Friday, June 29, 2012

The Sunday Haul

Last Sunday turned out to be completely different from the sort of Sundays I usually have. First, the sun came out brightly after about a week of cloudy but rainless days, I couldn’t go to Abids at my usual time which was because I had to go to office on work (and later to Jubilee Hills which was cause for much excitement,) and finally my friends said they couldn’t join me at Abids. Early Sunday morning when I got the call that I have to go to office little did I realize it would entail a visit to Jubilee Hills as well. I usually look forward to a visit to Jubilee Hills anytime and it had been quite a long time since I had been to Jubilee Hills. I don’t know about you but I feel like I have been to another different world whenever I am in Jubilee Hills. Also,I had never been to Jubilee Hills before on a Sunday and it turned out to be different.

Naturally, I went in the car, being No.2. I almost felt like one of the residents of the Jubilee Hills being driven in a Honda City in that posh area but for the fact that my wallet was almost empty. Looking around I was reassured that everything was fine with Jubilee Hills and its fancy homes, its fashionable, rich residents who, I was surprised to note I did not see a single specimen of on the streets though it was past noon. Then it struck me that it was a Sunday and no self-respecting JH type would get out of bed until four in the afternoon on such a day. Naturally again, I was deeply disappointed for I was very much looking forward to see at least a couple of fashionable denizens going around in their fancy, expensive cars wearing those oversized goggles.

Anyway, later in the afternoon, at exactly 1 pm I reached Abids and proceeded alone to look for books. Actually it had been quite a while since I had no company while hunting for books and so I enjoyed the solo hunt and landed three books. The first find was a decent copy of Woody Allen’s ‘Without Feathers’ which is a collection of some hilarious essays and plays. Though I already possess a copy I picked it up since it cost me only thirty rupees and since it was a Woody Allen book that led me into a nice friendship with a very interesting person. The second find of the day was a book by a writer about whom I had only read so far and had not actually expected to find. I found David Foster Wallace’s ‘The Broom of the System’ and got it for only twenty rupees. I would have been happier if I had found ‘Infinite Jest’ but ‘The Broom…’ was no less a happy find though I wonder when I would find the time to read the tome that runs into 530 pages.

The last find of the day was Bill Bryson’s ‘Down Under’ which I had been looking for. I do remember reading it earlier but I want to read it again because after Dave Barry, Bryson is someone who I find very funny. ‘Down Under’ too is quite a tome and also turned out to be an expensive find because the seller wouldn’t give it to me for less than seventy rupees. I actually let go of two other good books- beautiful, hardcover copies of Len Deighton’s ‘Yesterday’s Spy’ and John Le Carre’s ‘Call for the Dead’ that I now feel I should have bought. Maybe next Sunday I will pick them up.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Sunday Haul

Yesterday while reading about Robert Byron’s ‘Road to Oxiana’ in Aparna Karthikeyan’s delightful column in the Metro Plus supplement of ‘The Hindu’ my desire to find this book grew stronger than ever. I also had the realization that there were quite a few books that I am desperate to find and which I hope to find either in the second hand bookstores of Hyderabad or at Abids. Some of the titles in my ‘Dying to Find’ list include:- ‘All About H.Hatterr’ by GV Desani, ‘Get Carter’ by Ted Lewis, ‘Fresh Air Fiend’ and ‘The Pillars of Hercules’ by Paul Theroux, ‘The Blind Rider’ by Juan Goytisolo, ‘The Pulphead’ by John Jeremiah Sullivan and several other books too numerous to list here.

If I am patient I know I will find these books one of these days just as I found Wilfred Thesiger and Freya Stark’s books in second hand bookstores and in the Abids book bazaar. Last Sunday there weren’t many books that I saw that were worth picking up. But I ended up buying an original edition of Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ that I had been planning to read. This did not come cheap and cost me a hundred rupees. I also saw a badly damaged copy of Chuck Palahniuk’s ‘The Fight Club’ that did not appear worth buying so I let it be. A few minutes later Uma picked Palahniuk’s ‘Diary’ which was a brand new hardcover copy that he got for just thirty rupees.

The other book that I picked up at Abids on Sunday was Reader’s Digest ‘5oth Anniversary Treasury’, a hardbound copy that I got for only fifty rupees. It runs into several hundred pages and among others has Helen Hanff’s ’84, Charing Cross Road’ and articles by AJ Cronin and Michener, apart from several other stories, articles, jokes. I picked it up feeling it would be a nice read during rainy afternoons.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Sunday Haul

There is nothing better than carrying a collection of short stories to pass the time and also get some serious reading done. I made this discovery recently while in the waiting room of a doctor I had gone to consult for a minor problem. Maybe I will write about this ‘minor problem’ in a future post. Anyway, since I know I may have to wait for at least on hour for my turn I decided to carry along Annie Proulx’s ‘Close Range’ to read. I finished reading ‘A Pair of Spurs’ which was quite a lengthy short story before my turn came. Afterwards I realized that I have quite a number of collections of short stories of which Indian writers are too few, insignificant, in fact. I had only Anita Desai’s ‘Diamond Dust’ and Mridula Koshy’s ‘If It Is Sweet’ in my collection. After I went through all the short story collections on my bookshelves I noticed that those by women writers outnumbered those by men. I did not have a single book of short stories written by an Indian male writer which was something I told myself I would rectify at the earliest.

Last Sunday at Abids I finally got the opportunity. I saw MT Vasudevan Nair’s ‘Catching An Elephant and Other Stories,’ ,a collection of Malayalam short stories translated into English by V.Abdulla. ‘Catching An Elephant..’ has nine stories in all: Catching an Elephant, Red Earth, In Search of Shelter Once Again, Pathways of Withered Leaves, Bondage, The Enemy, The Sale, When the Doors of Heaven Open, and Kuttiedathi. I am glad I found this book at Abids and got it for only twenty rupees. This would be the first work of MT Vasudevan Nair that I would be reading though I’ve been read about him since quite a long. What fascinates me about him is that he is a screenwriter as well, something which not many writers can do successfully. The other book that I picked up at Abids last Sunday was Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less’ which I haven’t read so far. Archer isn’t exactly a writer I look forward to read but this was an original copy and not a pirated edition which is all that one finds if one wants to buy Archer’s books.

Last Sunday was the last hot Sunday of the summer. It was cloudy in the morning when we began the hunt for the books. Almost every week someone new is joining our small group of three intrepid book lovers. Last Sunday one more person tagged on and luckily found something worth buying. The surprise of Sunday was finding a translation of ‘Devdas’ that Shrikant had asked for just before we hit the pavements to look for the books. I had no idea that an English translation existed but when I spotted the book I was gladder than Shrikant for having found it. Surprises never cease at Abids.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The No.2's Car

It is more than a month since I’ve become the No. 2 in my office. Though I’ve become used to some of the perks that come with that post there’s one thing I’m yet to get over. I still cannot believe that I’m being driven to and from the office in a big car. Since as far as I know I’ve been only riding bikes to office all through my career and never once did I imagined that one day I would be going by a car. Since I ride a bike it used to be a vague sort of dream to sit in the back seat of a car and read the papers like some of the people I watch while on the road. I used to wonder what it would take to reach that position but did not give it much thought. Now I am doing exactly the same.

Of all the perks of being No. 2 the only one I am enjoying immensely is the facility of being driven in the car. To someone who has to negotiate the traffic in Hyderabad on a bike in the hot sun it is nothing short of a miracle. Everyday morning the car waits for me before the gate while I leisurely get ready. It struck me in the first couple of days that I could do something productive in the twenty minutes it takes me to get to the Secretariat. I decided I would read since I haven’t been much reading of late. So I am carrying a book along in my bag. I am reading quite a few pages of the book but I guess I am reading the wrong book. It is a book that I feel one shouldn’t read in the air-conditioned comfort of a Honda City. I am reading P.Sainath’s ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ during my daily journey in the car. If you’ve read the book you will know why I feel guilty.

I know I may not be No. 2 for long and am actually waiting to be back to being No.5 which is more comfortable but no less arduous as being the No.2. Being No. 2 is different as I found out the other day on a trip to Delhi. A couple of weeks ago my boss told me to attend a meeting at Delhi in his place. It made me more jittery than flattered to represent my boss at a meeting. The meeting was in one of the spacious halls of Vigyan Bhavan and I sat in the front row rigid with anxiety. All around me were senior officers from all over the country and we were being addressed by some very top shots of the Government of India. I couldn’t breathe freely until the meeting ended before lunch. I was glad I wasn’t asked how the situation was in the state. But it felt pretty good attending the meeting though I did not open my mouth to say anything. Except a handful none of the others too spoke. On the plane back home I wondered about my incredible luck-the car, the trips to Delhi by plane and of course, an allowance for being No.2. I couldn’t ask for more in this job.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Sunday Haul

Unlike most other days last Sunday it was cloudy that made the morning pleasantly cool. Apart from the weather there was Uma, Srikanth and my kid with me on the book hunt at Abids. Despite all this there hung on my head some kind of despondency I was unable to shrug off. Being No. 2 is taking a silent toll which is showing up in my demeanour. I’m silent and introspective most of the time. I thought the outing on Sunday would lighten me up and lighten I did after finding two good books.

The first find was ‘In Praise of Older Women’ by Stephen Vizinczey which I had read about quite a number of times. Though I wasn’t exactly looking forward to reading I couldn’t stop myself from buying it considering the fact that it was a hard cover copy that I had to pay only twenty rupees for. I have to make the time to read it sometime soon.

By noon the sun was out and it turned too warm. At the seller near GPO I spotted a nice copy of P. Sainath’s ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’. I had found a copy of the same title but with a different cover a couple of months ago. In fact I am in the middle of reading the book and I want to write a review after I finish it. This copy that I thought was terrific turned out to be a slightly hasty decision. Some of the inside pages were stained and in my eagerness of finding it I hadn’t forgotten to flip through the pages and take a good look before deciding to buy it. I paid a hundred rupees for it but I guess it is still worth it. I have in mind someone I plan to give it to.