Friday, March 29, 2013

The Sunday Haul

Sometime during 2011 I found a copy of 'The Penguin Book of Modern of Indian Short Stories' during my hunt for books on Sunday at Abids. The only story I read in the book was titled ‘The Dog that Ran in Circles' by Gangadhar Gadgil. I remember it was about a man waiting at a bus stand and watching the dog. I liked the story very much and wondered where I would be able to read more stuff by Gangadhar Gadgil. Last Sunday at Abids I got lucky and found Gangadhar Gadgil’s ‘Crazy Bombay’ which is a collection of his English articles on Bombay. It was a slim book and I got it for thirty rupees.Inside I read that Gangadhar Gadgil was a 'towering figure' in Marathi literature and is credited to be the creator of the new short story in Marathi. He has written over fifty books in Marathi in almost every genre- short stories, humor, travelogues, novels, plays, literary criticism and so on.

I was also surprised to read that Gangadhar Gadgil was an economist and was the Principal of Narsee Monjee College of Commerce at Bombay and was also an economic advisor to leading industrial houses. With such a busy profession I wonder how he got the time to write so much. I am both glad and also a bit depressed at finding the book which is in English. The rest of his books are in Marathi, incidentally, my mother tongue. It was the first time I wished I had learnt to read and write in Marathi. Of the nineteen articles in the book I read 'Tea in Bombay' and I was amazed that it ran into eight pages. I enjoyed reading the lengthy article which was humorous and did not have any sort of repetition. There was even a mention of the Nizam of Hyderabad in the article and it gave me quite a thrill.

However, the book I found first on Sunday was an English translation of ‘The Quran’ by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan with a wonderful cover. I got it at an unbelievable price of fifty rupees considering the book was hardbound and almost new. One of these days I am going to start reading it. Another find was John McPhee’s ‘Coming into the Country’ that I got for twenty rupees only. I already have a copy of this book but picked it up anyway since there’d always be someone who might enjoy reading it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Sunday Haul

The first book I found at Abids shortly after I parked my bike was VS Naipaul’s ‘Finding the Centre’ that I had been looking for since a longish time. I got the copy for only forty rupees which is something of a miracle. The seller is a crusty fellow who doesn’t yield much to bargaining and it felt good to browbeat him and get the book at my price. It was a good beginning to the Sunday hunt for books at Abids though I was secretly hoping that I wouldn’t find any other book.

More than half a decade after I first read about ’84 Charing Cross Road’ by Helene Hanff I found the book about two or three years ago. When I first found it I thought I’d start reading it right away since it was about books and the reading habit which is something I cannot resist reading. However, I started reading it only a couple of months back almost two or three years after I found the book. Incidentally, it is one of the books I read in the car on my way to the office. Needless to say it was a wonderful book and not surprisingly it has been made into a movie too. ’84 Charing Cross Road’ is a book that everyone who genuinely loves to read books must read at least once. Those who do not understand guys like us who love books and buy them also must read it. Last Sunday I found another copy of ’84 Charing Cross Road’ and bought it in the hope that there’d be someone I can give the book to. The book also came cheap to me, only thirty rupees.

The next find of Sunday was a title by an author I hadn’t heard of before. But since it was a travel book and moreover on Andalucia, I bought ‘Andalucia: A Portrait of Southern Spain’ by Nicholas Luard. Andalucia is another of those places in my long list of places I can never hope to visit on an official trip. I am glad I found it but the only worrying thing is whether I will find enough time to finish the book which is almost three hundred pages long. The last find of Sunday was yet another book on screenwriting- ‘Teach Yourself Screenwriting’ by Raymond G. Frensham- that I got very cheap. I do not know how many more books on screenwriting I have to read before I get the hang of it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Sunday Haul

This month’s Literary Review in ‘The Hindu’ of 3/3/13 had an article by Aditya Sudarshan titled ‘The Strange Case of Arun Joshi’ on an Indian writer in English who he calls as the ‘greatest Indian novelist’ who we have forgotten. Arun Joshi is a name I was not aware of till I read the article. For all my reading it is a pity that I still do not have knowledge of several good Indian writers writing in English. Until recently I was aware of only well known writers like RK Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, Anita Desai and few other writers. After I found and read books by Balraj Khanna, and Chaman Nahal I realized I had missed reading some little known writers who wrote as well as their famous counterparts. So I was pretty excited reading about Arun Joshi, especially about one of his books ‘The Apprentice’ listed in the article. It appears ‘The Apprentice’ is about a young government servant and his descent into corruption which is something I have dealt with in my own novel. I desperately want to read ‘The Apprentice’ but have discovered that the book is out of print.

Luckily for me, last Sunday I found Arun Joshi’s ‘The Foreigner’ at Abids and was quite pleased with myself for having spotted the book. It was a good copy and though I would have gladly paid anything that the seller asked I got the book for only forty rupees. The blurbs at the back of the book say that it is a fantastic book and in fact Kushwant Singh has this to say about ‘The Foreigner’ – ‘One of the most compelling works of fiction I have read for a long time’ which is enough reason for anyone to read it and I am glad I found it. Aditya Sudarshan’s praise for Arun Joshi’s writing made me wish I could find the other four novels by Arun Joshi: ‘The Strange Case of Billy Biswas’ ‘The Labyrinth’ and ‘The City and the River. I will keep an eye for these books at my usual haunts at Abids and the second hand bookstores of Hyderabad. Apart from ‘The Apprentice’ which I am curious to read I also want to find ‘The Survivor’ which is a collection of Arun Joshi’s short stories. I hope I find at least one of these books soon.

The other find of Sunday at Abids was Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider with Rosie’ that I had earlier seen but hadn’t picked up. This Sunday however I bought it since it was a good copy and also did not cost me more than thirty rupees. I am of the opinion that all titles published by Penguin are damn good reads and so since this book too was by Penguin I picked it up.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Sunday Haul

The only way I can stop the books from overrunning our house is to stop buying them and the only way I can stop buying them is to prevent myself from going to Abids on Sundays. It isn’t just possible; it is like asking me to cease breathing. So I go to Abids on Sundays, the books pile up in all corners of my house, and I occasionally think when I will be finally able to finish reading all the books I have bought so far. But I think I will keep reading till my last breath because I simply cannot resist buying books especially at Abids every Sunday. Last Sunday too (3-3-2013) I came home from Abids with three books.

Though it is only very recent I do not now remember where I read about ‘Felicia’s Journey’ by William Trevor that I found last Sunday at Abids. It was a Penguin title and in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees. The next find was another book in another pile of books also selling for twenty rupees. It was the classic- ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac that I already have a copy of. This was again a Penguin edition so I bought it because it is not usual to find this book and also because the copy I found was in good condition. I found my first copy of this book sometime last year I guess but I haven’t yet started reading it. Maybe it is time for it.

My third find of Sunday was not at Abids but at a seller at RTC Cross Roads who has some good books at a corner at the traffic junction. I make it a point to stop and check out the collection he has every Sunday because I have found a couple of good books with him. It was when I removed a book on top of a pile that I saw Haruki Murakami’s ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ that I immediately grabbed. It was a pretty good copy but I had to pay hundred rupees for it which I did not mind paying. I already have more than half a dozen titles of Murakami and this is my eighth Murakami title.

About six or seven years ago I read an article on writing by Ruth Rendell in which she recommended reading Ford Madox Ford’s ‘The Good Soldier’ that she says has been described as the finest novel in English language. She had high praise for the way the book is written and that it has taught her something about writing. She also wrote that she read the book once a year so I added to my list of books that I have to read. I was at the YMCA branch of ‘Best Books’ today morning and found the book there. It did not come cheap though; I paid ninety five rupees for it.

So, that was the week’s haul of books.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

2013 Trips: Trip No. 1

For a change, my first official trip of 2013 wasn’t to New Delhi. It wasn’t a trip by plane either. Last week I went to Visakhapatnam by train on office work for two days. The trip was just the thing I was looking for to get out of the office and also out of Hyderabad. The hectic pace of work at office was getting on my nerves and I badly needed some kind of a change of scene. Originally I had planned a three day trip to visit Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam but I changed plans at the last minute. I wish I had struck to the original plan because I could not visit Srikakulam. It was one district in the state I had not been to so far. Apart from that, I have a weakness for places on the borders and Srikakulam happens to be bordering Orissa. It would have been quite an experience to breathe the Oriya air.

I took the Garib Rath on Tuesday last and after an uneventful night reached Visakhapatnam early in the morning. I love this city. I had been to Visakhapatnam more than a couple of times in the past and my most recent visit was sometime in 2009 or so. Vizag is clean and surprisingly free of the sort of traffic that Hyderabad is famous for. I discovered it has changed so much that now it is glitzy, modern yet retaining that sedate pace of life that I love. I was given a room (suite, actually) at the Circuit House near the Navy House. It was a big hall and after breakfast I left for Vizianagaram.

On my last trip to Visakhapatnam that involved a lot of going around villages I happened to be quite close to the Vizianagaram border. I proposed we would have lunch at Vizianagaram so off we drove to Vizianagaram and had lunch at a decent hotel. So here I was at Vizianagaram again which by now seems to have an Inox theatre coming up. On my last visit Vizianagaram had appeared uncrowded and a sleepy sort of place but last week it seemed to be bustling. One thing I hate about my official visits is that I simply cannot step out of the car and go gawking around the streets. After all I was from the Secretariat and expected to be very, very official. Anyway, I finished my work and was ready to eat but learnt that the gates of the office were closed because there was a strike going on. It meant that we had a late lunch and by the time I left for the famous Pydi Thalli temple it was very late.

Another local official took me inside the temple. I was shocked when the priest put a garland around my neck. I was clueless what to do afterwards and wondered whether I have to leave with the garland around my neck or take it off. It was uncomfortable wearing a garland which I wore only once in my life- on the day I got married. Anyway I quickly took it off and came out. I had planned to look around the town but since evening had set in I decided to leave. I asked the official to suggest a nice place to have tea because it was past the time I normally have tea. He took me to a clean, but ancient looking hotel. I think the name was Aditya Hotel where I had a cup of tea to got rid of my headache.

One of the reasons I looked forward to this trip to Vizag that I wanted to catch up with a friend who moved here on his job. An old colleague from my advertising days we’ve kept in touch for twenty years, since 1993. I had told him we’d have dinner but he said he was busy and suggested we’d meet for breakfast. I went in search of ‘Tycoon’ that he suggested I go for dinner. On the way I saw another eatery that was jam packed and looked interesting. After some hesitation I stepped into ‘Venkatadri Vantillu’ that was no bigger than a large telephone booth. It had just five tables inside and an amazing range of stuff on the menu. I had chole bhature first and later saw ‘Sponge Dosa’ being made right before my eyes. I had heard of all kinds of dosas- Set Dosa, MLA dosa and the usual range of dosas but had never tasted ‘Sponge Dosa.’ I was full after the chole bhature and I wondered if it would be a good idea to come here for breakfast the next morning and fill up on the Sponge Dosas. But greed got the better of me and despite being full I ordered a ‘Sponge Dosa’ assuming one dosa wouldn’t hurt. When my dish was ready I saw there were two dosas. But the ‘Sponge Dosa’ wasn’t like anything I had till then. It was soft, fluffy like a sponge and tasty. On the table were three kinds of chutneys- coconut, groundnut and ginger chutney in large bowls. I was glad I tasted the ‘Sponge Dosa’ because the next morning my friend insisted we have breakfast at ‘Tycoon’.

One doesn’t go to Visakhapatnam and comes back without watching the sunrise at the beach which was what I planned to do since the moment I heard I had to make this trip. In the morning I woke up a bit late and hurriedly brushed my teeth and raced out. But it wasn’t a short walk to the beach because I had to walk for nearly half an hour to get there. By the time I got to the beach the sun was up in the sky but it felt great watching the sea so early in the morning. I sat on the low wall and watched the people for sometime. My friend came to the Guest House to pick me up in his ‘Bullet’ motorcycle to take me to ‘Tycoon’ for breakfast. It was a nice and elegant place filled with the morning crowd chewing away at their dosas and idlis. When I saw the prices on the menu I was surprised because in the night I had thought it would be a pricey place. The ‘upma pesarattu’ we had was wonderful, especially the sambar. We sat there for a long time, more than an hour catching up on our lives since the last time we met.

After a couple of hours of work at the Collector’s office at Visakhapatnam which was housed in a quaint building built by the British I was at Daspalla for lunch with my friend. My train was at half past eight and I had nothing else to do after lunch. I had read in the papers that the movie ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ was playing at an Inox theatre near the beach and decided to watch it. At Hyderabad I don’t get time to watch movies or do anything that requires me to sit still for more than an hour so I went. After the movie I was back at my room wondering if I had done the right thing watching a movie instead of going around Visakhapatnam gawking at the buildings. After another uneventful journey I was home feeling a bit relaxed after being away from the chaos of Hyderabad for two days.