Friday, April 27, 2012

Kitchdi Post- The Sunday Haul and Other stuff

A Cancelled Trip It would have been a kind of a personal record had last week’s planned trip to Chennai materialized. Unfortunately, the railway reservation wasn’t confirmed dashing my hopes for creating a personal record of making three trips in a single month. Earlier in the month I had been to New Delhi and a day later to Tirupati and a week later I was scheduled to go to Chennai. But things did not work out since I was on a waitlist and my reservation was not confirmed. I waited with hope until the last minute. I was looking forward to the visit to Chennai and after that disappointment I cancelled another trip to Pune later this week. One thing I learnt about the whole experience was that one had to get unused railway ticket cancelled as soon as possible preferably on the same day. It was my mistake not being aware of the rules for getting refunds for railway tickets not used. I had thought that being on Waitlist I would get a refund easily whenever I presented the ticket. But when I went to get my refund I was in for a shock. It seems the rules say I have to present the ticket for cancellation within 12 hours. I went a day later with the result that I had to go to Rail Nilayam in Secunderabad and fill an application form. It seems I have to wait for nearly three weeks to know if I could be considered for a refund. Back to Airtel Six months ago if anyone had asked me what I thought about Airtel I would have told them that I would never, ever go for Airtel even if they paid me to become their subscriber. Exactly in September 201 our office decided to opt for BSNL under the number portability scheme because Airtel wasn’t offering good service. But now just six months later, we are bidding goodbye to BSNL and embracing Airtel again. This, perhaps, is the ultimate irony. Happy with BSNL I voiced my opposition to the plan to return to Airtel but in the government things are different. So now I am back to the routine of running out of the house every time I get a call on my mobile. But this time if I get a message from Airtel that they are charging me for using Airtel radio they are going to listen to some music themselves. The Sunday Haul After a bumper haul of Spenser titles the previous Sunday at Abids, I could pick up only one book this Sunday. At one of the sellers at Chikkadpally I found Bertrand Russell’s ‘The Conquest of Happiness.’ At the end of the brief preface Bertrand Russell’s writes ‘It is in the belief that many people who are unhappy could become happy by well-directed effort that I have written this book.’ No points for guessing why I want to read this book especially since I got the book for free. The seller did not accept money from me as earlier I had given him quite a number of old and not so well known titles that I had with me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Sunday Haul- Four Spensers & Odyssey’s Latest Branch

The Haul

Normally I go alone to look for books at Abids and return with a couple of good titles if I am lucky. Since about a year Uma has been accompanying me and together we manage to spot some really good books. Now, Srikanth is also coming along with us and the three of us are more or less cleaning up Abids of all good titles. Last Sunday it was a record haul in a way. Usually, only one Spenser title turns up in the haul now and then. But last Sunday we found not one or two but we ended up hauling up four Spenser titles in a span of about fifteen minutes. We found three in a single heap and one with a different seller. Of these, Uma spotted two and I found two. Three of these were almost new, hardcover copies that we got for only thirty rupees each. It was a real treasure finding the Spenser titles.

The first find was Robert B. Parker’s ‘Widow’s Walk’ followed by ‘Bad Business’ both which Uma found in a disorderly heap within minutes. My turn came next when in the same heap I picked up ‘Chance’ that I already have. But the copy I have is a paperback si picked it up. We felt that it was a super Sunday when I spotted another Spenser title- ‘God Save the Child’ on the pavement with another seller. It was a Penguin paperback and seemed to be a very early edition for it looked quite old. It might be one reason the seller asked for only ten rupees for the book. With a haul of four Robert B Parker’s Spenser titles in a day it really looked like a Spenser Sunday.

But that wasn’t all. I picked up a copy of Harper Lee’s ‘to Kill a Mocking Bird’ for a friend’s daughter. I added some more fuel to my scriptwriting dream by picking up another book- The Screenwriter Within- for a hundred rupees. It might help me get the script I am working on out of the cold storage. Another find was Somerset Maugham’s ‘Mrs Craddock’ which was actually the first find of Sunday. I bought the copy for forty rupees just before I met Uma and Srikanth. There was a nice copy of ‘Catch 22’ but I let it be.

Odyssey Opens Another Branch

This wasn’t the only haul last week. A day before, on Saturday I had dropped in at an Odyssey store along with Daniel. Sometime in the previous week I had noticed that the Bata store opposite Baseera in Secunderabad was gone and in its place was an Odyssey store. I did not drop in at that time but last Saturday I got the chance to check it out. There were heaps of books on tables for sale at Rs 100 each. There were quite a number of titles but I found only one book worth picking up. It was Martin Amis’ ‘Visiting Mrs Nabokov’ which is a collection of his non-fiction. One doesn’t find books by Martin Amis that regularly so finding ‘Visiting Mrs Nabokove’ was really lucky.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Two Trips and a Third in the Offing

Trip One .

After a long time I made two trips out of Hyderabad. One was an official trip which was short and the second trip was a personal one and longer. I made both trips in the previous week and felt better for having left Hyderabad for those few days. I hadn’t been out of Hyderabad for quite a while and was actually yearning to go somewhere. Unexpectedly I got a chance to go to Delhi even if it was for a day to attend a meeting on Monday.

On Sunday last I flew out to Delhi in the afternoon so I could spend some time with my brother’s family. Since it was a Sunday and having all the time in the world I decided to take the AeroExpress to the airport in Shamshabad instead of a cab. It was very hot and I couldn’t sit inside the Aero Express shelter near the Secretariat. The bus arrived on time and though it had AC that worked the large TV screen did not. Anyway, I reached the airport in about forty minutes at one third of the cost of a cab.

Every time I go to some place I seem to find changes, minor and major. At the RGI Airport in Shamshabad I noticed that there was a new bookstore- WH Smith Books. However I did not find anything worth buying there. I saw a Karachi Bakery store and picked up half a kilo of Osmania Biscuits for my brother. Later I checked in and to my dismay I got a middle seat sandwiched between two people. The guy at the window dozed off missing some terrific scenes outside of the fluffy white clouds and the sight of a lake and the river leading to it. From up above it appeared like a piece of golden jewellery in the rays of the setting sun. I wish I had my camera but the image stuck in my mind.

At Delhi I was at home all Sunday evening and Monday morning doing practically nothing except catching up on my reading. It wasn’t so hot at Delhi as it usually is in April. By some strange coincidence I seem to be making all my trips to Delhi either in April or November. I had been assigned this trip as a last minute replacement for one of my bosses who was a member of a Committee. I had no idea what to expect in the meeting in the afternoon with a senior IPS officer heading a para-military force. I needn’t have worried much because it was a formal meeting that did not last more than half hour. After the short meeting I went shopping in Sarojini Nagar market and picked up cotton shorts and tees in the hour and half that I spent there.

At the airport in Delhi I noticed that the bookstores that I had seen earlier in Terminal 1 have now closed down. When I landed on Sunday evening it was at the amazing and colossal Terminal 3 which was truly world class. Anyway, I noticed William Penn now have an outlet at the Delhi airport. I had my first glimpse of the famed Moleskines that I have only read about so far. They are far too expensive (from Rs 999 to Rs 1345) for a government babu like me to write in. I had a relatively uneventful flight but got a window seat this time. The brightly lit cities and towns from the plane looked like sparkling diamonds scattered in the darkness below. The vegetable biryani that I had ordered was not only expensive but awful tasting. I wished I hadn’t ordered it but I had no choice since I’d reach home late in the night. It was half past ten when I emerged out of the airport only to find it pleasant outside because of rain.

Trip Two.

A day after I returned from Delhi I went on my second and personal trip which was a pilgrimage of sorts. The second trip was to Tirupati on a package tour. IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) organises everything- the train tickets, food, darshan, local transportation which makes a visit to Tirupati free of all hassles. I had earlier been on a similar package and since it was very convenient I opted for the same package this time too. I went with my family on a two day package that included visits to Srikalahasti and Kaanipakam.

On the first day we were taken to Kaanipakam and while at Srinivasa Mangapuram I learnt something new. All along I had the impression that there was only one route up the Seven Hills from Alipiri if one wanted to go on foot. It is a 11 km climb and takes about four hours. But the guide accompanying us told us about a second route from Srivari Mettu which was only three kilometres and took only about two hours. I made a sudden decision to go up on this route and had to convince the family to agree.

We started at noon and soon discovered that it isn’t the right thing to go up the stairs wearing footwear. Everyone looked at our feet disapprovingly so we took our chappals off. This route isn’t very popular and I do not know the reason. The steps are very steep and though there was overhead cover there weren’t many people climbing up the steps. One has to rest every five or ten minutes because it is very exhausting to climb the steep steps. There are exactly 2400 steps to climb and at the 1200th step we got the Divyadarsanam token. At the 2150th step the cop stamped on this token. I expected to have darshan in about three or four hours and return down afterwards. But it did not go that way.

We reached Tirumala just before two in the afternoon. After lunch we learnt that it would take more than seven hours to have darshan. Since we would be anyway having a darshan the next day we came down to Tirumala where we were put up in the Srinivasam guesthouse. I got my head tonsured which gave me a new look. I had vowed I would climb up the steps and also get my head tonsured.

The next day morning we left at seven in the morning and reached Tirumala just before eight. We had darshan in just two hours which was a minor miracle. We had breakfast at the numerous stalls that dot Tirumala. Afterwards we came down and went to Srikalahasti in the hot sun. Later we had lunch at an APTDC hotel called Haritha at Srikalahasti. After a couple of hours rest we were taken to the railway station. In the train we were given our dinner packs and drinking water bottles. I was glad we had a smooth and uneventful trip.

Trip in the Offing: To Chennai

Next week I will be in Chennai to attend a training program at an institute somewhere at a place called Pallikarnai. I will be holed up in the institute till Friday and might check out Chennai on Saturday. So there will no post next week. Of course, this Friday I will post on the terrific book haul I had on Sunday.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Back from the Edge

It was a traumatic three weeks that I spent worrying about something that I do not wish to go into detail here. Thanks to an overactive imagination (which is one of my great weaknesses) I almost drove myself over the edge. But thanks to my family and a few close friends I'v managed to emerge from it though not fully. The experience also changed me a bit and also made me look at myself in a way I've never done before. Anyway, just as everyone was patient and understanding I hope it will also be understood if I post here less frequently, perhaps once a week, until things get better.