Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Triple Post- Post No. 3- 2012 READING

This is post 3 of 3 posts.

In 2012 I had read less than sixty books, almost all of them extremely good barring a few. This year, somehow I managed to read sixty three books, all of them, save a couple of them, good to the last word. The books I read in the final weeks of the year, particularly the two books by Balraj Khanna, 'Who Let the Dork Out' by Sidin Vadukut that I will review in a future post, I found to be very enjoyable. Balraj Khanna was a serendipitous discovery like many of my earlier discoveries. I am glad I found them on my own without anyone’s help.

1. The Finkler Question - Howard Jacobson
2. Playback - Raymond Chandler
3. Write It Down Make it Happen- Henriette Klause
4. The Summing Up - Somerset Maugham
5. Dave Barry’s Guide to Guys - Dave Barry
6. Everybody Loves a Good Drought - P.Sainath
7. You Can Write a Novel - James V. Smith Jr.
8. Almost French - Sarah Turnbull
9. Ice Boys in Bell Bottoms - Krishna Shastri Devulapalli
10. The Humour and the Pity - Amitava Kumar
11. Anatomy of Restlessness - Bruce Chatwin
12. Widow’s Walk - Robert B. Parker
13. True Crime - Jake Arnott
14. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush - Eric Newby
15. Anatomy of an Illness - Norman Cousins
16. Balsamic Dreams - Joe Queenan
17. Pastime - Robert B. Parker
18. I’ll Mature When I’m Dead - Dave Barry
19. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
20. The Man Within - Graham Greene
21. The Year of Magical Thinking - Joan Didion
22. Visiting Mrs. Nabokov - Martin Amis
23. Lucknow Boy - Vinod Mehta
24. The Healing Heart - Norman Cousins
25. Collected Essays - Graham Greene

26. Dancing in Cambodia - Amitav Ghosh
27. The Gathering - Anne Enright
28. Mandingo - Kyle Onstott
29. In Light of India - Octavio Paz
30. The Story Teller - Maria Vargas Llosa
31. In Praise of Older Women - Stephen Viznecy
32. Double Deuce - Robert B. Parker
33. The Checklist Manifesto - Atul Gawande
34. Close Range - Annie Proulx
35. Best American Travel Writing Ed Frances Mayes
36. Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain
37. Long Quiet Highway - Natalie Goldberg
38. At Random - Bennett Cerf
39. Birth Marks - Sarah Dunant
40. Sharky’s Machine - William Diehl
41. Slouching Towards Bethlehem - Joan Didion
42. Travels - Michael Crichton
43. The Leopard - Jo Nesbo
44. The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
45. It All Adds Up - Saul Bellow
46. 84, Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff
47. Literary Journalism
48. The Screenwriter Within - DB Gilles
49. God Save the Child - Robert B. Parker
50. Stephen Fry in America - Stephen Fry

51. Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell
52. The Human Element and Other Stories - Somerset Maugham
53. Stet - Diana Athill
54. How to Enjoy Writing - Janet and Isaac Asimov
55. Bad Business - Robert B. Parker
56. On Writing - George V. Higgins
57. Best Food Writing 2007 - Ed. Holly Hughes
58. Monkey Grip - Helen Garner
59. Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell
60. Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need - Dave Barry
61. Who Let the Dork Out - Sidin Vadukut
62. Nation of Fools - Balraj Khanna
63. Sweet Chillies - Balraj Khanna
64. Particularly Cats- Doris Lessing

Friday Triple Post- Post No. 2- 2012 Haul of Books

This is post 2 of 3 posts

In 2011, I had picked up a total of around 105 books which was less than what I had found the years before. This year i.e., 2012 I picked up 92 books in all. Most of the books I had picked up at the second hand bazaar at Abids on Sundays and some from sales by bookstores, at the book fair and some of them at second hand book stores. A few of the books I got as gifts from friends and family. Some of the books are extra copies of the titles that I already have like those by Dave Barry, John Le Carre, Len Deighton, and Elmore Leonard that I bought simply because I couldn’t resist them. I bought them to give to my friends who might enjoy reading these authors.

1. Jonathan Kaplan- The Dressing Station
2. Joan Didion- Play As It Lays
3. Somerset Maugham- The Summing Up
4. Frances Mayes, Ed- Best American Travel Writing
5. Harry Dolan- Bad Things Happen
6. Edward Abbey- Desert Solitaire
7. Natalie Goldberg- Writing Down the Bones
8. Gulzar- Raavi Paar
9. Robert B. Parker- Cold Service
10. Robert B. Parker- Pastime
11. Robert B. Parker- Double Deuce
12. Ashokamitran- The Eighteenth Parallel
13. Jake Arnott- True Crime
14. Phil Dusenberg- Then We Set His Hair on Fire
15. Richard Marius- The Coming of Rain
16. Amitava Kumar- The Humour and the Pity
17. Shashi Tharoor- India: Midnight to Millenium
18. Amartya Sen- The Argumentative Indian
19. Eric Newby- A Short Walk in the Hindukush
20. Sarah Dunant- Birthmarks
21. Somerset Maugham- Mrs. Craddock
22. Robert B. Parker- God Save the Child
23. Robert B. Parker- Chance
24. The Screenwriter Within- D.B. Gilles
25. Harper Lee- To Kill a Mockingbird
26. Martin Amis- Visiting Mrs. Nabokov
27. Pico Iyer- Tropical Classical
28. Mary McCarthy- The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed
29. Octavio Paz- In Light of India
30. Richard Dawkins- A Devil’s Chaplain
31. Atul Gawande- The Checklist Manifesto
32. Maria Vargos Llosa- The Story Teller
33. Stephen Vizinczey- In Praise of Older Women
34. P.Sainath- Everybody Loves a Good Drought
35. Jeffrey Archer- Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less
36. MT Vasudevan Nair- Catching an Elephant
37. Elizabeth Gilbert- Eat, Pray, Love
38. Woody Allen- Without Feathers
39. Bill Bryson- Down Under
40. David Foster Wallace- The Broom of the System
41. Len Deighton- To Catch a Falling Spy
42. George Orwell- Nineteen Eighty Four
43. Len Deighton- Yesterday’s Spy
44. Jan Morris- Sydney
45. William Diehl- Sharky’s Machine
46. Nirad C.Chaudhri- Autobiography of an Unknown Indian
47. Somerset Maugham- The Razor’s Edge
48. Gotham Writers Workshop- Writing Movies
49. Diana Athill- Stet
50. Edgar Cayce- Secrets of the Universe
51. Saadat Hasan Manto- Black Margins
52. Somerset Maugham- Ten Authors and Their Novels
53. Helen Garner- Monkey Grip
54. Ruskin Bond- Scenes from a Writer’s Life
55. Manohar Malgonkar- A Bend in the Ganges
56. UR Anantamurthy- Samskara
57. John Le Carre- The Honorable Schoolboy
58. John Le Carre- Smiley’s People
59. John Le Carre- A Perfect Spy
60. Elmore Leonard- Freaky Deaky
61. Dave Eggers- A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius
62. Haruki Murakami- Norwegian Wood
63. Elizabeth Ryan- How to Be a Better Writer
64. Somerset Maugham- The Human Element and Other Stories
65. VS Naipaul- The Overcrowded Barracoon
66. Dorothea Brande- Becoming a Writer
67. Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni- Sister of My Heart
68. Clive James- Flying Visits
69. Daniyal Mueenuddin- In Other Rooms, Other Wonders
70. Doris Lessing- Particularly Cats
71. Best Food Writing 2007
72. Balraj Khanna- Nation of Fools
73. Balraj Khanna- Sweet Chillies
74. Robert B. Parker- Promised Land
75. Stephen King- On Writing
76. George V.Higgins- On Writing
77. Saadat Hasan Manto- Kingdom’s End and Other Stories
78. Victor Frankl- Man’s Search for Meaning
79. Sidin Vadukut- Who Let the Dork Out
80. Dave Barry- Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need
81. Brian Keenan- An Evil Cradling
82. Roberto Bolano- The Savage Detectives
83. Len Deighton- The Ipcress File
84. RL Stevenson- Treasure Island
85. Cormac McCarthy- No Country for Old Men
86. Robert B.Parker- The Professional
87. Jorge Louis Borges- Doctor Brodie’s Report
88. Raymond Chandler- Farewell, My Lovely
89. Dave Barry- Dave Barry’s Money Secrets
90. Martin Amis- Experience
91. Homer- Odyssey
92. Chaman Nahal- Azadi

Friday Triple Post- Post No. 1. The Year-end Haul

Post 1 of 3

In the ten days that the Book Fair was held I had been there a total of five times and picked up six books. There was one book I hadn’t picked right away and left it for my final visit. On the last day of the book fair I made my sixth and final visit to the book fair that was crowded with people as it was the last day. Right after entering the fair I made my way to the second hand bookstalls and much later I realized that I had not been to any other book stall except the ones selling second hand books. There were more than dozen second hand book stall in this year’s fair with a majority of them from Hyderabad.

Anyway, it was Chaman Nahal’s ‘Azadi’ that I had come to pick up and leave immediately after. However, I couldn’t resist taking a closer look at the books again in almost all the second hand book stalls. I saw three Dave Barry titles but I did not buy them. There were almost four Elmore Leonard titles and more than half a dozen ‘Spenser’ titles but these too I did not buy. But I saw a title that I had come across and had not bought then which left me with a lot of regret. Back in 2009 or so I had seen Martin Amis’ ‘Experience’ in a second hand book store but decided I would buy it later. But on my next visit I found that the book had been sold. So when I saw it again I grabbed it especially since it was for ninety five rupees only.

Afterwards I went to the stall where I had seen almost half a dozen copies of ‘Azadi’ by Chaman Nahal and got a pleasant surprise. When I first saw it the label on the back had Rs 75 written on it but being the last day of the sale it was for sale for Rs 50 only. It was a brand new copy and the original price of the book was Rs 250 whereas I got it for one fifth of the original price. After picking up this book I came across Michael Herr’s ‘Dispatches’ but I did not buy it. This year many of the second hand book stall had a peculiar offer. They were offering two books for Rs 50 or four books for Rs 100. If you wanted one book then you had to pay the full price of the offer. ‘Dispatches’ was among books under such an offer. I couldn’t find any other book to buy along with it so I left it. I had seen the title elsewhere and I am confident I will find it soon.

This was one book fair where I bought books for which I did not have to pay more than a hundred rupees. Four out of the six books I bought cost me around fifty rupees, the fifth book was for sixty rupees and only ‘Experience’ came for hundred rupees. In the previous year’s sale I had to shell out hundred and fifty rupees for each book. I had thought that this year the prices would be even more but surprisingly the prices were even lesser than before. For three hundred and fifty five rupees I bought six great books which made me happier than anything else this year.

On Sunday I found a good copy of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ that I got for only thirty rupees. I want to begin reading some of the old classics now and so bought this book. Luckily the seller told me I could pay anything I wanted for the book so I paid him thirty rupees which I now feel was very less. Next time I will pay him more for anything I pick up from him. Next Sunday I do not plan to buy anything since I have already bought ninety three books so far during 2012. In another post I have given the list of books I have picked up this year.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Triple Post - III: The Sunrise Effect

In Hyderabad there are very few scenic spots that one feels like coming to often. One such spot is the Necklace Road skirting the Hussain Sagar Lake. It offers a nice view of the vast lake and is a favorite spot. However, it is overcrowded in the evenings with families, couples and other people who litter the place with trash. The only time to enjoy the lakefront spot is early in the morning when it is quiet and uncrowded. The best thing to do there is to sit still and watch the sunrise in complete tranquility. It is one thing I have been doing quite regularly since the past few years but of late I have missed going there due to work. My last visit to Necklace Road to watch the sunrise was sometime in March this year. The Sunday before last Sunday I decided I’d go and enjoy the solitude of the dawn but it wasn’t to be so.

Usually, so early in the morning there won’t be a soul around on Necklace Road save for an occasional person out walking or exercising which wouldn’t distract me or break the spell. But on the Sunday morning I went there were many people around even before the sun had risen. There was a group of four young men and a girl hanging around a metal and wooden platform on the edge of the lake. From the cameras they carried it was obvious they too had come to catch the sunrise. But instead of soaking in the silence they chattered endlessly which was quite irritating. I waited until the sun rose, took a few snaps and left for the second leg of the morning’s outing.

At Adarsh I settled down with the Sunday papers and here too there was a crowd of eight young men who came on bikes. They sat at two tables and talked loudly, breaking into guffaws and teasing one another. No amount of social networking on the internet would build friendships like these built on such gathering of friends at cafes, lakefronts at odd times.

Friday Triple Post -II: The Book Fair Haul

After waiting for nearly two weeks, that is, since the day I read about the dates of the 27th Hyderabad Book Fair there was no way I could not stop myself from being present at the gates of the Book Fair on the first day. Despite a very busy schedule I managed to squeeze in half hour to take a quick look at the stalls. As usual, though the Book Fair was inaugurated more than half the total stalls were yet to be opened. Luckily for me there were two second hand bookstores open- one was Prateek Book Store from Pune I guess and another from Thane of which I do not recollect the name. In that half hour of hurried browsing I managed to find two good books and surprisingly got them very, very cheap. I had expected the prices in this year’s book fair to be very high but it wasn’t so.

The first book I spotted was Robert B. Parker’s ‘The Professional’ that seemed a brand new copy by Berkeley. It was a title I did not possess so I grabbed it without any second thoughts. I had come prepared to pay more than what I usually pay for second hand books but I was pleasantly surprised when the stall person said the book was for just fifty rupees! On the cover it said ‘First time in Paperback’ so I guess I was lucky to find it. I felt it was a good start to my book fair hunt. The next find was an ever better book.

My first ever Jorge Louis Borges book was ‘Borges on Writing’ that I found long back at Abids though it wasn’t a book by Borges. The second find was ‘Labyrinths’ that I found sometime back. Last Friday at the book fair I found my third JLB title. It wasn’t a novel but a collection of short stories titled ‘Doctor Brodie’s Report’ that was a slim book of little more than a hundred pages, 102 pages to be exact. Surprisingly, I got this book also very cheap. I paid only fifty rupees for this book that had eleven short stories – The Gospel According to Mark, The Unworthy Friend, The Duel, The End of the Duel, Rosendo’s Tale, The Intruder, The Meeting, Juan Murana, The Elder Lady, Guayaquil, and Doctor’s Brodie’s Report.

A pleasant surprise at the Book Fair was a stall devoted entirely to pens. There was a stall of ‘Emonte’ pens that displayed some rather solidly good looking ball point, roller and fountain pens. The pens appeared good both in looks as well as functionality. However, the pens were priced quite high though there were a few pens that were affordable. Some of the pens were Diva, Bliss, Sarkozy and so on. I got hold of a catalogue and promised to buy at least on the next visit I planned to make just a couple of days later, it not the next day.

My next visit to the Book Fair came sooner than expected. I was there on Tuesday again. On the first day of the fair there weren’t many of the second book stalls open yet so I was eager to check those out first. As it happened the second hand books stalls were the only ones I checked out in the hour and half I was in the Book Fair. There was one open that I had not checked on the first day so I went in. I think it was the stall of the ‘Unique Book Center’ Nampally guys where I found a Chandler title. Strangely enough, last year too at the Book Fair I had found a Raymond Chandler title- ‘Playback’ and this year it was ‘Farewell, My Lovely’ that I found on top of a shelf. I just spotted the name ‘Chandler’ on the spine and took it out. I was thrilled with the find and even more thrilled to see the price on the label- Rs 60 ! Now I have four Chandler titles- The Simple Art of Murder, Playback, The High Window and Farewell, My Lovely. But it is ‘The Big Sleep’ that I am looking for and hope to find it soon.

I was still high on that Chandler find when I came across my second find of the day at another second hand book stall. I was just leaving the stall when I spotted ‘Dave Barry’s Money Secrets’ which is one of the few Dave Barry titles that I do not possess. I grabbed and showed it to the seller to find out how much the book cost. I had found the book in a rack of books selling for Rs 50 but I thought this book would be priced higher. I was wrong since the guy said ‘Rs 50’ which wasn’t one tenth of the original price of the book. It was a hardcover copy with the jacket intact and I couldn’t believe I had found four good books at the Book Fair. What was amazing was that all the four books I bought did not cost me more than sixty rupees. It was unbelievable since the previous year none of the book I had bought came for less than hundred rupees.

I am planning another visit on Thursday because I planned to pick up another book I saw but did not buy. In Diana Athill’s ‘Stet’ she suggests a list of books that one ought to buy if one comes across them in second hand bookshops, and one title in that list was ‘Azadi’ by Chaman Nahal which she described as ‘ A Superb novel about a Hindu family’s experience of the partitioning of India, which ought to be recognized as a classic.’ Fortunately, the stall where I saw this title had more at least three few copies which was one reason I did not buy the book right away. Still, I am feeling apprehensive whether I’d find the book on my next visit.

Friday Triple Post:-I: Trip No. 8

Out of the seven trips I made this year so far, five were official and two were personal - one to Goa and the second to Tirupati. The rest were related to work. Of the five official trips four were to Delhi and only one was to Tirupati. Last Tuesday I made another official trip, possibly my last trip of the year, and this too was to Delhi. Like the rest of the official trips this too was a very short one. I went in the morning and returned in the night.

I had thought this trip to Delhi would be like all the five trips I had made earlier but it turned out not to be so. There were a couple of minor events that made the trip slightly different. Normally my car arrives well before the time I leave for the airport whatever time it is. While I was getting ready on Tuesday morning I was thinking how wonderful that I have a driver who comes so early in the morning to ferry me. When it was five and the car had not yet arrived I called the driver who told me he had just woken up. I had told him we’d leave at five so I’d be at the airport an hour before the plane departed at 6-40. Naturally I had a short spell of panic before I calmed down and went out. Luckily I found an autorickshaw and went in search of a cab. For a while it looked like I might have to go all the way upto the airport in Shamshabad in the autorickshaw itself but once again luck intervened and I found a cab at Red Hills at half past five. Inside the driver was asleep but after I knocked on the window he woke up, opened the door, put my bags in, started the car and took off without even yawning once. He assured me he would take me to the airport in just thirty minutes. At exactly fifty eight minutes past five I reached the airport. Luckily again, the check in counters were not crowded and I was able to board quickly.

I was carrying with me ‘Nation of Fools’ that I had bought at Abids on Sunday. I planned to read the book during the two hour flight and maybe finish more than half the book by the end of the trip. Getting in I saw books in other people’s hands. Someone in the Executive Class had Gurcharan Das’s ‘Indian Grows at Night’ and I saw another person deeply engrossed in ‘If God Was a Banker’ by Ravi Subramaniam. I settled in my seat, a window one, and began the book even before the plane took off. The person beside me, a person in his midfifties, started doing the word jumble in the airline mag. After breakfast I noticed he was struggling with two words. I knew what the words were but did not want to tell him and kept reading my book. Some people do not like to be told the solutions since they want to do it by themselves so I kept quiet though I was becoming increasingly impatient. I was bursting to tell him the answers. But when I saw that he had not yet completed it even after two hours I couldn’t restrain myself. I leaned over and told him the words that would complete the jumble. He smiled and got talking with me. He turned out to be a senior scientist at IICT.

If there is one thing I cannot tolerate, it is cold weather. My brother had advised me to wear thermals, a sweater and also a jacket on the trip since it was quite cold in Delhi. It was not only cold, it was cloudy with a slight drizzle, exactly the sort of weather I do not like. Luckily, it did not rain until the afternoon. By eleven in the morning I had finished my work at an office conveniently located close to Janpath. I walked around watching the cool Delhi crowd going about until I felt hungry enough to have a second breakfast. I had 'kal dosai' at Saravana Bhavan and a cup of filter coffee before I set out for another spell of Hyderabadi style gawking. Minutes after I got into a cab for CR Park, where my brother lives, it began to drizzle.

After a good lunch at my brother’s home I played caroms with my nephews, talked with my mother and left in the drizzle for the airport. I got there a bit early so I went around T-3, had a cup of expensive airport coffee and finally checked in. The only unusual thing about the ride back to Hyderabad was that a gentleman in the back of the plane began to sing so loudly I am sure the pilots must have heard him. Surprisingly no one seemed to mind it but I sure was distracted. I thought he’d shut up after the dinner was served but he began to sing in a louder voice but mercifully shut up soon after delivering another song. After the chilly weather in Delhi I was glad to be back in warm Hyderabad.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Sunday Haul

The last time I saw it I did not buy it. The excuse I gave to myself was that since I had already watched the movie ‘No Country for Old Men’ I needn’t buy the book. On hindsight it was another of those decisions which I later decided can only be called as absolutely stupid. That Sunday and the rest of the weeks until last Sunday I felt horrible for missing buying Cormac McCarthy’s ‘No Country for Old Men’ . But since I am very lucky when it comes to books it turned up again at Abids last Sunday. This time I did not think twice about buying it but only after a brief bargain which I have learnt to do more out of habit than anything. The result was that I got the book for just seventy five rupees. The find put me in a good frame of mind despite the fact that I had to go to office later in the day.
I was glad I had bought the book because of the fantastic reviews I read on the back cover and the inside pages. One particular review in ‘Scotland on Sunday’ said ‘Even the spare best of Elmore Leonard would have trouble beating this neo-Western in a foot race…’ This alone is making me restless to begin reading the book right away. However, since I have four books that I have to finish reading before I begin a new book I plan to begin reading it as soon as I finish them. I also plan to keep an eye out for his other books especially ‘Suttree’ and ‘Blood Meridian’ that I am sure I will find it at Abids someday soon.
The previous Sunday I had decided not to buy the copy of Balraj Khanna’s ‘Nation of Fools’ that wasn’t the original Penguin edition. The copy I had seen was by Tara Press published in 2004 and it did not appeal to me. But I had also decided that I would buy the book if I found it at Abids the next Sunday. So last Sunday I saw the book again and bought it. I already have Balraj Khanna’s second book ‘Sweet Chillies’ that I want desperately want to read after I read a few paragraphs in it. But I will read it after I read ‘Nation of Fools’ first. BOOK FAIR NEWS The 27th Hyderabad Book Fair opens today (Friday) and I cannot wait for it to be evening to go there and browse. Like always I plan to drop in on the first day itself though not many stalls would be open. I want to be an early bird and pick up as many good second hand books I can get in the stalls of those sellers who come from other cities. It is a matter of only a few hours now before I rush there. Surprisingly I never come across my other book loving friends at the Book Fair. But I wonder what new things the organizers think up this year. The sale is on for more than ten days and I plan to drop in at least three times or more if my wallet permits me. Sometime on Sunday I saw an ad for a circulating library ‘JustBooks’ that seems to have about half a dozen branches in Hyderabad though there isn’t a branch near enough for me to check it out. It is wonderful to learn about such a thing when all around the existing libraries are on the verge of extinction or have become extinct. Odd that there's already a television program on books with just that name 'Just Books' that I am missing watching because of work even on holidays.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The Sunday Haul

Len Deighton happens to be one of my favourite writers, whose books I like immensely for their plots and also for the terrific one liners in them. Bernard Samson is probably my favorite character. Len Deighton’s ‘The Ipcress File’ is a book I’ve read countless times and also possess several copies of. I have this fascination to know more about the writers I like, stuff like how they write, what they read and so on. I’ve managed to learn such things about many writers but Len Deighton was not one of them. Last Sunday’s one of the finds was a copy of the Silver Jubilee Edition of ‘The Ipcress File’ that had a special foreword by Len Deighton. I picked it up the moment I laid my eyes on it. In the foreword Deighton writes something about how he came to write the book. I surprised to read that he had once been an airline steward and that he had no real ambition to be a writer when he first wrote the book. He wrote the first draft of ‘The Ipcress File’ with a fountain pen and later typed it out on a tiny lightweight portable typewriter. He was influenced by Somerset Maugham, Evelyn Waugh and Raymond Chandler which made me strangely pleased since I too am influenced by Maugham and Chandler. I got the book for only thirty rupees, by the way.
Actually the first find on Sunday was Robert Bolano’s ‘The Savage Detectives’, a fat volume that I got for a hundred and fifty rupees. I had read about Robert Bolano a long back and had included his name in my ‘Must Read Authors’ list. So when I saw ‘The Savage Detectives’ I bought it. TSD is Bolano’s first novel ‘that brought him a lot of fame and international recognition as the leading Latin American author of his generation and one of the most original and important literary voices of the late twentieth century’ as I read on the back cover. Now I wonder when I will get the time to read the book that runs into more than 580 pages.
Another find was the September 2012 issue of ‘Conde Nast Traveller’ that I got for twenty rupees. It was the UK edition and inside were articles about the Amalfi Coast, Arizona, Sri Lanka and other places. After reading a couple of pages it brought from deep within a lot of unhappiness at the way I am living cooped up in a city not doing any kind of traveling worth write about while the weeks, months and years pass by. Incidentally the issue also had a sort of Q&A with David Sedaris and also came across Isle of Jura, the place where George Orwell wrote ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and also Positano, the place on the Amalfi coast, where John Steinbeck wrote the famous article for ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ that brought him fame. On the Books page were featured Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Green Hills of Africa’ that I had found very recently, and a book by Arthur Conan Doyle ‘Diary of An Arctic Adventure’ which I am now keen to find. It is an account of a seven month voyage during which Conan Doyle had some pretty profound experiences that changed his outlook.
Next to actual book marks, boarding passes are what I find in most of the second hand books that I buy at Abids and other stores. Sometimes there are also railway tickets, scraps of papers with names and other notes scribbled on them in ink. But last Sunday I came across something totally unexpected and also sad. There’s an edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ by Faber and Faber that I already have two copies of. It is a beautiful edition with illustrations on smooth white paper that is worth several times more than the twenty or thirty rupees I paid for them. So when I saw another copy of the same edition I picked it up. Later when I went home and opened it I realized I had made a basic mistake that many second hand book buyers make. I had forgotten to check if the copy had all the pages. The copy I bought had the pages from 60 to 65 missing. As I turned the pages to see if any more pages were missing two small newspaper cuttings fell out of the pages. One cutting was of an obituary ad of a young girl placed by her uncle and brother. The picture was that of a pretty, innocent girl with a smiling face which made me sad that she had died at such a young age. From the matter on the other side of the cutting I could make out that the girl had died sometime in 2004, February. She was a resident of Hyderabad. When I saw the other newspaper cutting I was heartbroken. It was a small item about the death of the same young girl. It seems the young college going girl committed suicide by hanging out of fear of exams. The book held no other clue as to whose copy it was and how the paper clippings came to be in it. Did it belong to any of her friends or her parents or who? I might never know the answer.
Anyway, after I found Balraj Khanna’s ‘Sweet Chillies’ recently I resolved to look for his other book ‘A Nation of Fools’ that I wanted to read before beginning ‘Sweet Chillies’. I thought it would be a while before I find the book but last Sunday Uma pointed out a copy of ‘A Nation of Fools’ to me on the pavement at Abids. I was thrilled for a moment until I noticed it was not a Penguin edition. I did not want to buy it for this reason and also for the other reason that the seller quoted a high price probably after seeing the way I almost grabbed the book from the pavement. Later I regretted not buying it but I am sure it will be there at Abids next Sunday and I will pay whatever amount the guy asks.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Kaar Ke Side Effects- 1

It is exactly seven months and I am still (hesitantly) in the No. 2 seat in the office. At first I had thought the arrangement would be for a few days or a week at the most. But the days have turned into weeks and the weeks have turned into months, six months in fact which is more than half a year. Half a year isn’t very long but if one considers the fact that I've been in this posting for a little more than two years it is long enough. Never in the nineteen years of my service had I dreamt that one day I’d be shouldering more responsibility than is due. A couple of days back I learnt the welcome news that someone is being posted in the No. 2 seat. I am feeling terribly relieved and feel like an enormous rock has been lifted from my shoulders. I am eagerly awaiting to go back to being No. 5, not that it is any less burdensome. But it’ll seem less intimidating sitting in my other seat in a tiny cabin that has a window with a nice view of the Hussain Sagar lake. In fact after shifting to a new block I've not spent more than half hour in that cabin. In the next few days I will be comfortably ensconced in that glass cabin looking out at the placid lake. As No. 2 I guess I've had a fairly smooth run not considering the usual irritants common in any organization. I've sat in some really important meetings with important people and got the opportunity to observe very closely how major decisions are taken, had been to Delhi on a couple of occasions, and once to Tirupati, been on television, and also had my name in the newspapers. Last week Keshav, my close friend, called me to tell me that he had read my name in The Hindu that he read in Goa. It gave me quite a thrill learning folks in Goa could have read my name though I’d rather my name gets into the papers for my novel. I will miss none of it, except possibly one thing- the car. I’ll be lying if I say that won’t miss the car. It’s done quite a few things to me which I will write in a separate post later. But I do not mind going back to riding to office on my trusted Hero Honda motorbike. What I would miss most is the 15-20 minutes of time I had on the ride to office during which I could read. I’m astounded to realize that during the six months that I had been No. 2, I've managed to finish six books reading for just twenty minutes in the car. I've finished Helene Hanff’s ’84 Charing Cross Road’, Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Kitchen Confidential’, P.Sainath’s ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’, Stephen Fry’s ‘Stephen Fry in America’, Joan Didion’s ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ and also ‘Best Food Writing 2007’ that I read in the car only .

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Sunday Haul

Of late, on-fiction is what I am filling up on quite regularly. Travelogues, autobiographies especially of writers, memoirs, accounts of people who have had adventures, mishaps, harrowing experiences and other trials and tribulations now form a major part of my daily reading. Since this makes for fascinating reading I am always on the lookout for such books. Last Sunday my first find was Brian Keenan’s ‘Evil Cradling’ that I picked up from a pile of books selling for thirty rupees. The book has received high praise and after I read a couple of paragraphs I am convinced it is a damn good book. Surprisingly after I picked up this book I came across two more copies of the same book at different places at Abids.
I never let go of any of Dave Barry’s books wherever I come across them though mostly I find his books in second hand bookstores or at Abids. I haven’t yet seen any titles by Dave Barry in regular book stores in Hyderabad. I wonder why. My second find at Abids last Sunday was ‘Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need’ that was my nth copy. It was an almost brand new hardcover copy that I was lucky to get for only thirty rupees. ‘Dave Barry’s Only Travel Guide You’ll Ever Need’ is another hilarious book by one of my favorite writers. Here’s a sampler from the book: ‘Of course, traveling is much easier today than it used to be. A hundred years ago, it could take you the better part of a year to get from New York to California: whereas today because of equipment problems at O’Hare , you can’t get there at all.’ ‘We travel because no matter how comfortable we are at home, there’s a part of us that wants- that needs- to see new vistas, take new tours, obtain new traveler’s checks, buy new souvenirs, order new entrees, introduce new bacteria into our intestinal tracts, learn new words for ‘transfusion’ and have all the other travel adventures that make us want to French-kiss our doormats when we finally get home.’ Once I started reading I couldn’t stop because it is so terribly funny and leaves one is splits. I love Dave Barry and I am glad I have almost every book he’s written except a couple of them that I am sure I will find one day or the other.
Afterwards I found two comics that my kid loves to read. The haul had grown to four books and also made me poorer by a hundred rupees. Nevertheless we continued looking for more books. Shrikant who was with us struck gold finding Quentin Tarantino’s screenplay of ‘Pulp Fiction’ quite cheap. I could have exchanged the day’s haul for that one book. At one of the last places where we stop to look before turning back I found a treasure. The seller had on the pavement three Tin Tin titles- ‘Explorers on the Moon’, ‘Prisoners of the Sun’, and ‘Destination Moon’- that I snapped up pretty fast. They were brand new copies without a single blemish in the form of damaged covers and spoilt pages. In regular bookstores each Tin Tin title would have cost me nothing less than Rs 500. But I paid only Rs 200 for the three boks which, though a great bargain, dwindled my finances to precarious levels.
This was madness and I felt guilty splurging hundreds of rupees every week on books. But on Monday or so I read an article on the net which made me feel better and actually made me feel that I had done the right thing buying the books. Here’s an excerpt from the article by Anthony Daniels in ‘The New Criterion’ I buy more books than I read, though always with the intention of reading them; For the moment, however, I derive a certain comfort from looking over, and being surrounded by, my laden shelves. They are my refuge from a world that I have found difficult to negotiate; if it had not been for the necessity of earning my living in a more practical way, I could easily, and perhaps happily, have turned into a complete bookworm, or one of those creatures like the silverfish and the small, fragile, scaly moths that spend their entire lives among obscure and seldom disturbed volumes. I would have not read to live, but lived to read.
On Tue morning I read in the newspapers that the Hyderabad Book Fair would begin from the 14th of the next month and would last until the end of the month, which is, coincidentally the end of the year. So far this year I have bought a total of … books. At the book fair I am certain I will find at least half a dozen books that I will have to buy if I do not want to die of regret. The only thing on my mind is how to set aside at least a thousand rupees though I will be happy if I have double that amount. One never knows what one finds at such book fairs. Last year at the same book fair I picked up quite a few good titles including ‘The Old Patagonian Express’ by Paul Theroux and ‘Playback’ by Raymond Chandler.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday Double Post.- 1. Another Magical, Blessed Trip

The only thought in the minds of those returning from Tirupati after the darshan would be mostly about when they would be able to have the next darshan. That is what I also have on my mind whenever I too return from Tirupati. That is because one can never get enough of the divine feeling at Tirumala. I was there only in May this year with my family on a two day trip. We had gone up the steps from Sri Vari Mettu, and had darshan the next day, though it was very brief and also, from a distance. I had then wondered how long it would be before I got the call for the next visit. Last week, in what could be only called a minor miracle, I was in Tirupati again, but on office work which meant it was an all-expenses paid trip. I am not very lucky when it comes to money, success, or even talent and whatever luck’s come my way has been only in inconsequential things. However, there have been a few occasions when I’ve been overwhelmed by extreme good luck, like this posting in the Secretariat which came out of the blue two years ago. Just as abrupt was the opportunity to visit Tirupati that presented itself a fortnight ago. A Parliament Committee was visiting Tirupati and we were supposed to appear before the Committee. Since we were busy with cyclone related work it was decided we’d make a short one day trip to Tirupati- in one morning and out the next morning. On Saturday morning we (me and the boss) flew to Tirupati only to learn that the meeting in the afternoon was postponed to the next day. We had to change our plans since we had the entire day to ourselves. At around noon we started up on the climb to Tirumala by the same route I had taken in May. We got to the top by two in the afternoon and after lunch we joined a queue for dashan. We had decided not to get any privileged darshan which we were told we were entitled to as we were part of the Committee. However, we had someone from TTD to accompany us in the queue. This person cleared the route for us after we crossed the main entrance to the temple, taking us past many barriers with a few whispers in the ears of those manning those gates. I was amazed and overwhelmed since for the second time in my life I stood inside the sanctum, just a few feet away from the diety, completely undisturbed for more than a minute. We were not jostled or pushed away by the attendants there which is what happens to others. The attendants actually told us to have a good darshan. There was more to come. We went up by car. We stayed the night at Tirumala atop the hill in a top Government guest house where we were accorded VIP status for being part of the Committee. It meant that I got a large room all for myself. Then there was all that glorious looking food. I never tasted food like the stuff I had at the Guest house for breakfast, lunch and also dinner. It was simply too good to describe. The next day the meeting with the Parliament Committee went off without a hitch and incidentally, a picture I was in made it to the newspapers. We caught another plane to Hyderabad in the afternoon after lunch. After landing we had to drive straight from the airport for a meeting with the top man in the State himself. After I got home late in the evening I couldn’t believe that I had been to Tirupati only the day before. I had been to Tirupati by plane, climbed up the steps, had wonderful darshan, stayed in comfort, had great food and returned home with not just one or two but eight Tirupati laddoos which was the only item I had to spend on. If that is not good luck, I do not know what is.

Friday Double Post-2. The Sunday Haul

Browsing for books at the second hand book market in Abids isn’t the same thing as buying books at regular book stores. For one thing you will never know what you will find in the heaps of books arranged on the pavements at Abids on Sundays. Lying underneath could be the title that you have been looking for all along or you might come across the title that could change your life forever. Then there is the joy of shopping in the open, moving from seller to seller, looking at the titles on sale, flipping through the pages, and even reading a passage or two before deciding to buy the book. This is something now impossible to do in a regular bookstore where the books nowadays are encased in plastic wrapping. Then there is the ultimate shopping experience- bargaining. Nowhere can you bargain hard for the book you want to buy, not even in a second hand bookstore, except at Abids. Only at Abids in Hyderabad can you come home with a good title at dirt cheap prices.
The Sunday before last Sunday I couldn’t make it to Abids because the ‘Nilam’ cyclone not yet left the State. I had to be in the office all day and missed my usual Sunday routine entirely. So it was with a lot of eagerness that I set out for Abids though I did not expect to find many sellers because Diwali was only two days away. The regular shops would be open for the Diwali shoppers which meant there wouldn’t be space for the second hand book sellers to set up shop. But last Sunday I found my first book even before I got to Abids. At Chikkadpally I found Victor E. Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ which was a book some of my friends had told me about. I had not evinced much interest in reading it when I first heard of the book maybe because of the serious sounding title. But when I saw the actual book I did not think twice before buying it for fifty rupees. I was glad because it was in good condition and I had got it pretty cheap. Later at Abids though I did not find anything interesting Shrikant spotted and picked up George Orwell’s ‘Homage to Catalonia’ that I borrowed from him and which I am currently reading.
The same day in the evening I checked out Crossword at GVK One and also at Walden in Begumpet but couldn’t find Sidin Vadukut’s ‘Who Let the Dork Out’ that I had been planning to buy ever since I read that it had been launched. On Friday I had planned to read it in the plane on way to Tirupati but I got to the airport too late and had no time to check the bookstore at the Shamshabad airport. Anyway, on Monday evening I was returning from yet another high level meeting and since I was near Landmark at Somajiguda I went in. Luckily I could find the book and got quite a thrill seeing on the back cover a blurb by Hari. I read just the acknowledgements page and the first paragraph in the first chapter which was enough to convince me that ‘Who Let the Dork Out’ by Sidin Vadukut could be the crowning glory in the Dork trilogy. I’ve kept it aside to read it shortly after I finish the books I am currently reading so you have to wait a while for the review.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

On TV, and in the Papers

If you had not switched on the television at seven in the morning last Thursday and had not watched Doordarshan you better be prepared to spend the rest of your life feeling utterly miserable, so unlucky you are. Tsk. I can only pity you for missing an once-in-a-lifetime event. It is your bad luck not having watched what I think is my only appearance on TV as a talking head. You’ve really missed watching me live at my bureaucratic best in appearance and also, performance. I feel sad for you that you will never get the opportunity again, at least not on DD. As it is, I break into a sweat at the very thought of meeting strangers or facing an audience of more than three people. Imagine how many liters of sweat I must have perspired on being told I have to face a tv camera. My first worry wasn’t how I’d get through the talk show but about how I’d appear and how many people would switch off the television the moment I appear on their screens. In case you did not know or hadn't bothered to check the picture on my profile, I’m not exactly Shahid Khan but an almost 50 years old guy seriously lacking in the looks department. In short, I am not terribly photogenic but there was no way I could avoid being on the show what with the cyclone ‘Nilam’ wreaking havoc in the State. I was to inform the audience (if there’s any) what the government was doing. I think I was on the screen for approximately 17.4 seconds (in a program that lasted thirty minutes) and the rest of the time the camera seemed to have been focused on three other people including the anchor. I do not know what message I managed to convey to the public about the measures taken by the government in the face of the cyclone. But I got the message that on these kind of talk shows it is the anchor who is right, and it is the anchor who gets the most screen time. It is natural because he is the anchor. Anyway, judging from the fact that neither I nor DD were flooded with calls shows that the show seems to have gone completely unnoticed which also means that not many people got to see me. No one I know seems to have watched the show. Even my own family did not bother to watch it which speaks volumes about my looks. Ahem. Apart from this historic and rare appearance on TV, I also made it to the newspapers. Were it not for ‘Nilam’ cyclone ‘The Hindu’ may not have bothered to mention my name in their columns. Last Sunday my name was mentioned in a report about the damages wrought by the cyclone in the State. It carried my designation as well which is bigger than my name. They also got it completely wrong. I do not mind though. For a couple of days I was flooded with calls from BBC, CNN, Wall Street Journal and something called the German Press, asking me for updates on the cyclone damages. I do not know if I made it to the international press also. But it was an experience that merits an entire post. But next time I'm the news I hope it will be after my novel gets published.

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Sunday Haul

On Sunday I went alone to Abids. I saw Mordecai Richler's 'The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz'at the same spot where I had seen it last. The other book Herman Wouk's "Don't Stop the Carnival" was also there at the same place I had seen it last Sunday. Since I had earlier seen copies of these two books I did not buy them right away and decided to keep them for another day. I was looking for something not usually found but I found such a book at Chikkadpally not at Abids. This seller near the RTC Crossroads sometimes has real jewels. On Sunday he had Robert M Pirsig's classic 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'on the pavement. This copy with a cover in psychedelic colors was the 25th Anniversary Edition it said on the cover. I had seen a similar copy elsewhere but with the cover half torn. Since it seemed unlikely I would find another good copy I bought it though I had read the book earlier. I had read the book almost twenty years ago. I want to read it again very soon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Haul

One would think that booklovers like me would be happy after a trip to a bookstore arms filled with books. Not me though because I feel depressed after I step out of a bookstore even though I have bought a couple of books. I’m unhappy because of all the books I have left behind without buying. I wish I had enough money to buy all the books I want to buy and read, of course.
On Sunday I was at Abids with my two friends, Uma and Srikant to look for books. If people in Hyderabad who love second hand books are intrepid visitors to Abids then the people who sell them are no less also intrepid. Despite the festival shopping crowds which meant the regular shops were open there were quite a number of sellers who set up their shelves wherever there was space at Abids. Some of them were at their regular spots. I had seen Herman Wouk’s ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’ that I had been meaning to buy for sometime but finally did not buy. It was a fairly good copy and the seller was one who would give it to me quite cheap. Still, I did not buy it and decided I’d wait one more week.
Afterwards I found nothing interesting but Srikant spotted ‘Kingdom’s End and Other Stories’ by Saadat Hasan Manto. The translator was Khalid Hasan and since it was a Penguin title I wanted it. I was lucky since Srikant graciously let me take it. I got the book for only fifty rupees which was quite a bargain considering the author and the imprint. Later I read the introduction which I found to be one of the best I’ve ever read about Manto. I was glad I found this title because sometime in July I had found another collection of Manto’s stories from Katha titled ‘Black Margins’ where the stories are translated by several people. ‘Kingdom’s End and Other Stories’ has twenty four stories in all and some of them I had already read in the other collection and elsewhere. There are some stories like Toba Tek Singh with the same title but some stories had different titles like Cold Meat/Colder Than Ice, For Freedom’s Sake/The Price of Freedom and so on. It would be interesting to read two different translated versions.
Monday, the next day, being Durgashtami, was a holiday for us in the state government. I was alone at home and quite bored. I decided to drop in at the new Best Book store in the premises of YMCA where I picked up a couple of books. This latest secondhand book store in Hyderabad is small but has a lot of good books. I picked up yet another copy of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ but the real find was a Spenser title. I saw Robert B. Parker’s ‘Promised Land’ and lapped it up right away. After I paid for these books I saw George V. Higgins’ ‘On Writing’ that I reluctantly did not buy because of budget problems. It was with mixed feelings that I left the store, glad I had found a new Spenser title and at the same time full of regret that I couldn’t buy George V.Higgins’ book.
Wednesday was a holiday again. After reading a bit, watching a bit of television I felt restless. If one is an addict then one makes all sorts of excuses to indulge in one’s particular addiction. Ever since I saw ‘On Writing’ by George V.Higgins I felt that I have to read that book if I wanted to complete my novel. As the day progressed my restlessness grew and finally I decided I’d go and have another look at the book since I had forgotten what the price was. So I went to Best Books again sometime around lunch time and picked up the book. After I got home I started reading the book and am half way through it. Stephen King also has a book titled ‘On Writing’ and George V.Higgins too has one of the same title. The similarity ends there since King’s book is interesting and fun to read, whereas George V.Higgins’ book needs some effort to get to the meaning. The sentences are lengthy and pretty convoluted which means that one cannot race through the book like one can through King’s book. However, some of the advice is pretty useful to clueless writers like me. Later in the evening I had to go to my in-laws’ place in Begumpet and on the way I stopped at Frankfurt. After I had bought Higgins’ book in the afternoon I had decided I would not buy any more books for some time to come. At Frankfurt I saw Don Delillo’s ‘Underground’, ‘Best Food Writing 2006,’ ‘Atlas of Folded Earth’ by Anuradha Roy and many books by hundreds of other writers I can never hope to read in this lifetime. I spent a good part of an hour going through every title that appeared interesting and finally left, as resolved earlier, without buying anything. It was a small miracle that I came out of the bookstore without buying anything.

Friday, October 19, 2012


When the festival season begins it is bad news for the second hand book sellers at Abids in Hyderabad. Starting from the week before Dasara and upto end of Diwali all shops at Abids are open even on Sundays. It is on Sundays that the second hand booksellers of sell books on the pavements of Abids. Abids being a prime shopping center otherwise, the shops are open on Sundays. Last Sunday however only a couple of the regular shops were open which meant that the second hand book sellers were present in full strength. We (me, Uma and Srikant) started off with the hunt after our usual tea and biscuits at the Irani, at around half past eleven. The beautiful, mildly sunny morning appeared promising.
Shortly after we began looking I found Doris Lessing’s ‘Particularly Cats’ that I had seen a couple of Sundays ago. In this month’s ‘Literary Review’ of The Hindu, in his ‘Endpaper’ column, Pradeep Sebastian had written about Nilanjana Roy’s ‘The Wildings’ in which cats feature prominently. I somehow felt that maybe I should read both these books and so picked up ‘Particularly Cats’ that was in a pile of books being sold for twenty rupees. ‘Particularly Cats’ is just over a hundred pages and has fourteen chapters. The way the writing goes (lucid) the book can be finished in a couple of hours. I want to read ‘Particularly Cats’ and ‘The Wildings’ simultaneously if I can. But I have no idea when I would be able to buy ‘The Wildings’ and read it but I’ll be looking for the book first at Abids. If I do not get it here then I plan to buy a new copy very soon.
For some reason I am unable to fathom, I am utterly fascinated with books on food, cooking, chef’s autobiographies and related stuff. I have read Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Kitchen Confidential’, ‘Nasty Bits’, and also a book by Gordon Ramsay recently. There is a book by Michael Ruhlman titled ‘The Soul of a Chef’ that I have bought a long time back and haven’t yet found enough time to read. Sometime back I had seen ‘Best Food Writing 2007’ at Abids but did not buy it because the price quoted by the seller was too high. I had a feeling that no one would buy the book and I was right. Three or four months have passed and the book was still with the pavement until last Sunday when I got the book for half of what the seller had quoted originally. Edited by Holly Hughes the more than fifty articles in ‘Best Food Writing 2007’ are put in nine sections with the following titles; Food Fights, Home Cooking, Someone’s in the Kitchen, Dining Around, Fast Food, The World’s Kitchen, The Meat of the Matter, Personal Tastes and Why I Cook. The last chapter is where I want to start reading the book. The articles are culled from several magazines and of the fifty odd names of the writers the only names I could recognize were that of Madhur Jaffrey, Barbara Kingsolver and Anthony Bourdain. Since I rather like Bourdain’s style of writing I read his article titled ‘My Miami’ on a few food joints in Miami where he has some really exotic stuff. You can’t have a book like ‘Best Food Writing’ and not find any recipes in it. Recipes abound in it though of dishes I’ve never heard of before and which I’m not likely to find anywhere in Hyderabad except maybe in Jubilee Hills. I’m not listing them here deliberately lest it leaves one salivating. On the way back I stopped at a seller who puts up a few books at RTC X Roads just beyond the traffic signal on the side of the road leading towards Musheerabad. I haven’t picked up many books here but last Sunday I saw a title that I had a feeling might be a good read. One reason I wanted to buy this was my resolve to read as much fiction by Indian writers as possible and the other reason was that it was a title by Penguin. I got ‘Sweet Chillies’ by Balraj Khanna for forty rupees. I am very glad I bought it because I’ve another good writer that I’ve discovered on my own. Later I read that ‘Sweet Chillies’ was a sort of a sequel to ‘A Nation of Fools’, Balraj Khanna’s first book. I vaguely remembered seeing this title somewhere recently but now I plan to look for it and read it before beginning ‘Sweet Chillies.’ I really want to find ‘A Nation of Fools’ because it seems it was compared with ‘JD Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ by someone.

FRIDAY DOUBLE POST:1.Trip No. 6 to New Delhi

Unlike my previous postings where I could travel to many interesting places including villages, in this Secretariat posting I seem to be destined to travel to only one place- New Delhi. In the two years that I have been in the Secretariat I’ve been to Delhi five times. I was there for the sixth time last week. It gets a bit monotonous going to the same place every time but I do not mind it because the spin-off is that I can visit my brother’s family. Of course, there’s the fact that I’ll be flying at Government expense. This time however there was another reason I was looking forward to the trip. I had planned to read Sidin Vadukut’s ‘Who Let the Dork Out’ (which is the third book in the Dork trilogy) during the two hour early morning flight from Hyderabad to Delhi. However, to my surprise, the WH Smith store at RGIA airport did not have the book and I wasn’t inclined to buy other books. Disappointed, I sat during the entire journey trying to read as many newspapers as I could. I was attending a National level workshop on behalf of my boss who happens to be a Principal Secretary. As the plane neared Delhi my anxiety grew. I began to have visions of even more higher people asking me to state the views of the State and it began to make me even more nervous. As it is I had another reason to be anxious. After the plane landed I took a prepaid taxi and rushed to the venue. The workshop had just begun. I noticed that the hall was filled with a lot of top brass from other States and also the Government of India. I decided that the best policy was to stay mum amongst these distinguished people. So I did not speak much or distinguish myself in any way or do anything to make sit up and take notice. I must have also set some kind of a record. Other participants may be have been Principal Secretaries and other high level officials but I was the only one participating in the workshop carrying something none of the participants may have even dreamt of bringing to the workshop. When I was told I had to go to Delhi I had called my brother to inform him that I was coming over, and told him to ask my mother if she wanted anything to be brought from Hyderabad. After my mother told me what she wanted me to bring from Delhi I wished I hadn’t made that call. She told me to bring jowar atta, all four kilograms of it. I couldn’t say no (no one can say ‘no’ to one’s mother) and agreed to bring it without a second thought. Since I’d be leaving on Friday morning and returning on Saturday I packed only a small bag. The cargo of jowar atta in my bag did not excite the curiosity of the security at RGIA. At Delhi the venue of the workshop was Vigyan Bhawan which is guarded like a fortress with cops crawling all over the place. When my bag passed the scanner, the lady cop asked me, hesitantly, what was in the bag. I told her. She asked me to take out the bags. She asked me what’s so special about the jowar atta while carefully looking at the plastic one kg bags. Her colleague advised her to smell the flour. Maybe they thought I’d be carrying some kind of explosive in form of powder. They all had expressions like they couldn’t believe someone could come to a meeting carrying jowar atta. I was a bit embarrassed about the whole thing but mercifully I was let inside. It was an educative workshop though for me since I got the chance to observe how the top brass go through policy issues with a fine comb. I listened carefully, taking down notes, and referring to the material I was given. It went on until five in the evening with two short breaks for tea and of course, for lunch which was nothing special. May people left after lunch and I too was tempted but I stayed on until the end. At half past five or so I walked out relieved that the official part of the trip was finally over. After I stepped out of the workshop the personal part began. I put my bag at a place where I was to meet another officer and took off for Connaught Place. Whenever I am in New Delhi I make it a point to visit CP to make sure I am really in New Delhi. The place was still in a mess with dug up roads, earth movers noisily excavating, and dust everywhere. I walked around and managed to buy two notebooks of a local brand called Shipra. I ended the short jaunt with a steaming cup of coffee at Saravanas on Janpath where I noticed ‘Jain Sambar’ is now available. I had already started on the coffee or else I would have ordered something just to find out how ‘Jain Sambar’ tastes. Maybe on my next visit I will get the chance. Later, I met another officer who offered me his car so I could go to my brother’s place at CR Park. Khan Market was on the way so I decided to have a quick walk around and see if I can find ‘Who Let the Dork Out’. Since my recent visit to Khan Market about six months ago it seemed to have become more posh. At a bookstore there I was told Sidin Vadukut’s latest book is yet to be launched which was news to me. I had read somewhere that the book was on the shelves already. At a toy store I found something to take home for my kid and started off for CR Park in the cab. I spent a pleasant evening with my brother’s family and my mother who was quite happy that I got her the jowar atta. On the flight back home on Saturday morning there was Yuvraj Singh in the plane who was inundated with requests for autographs inside the plane as well as at the airport in Hyderabad. I forgot to ask because I was anxious about the large bag I had brought along. It weighed quite a lot and belonged to someone to whom also, just like my mother, I couldn’t say no. Only after I had entrusted the bag to another person was I able to breathe easy. On the whole it was a nice trip.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Sunday Haul

This blog is now listed in the Best Indian Bloggers directory.
There are certain days when I have a strong feeling that I would be returning home from Abids with a good haul. Last Sunday turned out to be one such Sunday and I set out from home eagerly wondering what I’d be finding in the second hand book bazaar at Abids. I did not have to wait until I got to Abids because at Chikkadpally itself I knew my hunch had been right. There’s a seller in Chikkadpally who usually manages to find some good titles and puts them up for sale. The other Sunday I had picked up Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni’s ‘Sister of My Heart’ from him as well as other titles before that. I make it a point to check out his collection before I go on to Abids though on a few occasions I rushed to Abids without stopping. Last Sunday I was glad I stopped because I spotted Daniyal Mueenuddin’s ‘In Other Rooms, Other Wonders’ among the books on the pavement at Chikkadpally. The copy was in good condition and was almost brand new. I thought the seller would ask for no less than a hundred rupees for it. When he asked for seventy five rupees I was relieved but did not buy it right away. I decided to bargain and push my luck. He agreed to lower the price and I got it for only sixty rupees. At that price the book was a really good find. Daniyal Mueenuddin would be the third or fourth Pakistani writer I would be reading after Mohsin Hamid and Mohammed Hanif. I had read about Mueenudding and this title a long time back but did not really expect to find it in Hyderabad. ‘In Other Rooms, Other Wonders’ is a collection of just eight short stories: Nawabdin Electician/ Saleema/ Provide, Provide/ About a Burning Girl/In Other Rooms, Other Wonders/Our Lady of Paris/ Lily/ A Spoiled Man. There’s a lot of praise for the book that fills up quite a number of pages in the front before the actual stories begin. Even otherwise I would have been dumb not to have picked up the book. After finding ‘In Other Rooms, Other Wonders’ at Chikkadpally, I did not find anything really interesting at Abids. I had read in Diana Athill’s ‘Stet’ about Mordecai Richler and his book ‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz’ which I thought I’d buy if I come across it. I saw it at Abids last Sunday but did not buy it because the seller was a guy who doesn’t sell cheap. I had earlier seen the same book in a heap of books selling for twenty/thirty rupees so decided to look out for it on another Sunday. Next Sunday there may not be many sellers at Abids since the festival season begins but I will anyway go. Later on I found a decent enough copy of the fourth edition of ‘The Elements of Style’ and got it for forty rupees. Since I already own a couple of copies of this book I gave it to Srikanth. After I got home I read one of the stories in ‘In Other Rooms, Other Wonders’ titled About a Burning Girl- and I found Daniyal Muneeuddin’s writing to be worthy of all the praise that it has got. I’m glad I bought the book. Pen News Close on the heels of the news that Lawrence & Mayo is now into pens comes the news that Louis Vuitton is also getting into pens. I wonder when I will get to see a few models in Hyderabad.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Another Haul

Not a week passes in my life without buying at least one book and last week was no exception. There seemed to be no possibility of going to the second hand book bazaar Abids in view of the crowds expected for the political rally on Sunday. I decided to check out the Best Books sale at YMCA since it was the last day of the sale. I had picked up only a couple of books during the fortnight long sale and wasn’t exactly looking for more books to buy because there did not seem to be any in the sale. This sale appeared dull and insipid with an uninteresting collection of books laid out. I found that most of the books I had seen on my earlier visits were sold out. I did not buy any book but spend close to two hours looking closely at each and every title for something interesting. Sadly, I did not find anything worth buying. In contrast, though the seller whos has put up a few shelves at Sangeet had a surprise in store. There was a new copy of Amitav Ghosh’s ‘In An Antique Land’ that I wanted to buy. The price did not seem right for a copy that had a few defects though the overall condition was almost new-like. I hesitated for a long time and since I was reluctant to return home without a book I settled on another book. The book I bought was ‘Flying Visits’ by Clive James that was a collection of travel pieces that had appeared in ‘Observer’ in the seventies. It seemed an interesting book and so I got it for forty rupees wich was all that I was prepared to spend on books last Sunday because it was the last day of the month. Even as I was writing this post and preparing to put it up on the blog there was a message on my mobile phone from the Best Books people. It contained the good news that their sale at YMCA, Secunderabad had been extended up to 15th October and added that newer titles were now in sale. This news calls for a couple more visits to the sale which might result in more books being added to my already over laden bookshelves. I hope they have added some really interesting titles.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Two Hauls, Two Gifts and A Bit of Good News

I sometimes wish I could be the only visitor to any sale of second hand books and also have enough money to buy all the books I want to read. It is with great difficulty I leave behind a few books without purchasing them mostly because of budgetary problems. At the sale by Best Books at YMCA I had not bought two books that I now wish I had bought. One was a collection of poems by TS Eliot and the other title was a collection of short stories by William Faulkner. Last Saturday I was there again and couldn’t find these two titles. Saying that I felt bad is only understating my actual reaction. Instead of the thousand rupees or so that I budget for books every month I wish I could keep aside five thousand rupees. There are still so many books that I have to read. Luckily for me, VS Naipaul’s ‘The Overcrowded Barracoon’ was still on the shelf. I bought it though it was priced at hundred and fifty rupees. I had also seen AJ Ackerley’s ‘Hindoo Holiday’ on my first visit to the sale but now it wasn’t to be seen. The guys at the sale told me they would be bringing in newer stocks this week but I haven’t yet found the time to make another visit. I plan to go there today (Friday) since Sunday is the last day of the sale. Uma was with me and he picked up Salman Rushdie’s ‘Imaginary Homelands’ that I plan to borrow from him and read one of these days. The next day was Sunday and time to go to Abids. On my way to Abids I stopped at one of the sellers in Chikkadpally. The guy had Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni’s ‘Sister of My Heart’ that he offered to sell at fifty rupees. I hesitated for a while before buying it since I plan to read at least half a dozen books by Indian writers before the end of the year. I couldn’t find anything else at Abids but I saw a book on cats by Doris Lessing. It was in a good condition and lying in a heap of books that sold for twenty rupees. But I did not buy it. I also saw a not-so-good copy of PJ O’Rourke’s ‘Republican Party Reptile’ that I might buy next Sunday if we are able to go out on the streets. Two Gifts Uma gave me a wonderful gift of a box containing a collection of hundred postcards having a picture of a prominent writer on the back It was ‘Postcards from Penguin Modern Classics-One Hundred Writers in One Box’. It was fantastic because at last I could get to see the faces of some of my favorite writers. After taking the box home I went through each and every postcard in the box with my kid. I was surprised to see Carson McCullers’ picture because the cover of her book ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ also had the picture of a rather sad looking girl. I did not know then that it was the writer herself on the cover. I was surprised Maugham, Gore Vidal were not featured in the collection. It was an unexpected and wonderful gift from Uma to whom I owe many thanks Another wonderful birthday gift I got was a Parker Vector fountain pen from Raj, my friend of more than twenty five years. My birthday was in February but the only thing I can think is that Raj certainly took his time to find the perfect gift for me. The blue colored fountain pen was exactly what I needed to do my daily writing in office so I have started using it right away. Thanks, bade saab. Talking of pens, the other day I read in the papers that Lawrence & Mayo is coming out with pens too apart from their usual glasses and frames. I read that they are bringing out hand-made granite pens in a range that starts from Rs 1000. I wonder how a handmade granite pen would feel in the hand. The Bit of Good News But what had me excited was the news about Sidin Vadukut’s last book in the Dork trilogy. I read in the papers that the book is on the stands and is priced at Rs 199. The title of the third book is ‘Who Let the Dork Out’ which is funny in itself. The first two books in the Dork trilogy- ‘Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin Einstein Varghese’ and the second ‘God Save the Dork’ I found to be incomparably funny and I expect the last book too be the same or funnier. This is one book I am going to buy from the bookstores right away and start reading the minute it is in my hands.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Two Hauls

The Haul at the Sale More than the trip to Abids every Sunday, more than the Literary Review in The Hindu every first Sunday of the month and more than the annual Hyderabad Book Fair what I eagerly wait for is the sale of secondhand books by Best Books Centre that happens twice a year. However, I await this event with a bit of trepidation also because I don't know if I will have enough money to buy all the titles I want to buy. At such sales I feel like someone let into a banquet after a long fast. This feeling is especially strong on the first day of the sale which I unfailingly attend no matter what. The first visit on the first day is always dangerous because I tend to pick up every good book in sight no matter what the price. Last week I went on the first day of the sale and picked up more than a couple of books that left me short of a few hundred rupees. If there is one gripe I have about these kind of sales by Best Books it is that such sales always seem to be held in the second half of the month when the wallet is more than half empty. So it was with a depleted empty wallet that I made my first visit to the Best Books sale at YMCA. Within minutes of entering I picked up Haruki Murakami's 'Norwegian Wood' for Rs 150, a second copy of Diana Athill's 'Stet' for Rs 95. I had picked up the same book at Abids not more than a couple of Sundays ago for Rs 30. I still haven’t started reading this book contrary to my claims of reading it at the earliest. Anyway, the third book I picked up was the 'Oxford Essential Guide to Writing' for Rs 125. This is one book I shouldn't have bothered to pick up because even after reading approximately a hundred books on writing I am unable to finish my first novel eight years after I have started it. However, I hope this book will help in fixing whatever shortcomings in my writing that seem to be hindering the completion of the novel. Four days after the first visit I went there again yesterday. On my first visit I had also seen a book of poems by TS.Eliot, something that I had promised myself to buy recently, and also a book of stories by William Faulkner and 'Hindoo Holiday' by A.J. Ackerley. Alas, when I looked for them I couldn't find them. Half disappointed at not finding them and also half relieved that I was spared buying these books I bought Somerset Maugham's 'The Human Element and Other Stories' for ninety five rupees. There was the 'Complete Prose of Woody Allen' and also Naipaul's 'The Overcrowded Barracoon' that I reluctantly did not buy in favor of Maugham's book. The sale is on until the end of the month and the guys at the sale told me to come next week as they would be getting newer stock. The Sunday Haul The next day of my first visit to the sale happened to be Sunday, and as usual I went to Abids to look for more books. I found a nice copy of Susan Isaacs 'Shining Through' which I want to send to a friend in Mumbai. I had bought a copy at Abids a long time ago and read it soon after. 'Shining Through' is full of witty lines and is the kind of book I enjoy reading. Linda Voss is one unforgettable character and if you like some really hilarious stuff then this is the book. I couldn’t find the Jonathan Franzen title I had seen earlier. After buying nearly half a dozen books in less than thirty six hours I was in no mood to add more books to my bookshelf and so returned home earlier than usual.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Sunday Haul, News of a Sale, and About Book Titles

The Haul

The last time I saw Dave Eggers’ ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’ it was at a book sale more than a couple of years ago. It was a sale of second hand books but the price was of this book was somewhere near three hundred rupees and so naturally I did not pick it u p. I knew little about Dave Eggers then though an extract of Michiko Kakutani’s review full of praise for it made me almost buy it but for the price. I did not come across the book again until last Sunday. I saw ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’ in a heap of books selling for Rs 20. I bought it right away. The book runs into more than 450 pages and looks very interesting with other superlative praise filling up a couple of pages in the front.
I also saw a book by Jonathan Franzen but I am not able to recollect the title now. But I am saving it for next Sunday if I am in the mood and shape to buy more books after a book sale that is coming up on Saturday. The eagerly awaited sale of second hand books by the ‘Best Books’ people begins on Saturday, that is, the 15th of September. The venue is YMCA, Secunderabad and I have no idea how long it will last but it is going to be around longer than expected.

News of A Sale

The ‘Best Books’ guy I got this news from also gave me another piece of wonderful news. It seems BB is planning to make the sale a permanent one. In other words they are opening their latest branch at YMCA tomorrow. It also means I have a second hand book store closer home. So whenever I feel the itch to browse through some good second hand titles I do not have to run all the way to Abids or Khairatabad or Begumpet.

Of Book Titles and their Origins

The last line in WB Yeats’ poem ‘The Second Coming’ ‘…Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born’ was obviously the inspiration behind the title of Joan Didion’s collection of essays ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem.’ I know it because the poem comes after the ‘Acknowledgments’ page in the book. Last week I made a serendipitious discovery about the origin of another title. A couple of months back I had read somewhere about Tim Parks’ memoir titled ‘Teach Us to Sit Still’ that I planned to read if ever I came across it. Incidentally, I saw the book at Landmark, Somajiguda last week but I did not buy the book right away. I do not find it easy to spend hundreds of rupees buying a new book in a bookstore when I can find the same book cheap at Abids if I am patient. Anyway, the thing is that at that time I did not think much about the origin of the title. I could have learnt about it if I had opened the book and read the first chapter. I am currently reading Saul Bellow’s collection of non-fiction titled ‘It All Adds Up’ and going through it a chapter a day. The other day I read a piece which was actually a lecture Bellow gave at Oxford University in 1990. The piece was titled ‘The Distracted Public’ in which Saul Bellow quoted two lines from a poem by TS Eliot that go like this: Teach us to care and not to care/Teach us to sit still. It gave me a minor thrill knowing where Tim Parks got the title of his memoir. The side effect of this discovery is that now I want to read everything that TS Eliot wrote.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Friday Double Post-2 :Incident at The Marigold

Not more than a couple of weeks have passed since I wrote here about the newest hotel in Hyderabad- the Marigold- which itself opened not less than a month ago. Such is my luck that though it isn’t a whole month yet since The Marigold opened its doors I’ve already had the chance to be there last Friday. I haven’t had a similar chance when the Park Hyatt and Vivanta opened but with Marigold I seem to have better luck. Coming as it was just when I reached a significant milestone the chance to visit Margold was a welcome change.

Anyway, it was office work and not fate, and certainly not hunger, that took me to Marigold. Last Friday we had a top official from Delhi who booked himself at the Marigold as I later found out. Usually when people from Delhi visit Hyderabad it is one of the Government Guest Houses where they are put up. So when I learnt that this official was in Marigold I had filled with a certain nervousness for more than one reason.

It isn’t that I get nervous at the prospect of dropping in at such fancy hotels but the thing is there are certain requirements one has to fulfil before one even thinks of going to such places. First thing is that it is always better to drive to such places in a car. Secondly one doesn’t drop in at such high end hotels (even if one isn’t planning to eat there and even if it is just to look up someone) without at least a wad of currency in the wallet. Thirdly, one doesn’t simply pass through the lobby without at least wearing matching socks even if one isn’t wearing a suit. Luckily last Friday was one such day I was better dressed than usual. Actually you could have mistaken me for a corporate honcho except I wasn’t wearing a suit and a tie. So, out of three requirements I had fulfilled two- car and clothes - but I still felt nervous. The thing is, I had forgotten my wallet at home which is something that rarely happens to me.

Like any other sensible guy I too check if I’ve got my pen, my wallet, my mobile, my hanky with me every morning before I step out of the house. Last Friday though I had all the other items on my person I did not realize that I was forgetting my wallet. It was only later that I learnt that I had reached office sans wallet in the back pocket. At that time I did not know that later in the day I was destined to visit Marigold so I did not mind going through the day at the office without a paisa in my pocket. But when I was told I was to visit Marigold in the evening I became extremely nervous.

On Friday sometime around half past six I reached Marigold first in order to wait for my boss who was to come a little later. The first thing I liked about Marigold was that it was set deep inside a large compound. However, from the front it did not look like it had 181 rooms. As soon as I entered the lobby somebody dressed in black floated in my direction. It was a thin lady dressed in a black coat like thing that almost reached the ankle which seems to be the latest fashion in the top end hotels. She had a nice smile on her face, which is another thing I like about the hospitality industry: they always smile at you even if you aren’t dressed like John Travolta. I wondered if she would smile at me like that if she knew I was a temporarily penniless government guy. When I told her I had come to meet a guest she asked me which room he was staying. I had not remembered to ask my boss who it was we were supposed to meet so I waited until he came a little later. After he told me the name of the official we were supposed to meet I grew more jittery.

It so happens with these Delhi guys (officials especially) that they think just because they are in the Capital they are the cat’s whiskers. Last month I had a run in with a Delhi guy who was quite high in the pecking order. He had called me to ask for the arrangements to be made for someone who was visiting Hyderabad. If it was him who was visiting Hyderabad I would have taken care he got the right accommodation and arranged for transport but it was his son who was coming here on personal work. The son was not some school kid who had to be shown how to do things but a grown up and a surgeon to boot, and the Delhi guy was calling me up every other day to ask what arrangements I had made for his precious son’s stay at Hyderabad. We are obliged to do the expected for government officials and not their families especially when they are on personal work so with that attitude I took it rather casually. The outcome was that he was pretty riled up with me though ultimately I had made all the arrangements he wanted. I had wondered then how this guy could be in person because he was an ex-Army person and sounded pretty gruff and senior citizen-like. I did not realize I would be coming face to face with him so soon and that was what made me jittery. I hoped he wasn't the sort of ex-Army man to around with grenades in his pocket.

What followed was an elaborate affair as the lady personally herself escorted us to the lift and led us to the guest’s room and also knocked on the door on our behalf. Meanwhile my knees had started knocking. What if the guy had come to check me out?

Luckily for me the Delhi guy did not seem to realize who I was even after I asked him how his son’s stay at Hyderabad had been. He was pretty courteous and even offered us tea and cookies. Until then I was wondering where the Pan Asian restaurant was and if I could get to taste something which are the sort of thoughts one has when hungry. The tea was pretty nice and the cookies were so soft and tasty that I decided to have tea and biscuits also the next time I dropped in there for lunch or dinner. After we met the guest there took place another small drama.

When the lady had accompanied us all the way to the guest’s room I had wondered if she thought we were the sort who couldn’t find our way anywhere. I had noticed that she had operated the lift with some kind of a card. To cut a long story short after meeting the guest when we tried to get down in the lift the lift wouldn’t budge an inch. We tried pressing all the buttons and my boss got a bit panicky. I wondered if the lift would move if we put some coins inside a slot. But there was no slot. I thought of asking our guest to call the hotel staff to operate the lift. It would be a little embarrassing but there was no other solution. However, we found the guest himself standing outside his room. He told us sheepishly that he had locked himself out of his room forgetting his smart card inside. Luckily for us one of the hotel staff came to our rescue and ended this hi-tech drama.