop anywhere and we didn’t talk much also. I did not read the book but watched the landscape zip by with barely anything registering. The world’s so different when seen through the window of a bus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Idle Post

The previous Sunday I was at work ( on duty at the Assembly) and hence couldn’t go to Abids to indulge in the one thing that I enjoy more than anything else-that is hunting for second hand books. It has become such a habit to bring along at least one book home every week from Abids that I become restless and sort of disoriented if that does not happen. To compensate for the missed Abids visit I decided to drop in at a second hand bookstore and try to look for a book that I can take home. Though nothing can beat the experience of finding a good book on the pavements at Abids, on certain occasions one has to make a compromise and hence the visit to Best Books at Lakdikapul last Thursday.

One can never get books anywhere at the same price as one can get them at Abids on Sundays. Prices of books in second hand bookstores are quite high and in Best Books they are higher than anywhere else which is one reason I try to limit my purchases to only the absolutely irresistible titles there. I saw VS Naipaul’s ‘Among the Believers’ and another title about his travels in America but the price was so high I did not feel like buying those books. After having read Pico Iyer’s praise for Michael Ondaatje’s ‘The Cat’s Table’ and its review by Jai Arjun Singh’s in ‘The Literary Review’ of this month I wanted to begin with ‘The English Patient.’ I had earlier seen it at Abids but had, foolishly, not picked it up. At Best Books however I saw Ondaatje’s ‘Anil’s Ghost’ which again I did not pick up for the simple reason that I first want to read ‘The English Patient’ followed by other works. So I returned empty handed from Best Books which made me even more crotchety.

So on Friday last I went to Frankfurt at Begumpet and browsed for a long time and in the end saw two Robert B Parker titles- ‘Pastime’ and ‘Cold Service.’ These too I did not buy because the price was simply too much for my budget. The guy wanted eighty rupees for each book and made it clear (perhaps from the look on my face) that he wouldn’t reduce the price by even a single rupee. If it were the regular guy I would have tried to bargain and also got the books for a much lesser price. So I upped and left without the books because I was slightly offended at the guy’s uppity behaviour as if one cannot find those books anywhere else but in his shop. While taking my bike out I almost swallowed my pride and went back to pick up the books because, what the heck, they are Spenser titles after all, but surprisingly, I didn’t. Maybe I will go one of these days and pick them up but right now I feel I’ll get the books at Abids soon.

The only bright book related moment of the past week was reading about Chris Stewart’s ‘Driving Over Lemons’ in Aparna Karthikeyan’s column ‘Armchair Traveller’ in the Metro Plus sometime last week. Sometime in October or earlier I had picked up the book at Abids and now reading Karthikeyan’s review is making me think of beginning to read it one of these days.

A major disappointment was deciding not to go for the book signing of Wilbur Smith’s ‘Those in Peril’ on Saturday at Landmark. Somehow I just did not feel like going at the last moment though I was all dressed up and ready to go. It looks like I have missed something really interesting if the reports of the event in the papers and Hari’s post on his blog are anything to go by.

Anyway, the Hyderabad Book Fair is just two days away which I hope will drive away my winter blues.

Friday, December 09, 2011

On Duty at the Assembly

Many in AP can be forgiven for being under the impression that is a cushy 10 to 5 job for the people who work in the Secretariat. I too had a similar impression until I too became a Secretariat staffer last year. The Department where I joined is one where there are no fixed timings, no fixed work or anything like that. One has to stay long hours, do everything assigned and sometimes more than that, and attend scores of meetings which leaves little time for other things in life. However, it isn’t the same every day but this is more or less the pattern in general. But there’s always something going on. Right now there is a drought in the state, a severe one that not many who live in urban areas might be aware of. This was what dominated the Legislature sessions for five days last week. Unlike last time I was assigned duties at the Legislative Assembly during the current sessions. Being a legislator might have its own share of fun but being a government employee isn’t especially when the legislatures are in session.

I missed the first day because my pass wasn’t ready. The second day onwards and for the next three days I had to reach the Assembly by nine in the morning. One of the high points about attending the sessions at the Legislative Assembly in Hyderabad apart from hanging around the beautiful, historic buildings is the food in the canteen inside. Most of the days I had breakfast there in the company of a variety of people. More than the MLA’s there are the gunmen who accompany them. They are all over the place dressed in safari suits, some carrying their sten guns, walkie talkie sets and some with their pistols hidden under their lapels. The cops in the dark blue safaris were the constables while the ones in cream colored safari suits were the inspectors. Then there were the marshals in the same dress but with a red band tied to their upper arms.

Apart from cops, officials, legislators and their hangers on there are the press people present in the assembly premises. There were a couple of familiar faces from the national and regional press but I could not recognise the rest of the crowd. There were other officials clutching files and appearing nervous. It is a nervous time that we have because we never know what gets asked for. We have to be ready with all details on our fingertips if not in the papers we carry. Since there was a discussion on drought I brought along a lot of stuff in case anyone wanted to know more about the drought here. It was one reason why I could bring along only one book.

The Assembly is more crowded than the Council where I was on duty the last time. One gets to see all the Ministers, some famous MLAs and top officials one normally does not get to see on other days which isn’t exactly a fun thing because most of them go around with grim faces like the entire burden of humanity is on their shoulders.

Since the Assembly met on Sunday too needless to say I missed my weekly visit to Abids to look for books. However since I had taken along a book now and then I sat in the canteen by myself and read Robert B Parker’s ‘Rough
Weather’ whenever I got the time. I managed to finish in two days. It takes a huge toll to wait nervously for nearly the entire day in the Assembly. On the last day, the day of the no-confidence motion the sessions went on until 1-30 am but I did not hang around till then. I left at half past nine.

It was hard missing the trip to Abids on Sunday but then I am planning to compensate for it by dropping in at a second hand bookstore and picking up a book. It wasn’t that I did not get a book since I got Dan Brown’s ‘Digital Fortress’ from Daniel the other day. The other compensation was reading “Literary Review’ in The Hindu in the evening on Sunday since in the morning the paper was delivered late and I had to rush. More about it in another post.

Update on Hyderabad Book Fair:

I was quite relieved to learn that the Hyderabad Book Fair is back at People’s Plaza on Necklace Road instead of the Nizam College Grounds which was the venue before it was postponed. It means that I can visit the Book Fair on my way home more often than I had planned. The Book Fair is another week away but I’ve already begun the countdown.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

3 Things

‘Pakwaan’ Opens

With things being pretty grim on the personal front of late, I’m desperate for news that would bring some cheer. Last week there were a few such things. First was the fact that the Irani joint ‘Panchsheel’ that I had mentioned in a previous post had closed has now reopened in a new avatar. A swank new joint called ‘Pakwaan’ has come up in place of ‘Panchsheel’ on the busy road linking Ravindra Bharati and the Secretariat. The other day I happened to be passing by and had a fleeting glimpse of ‘Pakwaan’.

The place now seems to be a dedicated Biryani joint which is rather good news and the other thing is that the Irani Chai section hasn’t been entirely done away with. Adjacent to the main eatery is a small chai/café with about half a dozen tables catering to the crowd who cannot do without Irani chai and associated snacks. It was a good idea to minimize the café part because most of the time the tables would be empty. Anyway, in case anyone finds himself in and around Lakdikapul and Ravindrabharathi and is dying to taste some fine biryani please note there’s Pakwaan.

The Book Fair

The other thing that brought me so more cheer was an ad on the back of a city bus. The ad said that the 26th Hyderabad Book Fair would now begin on the 15th of December for ten days. It was to begin from the 1st of December but was postponed for various reasons. Now that 15th of December is less than ten days away I have enough time to rustle up some cash. Since I had missed going to Abids this Sunday and might also have to skip going there next Sunday too, the thought of the ten day Book Fair is very inviting.

A Book Signing

The other day I read somewhere that Wilbur Smith would be in town on the 9th of December at ‘Landmark’ in Somajiguda to sign his new book ‘Those in Peril’. I have read Wilbur Smith a long time back and do not even recollect his titles. But I plan to be there at the event if possible.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Sunday Haul

It is not unusual those visiting Abids for the first time to be find many a surprise at the Sunday book market. I’ve been looking for books on the pavements of Abids since more than twenty years and the surprises never cease.. Sometimes I find the latest issue of New Yorker or Atlantic magazine, or a signed copy of a famous book or a brand new book at dirt cheap prices. The anticipation of what surprises Abids holds is something that makes me go to Abids every Sunday.

Last week I had another pleasant and unusual surprise. Apart from the regular copies of books, bestsellers or otherwise, sometimes I come across copies of uncorrected proofs of titles by well known writers. Such books do not hold interest for me and I usually desist from buying them. But last week I made an exception. It isn’t even two months since I read about Binyavanga Wainaiana’s article ‘How to Write About Africa’ somewhere on the net and also about his forthcoming book ‘One Day I Will Write About This Place.’ Though I thought it would be wonderful to read the book I never wondered if I’d be able to find it or had such thoughts. However, last Sunday I found a copy of ‘One Day I Will Write About This Place’ but it was a uncorrected proof copy and not meant for sale in bookstores. It was being published by ‘Granta Books’ and the publishing date was November 2011. I got the book for hundred rupees and am wondering now if I should have bought it. However, I will get to know why the book is so eagerly talked about and maybe wait for the corrected final published copy.

The other find of Sunday was Joyce Carol Oates’s ‘Solstice’ that I picked up in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees only. Ashokamitran’s ‘Mansarovar’ that I had seen two weeks ago wasn’t to be seen. Uma, who was with me, found a new copy of the script of Arundhati Roy’s ‘In Which Annie Gives Those Ones’ which I consider a good find. Later I urged him to pick up Paul Theroux’s ‘Dark Star Safari’ that was the first Paul Theroux book I had read a long time back.

Hyderabad Book Fair Postponement

I was disappointed to learn from a comment on my previous post that the Hyderabad Book Fair is postponed. Surprisingly there was nothing in the news about it but I am very disappointed especially after going through an agonising countdown for it to begin. Anyway, there’s now the first Sunday of December to look forward to for ‘The Literary Review Supplement’ in The Hindu. I doubt if I will be able to read it in peace on Sunday morning itself because of work. The Legislature is in session and is meeting on Sunday also which is unusual. Since I have been assigned duties at the Assembly I might miss the pleasure of reading Literary Review on Sunday morning and also miss the visit to Abids.