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.