Friday, May 31, 2013

The Sunday Haul

Impatience, on many occasions, landed me in avoidable and embarrassing situations, hurt my ego and of course, emptied my pockets faster than anything else. On the rare occasion when I have held myself back I’ve been rewarded though not as much as I had expected. But if you are a book lover and are always on the hunt for them in second hand stores, patience is not advised. You don’t put aside a hard to find book with the idea of buying it later. You simply grab the book, pay for it at whatever price it is available and get out of the store. In such situations the adage ‘He who hesitates loses’ holds good.

Sometime last week I was in the Best Books branch in Lakdikapul and had just then picked up ‘Islands of the Marigold Sun’ which was probably the reason why I did not buy the next book I saw. It was ‘John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’ on a shelf near the staircase on the first floor. I instinctively felt that it was a good book without even reading the blurbs at the back. I had also not heard about this book before but had that gut feeling buying it right away would be the thing to do. But I didn’t. One reason was the price which was Rs 75. Another reason was that I did not want to take home two more books on a week day. So I gave up the idea of buying ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’ hoping that the book would be there till my next visit.

Last Sunday, at the same spot at the same seller from where I had picked up Alistair MacLeod’s ‘The Lost Salt Gift of Blood’ for twenty rupees I saw another copy of John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty Nine Steps.’ I picked it up without a second thought for the same price that I paid for MacLeod’s book. This copy had a different cover though but was also in perfect condition. I was glad I had not picked up the other copy I had seen at Best Books the other day. Sometimes I pick up books by its cover alone and on Sunday apart from the cover the author’s name also influenced me to buy an interesting book. I saw a hardcover copy of ‘My Name is Aram’ by William Saroyan and illustrated by Don Freeman. It had an interesting illustrated cover and appeared like a copy worth collecting so I took it. I got it for only fifty rupees. The book was in good condition and appeared to be a copy from a library.

The next find was at Chikkadpally where I picked up a book I had seen the previous Sunday. I’ve never read any book by Shashi Tharoor so when I found one of his earliest works- ‘The Five Dollar Smile’- I bought it by paying fifty rupees for it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Sunday Haul

In Hyderabad May isn’t exactly the time of the year to be outdoors during the day. In May you can’t walk in the open for more than ten minutes without keeling over with sunstroke unless you are from Jubilee Hills in which case it takes less than three minutes however stylish your sunglasses might be. The temperature is in the mid-forties and one sweats buckets. Personally, I feel like jumping into a swimming pool and staying there until the end of summer. With temperatures like that you have to be either crazy or a banana vendor to venture outdoors especially in the afternoon. Unlike my previous field postings in this post at the Secretariat I usually do not get an opportunity to go out in the open. But on Sundays come what may I am at Abids. This Sunday I had particular reason to worry. I am still trying to overcome a bad cold and wondered if I’d be able to go to Abids and return on my own after spending more than two hours in the scorching sun. Luckily, it was a cloudy Sunday and the sun wasn’t to be seen in the morning. It was cool and pleasant. It got pleasanter later in the day at Abids when Jai appeared on the scene.

As soon as we gathered and after our mandatory chai we set out to look at the heaps of books. I did not find anything interesting anywhere for a long time. At the seller near the GPO there were the books I had seen last Sunday but somehow I did not buy the Nadeem Aslam titles. When we reached Bata Jai spotted me and moments later I found a Parker title- Stardust- that I did not then know I already had. The four of us headed towards an Irani and over a cup of chai chatted about books, fountain pens and everything people who love books and fountain pens talk about. I’d have spent some more time but Sunday happened to be my marriage anniversary (18th, btw) so I had to leave early. Of course, I did not go home straight but stopped at Chikkadpally for a few minutes. There I found a copy of Somerset Maugham’s ‘Of Human Bondage’ with a beautiful red cover. I got it for sixty rupees.

It has been nearly eight years since I’ve been to the Andamans and not a day passes without some memory of that wonderful place flashing through the mind. I always make it a point to read everything I come across that is related to the Andamans. Unfortunately, there isn’t much. During my stay in the Andamans I got to read a few pages of Madhusree Mukherjee’s wonderful book ‘The Land of Naked People’ before someone took it away. I never came across that book again but last Saturday on a visit to the Best Book branch at Lakdikapul I found another book on the Andamans. It was a small, slim volume tucked in a corner of a bookshelf, the sort of book I like to pick up. It was ‘Islands of the Marigold Sun’ by Suresh Vaidya and published by Orient Paperbacks. The original cover was missing and the present volume had a make-do cover. I picked it up because it was a travelogue and I had never read one on the Andamans. It had only a hundred eighty pages and looked very interesting so I took it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

FRIDAY DOUBLE POST- The Sunday Haul- Three Aces

When it comes to finding good books I know I am lucky. Not just lucky, but sometimes very, very lucky. Of course, apart from luck it also helps that I have been rootling around for books at Abids for more than two decades and also possess quite a sharp eye for good titles. Last Sunday at Abids all this came into play when I literally struck gold finding a hard-to-get classic by a little known writer. Though I spent hardly an hour at Abids I managed to grab three good books including the treasured title.

After a quick cup of chai at our usual Irani joint we set out to find the best pickings from among the thousands of books on the pavements of Abids. In the last week of April, during a meet of the Hyderabad group of ‘goodreads’ someone had mentioned Buddhadeva Bose’s “It Rained All Night” and said it was worth reading. My first find on Sunday was a decent copy of “It Rained All Night” that I got for fifty rupees. It was a good start to Sunday and I thought I wouldn’t find any more and also did not wish to buy more books.

Lisa St Aubin De Teràn was a name I had neither heard nor read about before. But when I saw ‘The Slow Train to Milan’ by Lisa St Aubin De Teràn I had the feeling that it could be a good book. The fact that it was a Penguin title only added to my hunch. It was in a scattered pile of books selling for thirty rupees. After I picked up the book I read the blurbs at the back- ‘She writes quite beautifully- The Times; ‘A Writer of enormous gifts’- Daily Telegraph. I added it to my haul without another thought.

The last find- the treasure- happened quite serendipitously. There’s a seller just beside the Abids GPO, on the road to Hotel Grand who puts up a few books for sale. The previous Sunday we had found Basharat Peer’s ‘Curfewed Nights’ that Uma took. I thought maybe we’d take a quick peek at his collection so we took a few more steps towards the seller. He had a spread of treasures- one MG Vassanji, two Nadeem Aslam titles, two Bandula Chandraratne titles and other writers I cannot recollect now. Amidst these titles was that title I had been looking for since a long time. I had found GV Desani’s ‘Hali and Collected Stories’ a couple of years ago but what I hoped to find was his ‘All About H.Hatterr’ which was an impossible wish considering it is out of print, rare and so on.

Last Sunday, to my luck, I came across it nestled among other books with only its title visible. I have never been as excited as I was on that day when I grabbed the book from the pavement. I was on cloud nine to find GV Desani’s ‘All About H.Hatterr’ for just sixty rupees. It was a good copy and I couldn’t believe it and kept muttering to myself all day about what a lucky bloke I was. Normally I get a bit annoyed about having to go to office on Sundays and other holidays but last Sunday it did not matter that I had to go to the office shortly afterwards. When I got home in the evening I looked at my haul again. It was a pleasant coincidence that all three titles I had found were Penguin titles. But GV Desani’s ‘All About H.Hatterr’ will be another prized possession in my collection.

FRIDAY DOUBLE POST : 2013 Trips: Trip No: 5- Dash (to) Capital

Last Thursday I had to visit Delhi again on some important and pressing work. I had been there barely a week ago and once again I was off to the Capital. But this time I did not go alone. The No. 1 was with me on the trip. When I was told I have to travel to Delhi the first thing that came to mind was to pick up all the books I had not picked up during the previous visit. At Janpath I had seen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ and at Nehru Place I had seen Paul Theroux’s ‘Pillars of Hercules’ which I did not pick up because of the too high prices. I was then not in a mood to splurge around thousand rupees for just these two books and it was a heartbreaking decision to walk away empty handed. But after I got home later in the night I regretted this decision and told myself that I’d buy at least ‘Pillars of Hercules’ on the next visit.

So here I was in Delhi again for a day. There was just a short visit to an office somewhere in RK Puram which wouldn’t last more than an hour. Afterwards I thought I’d be free until the return flight in the evening. There was a car on hand and I planned to dash to Nehru Place and pick up ‘Pillars of Hercules’ at least but things did not work out that way. We were tied up until late in the afternoon so after tea we left for the airport and got there hours before check-in time. It was suggested that we use the time for work which involved writing a note on the visit. Since I had nothing else to do apart from gawking at other well dressed travelers in the airport I agreed.

So, sitting in a café somewhere in Terminal 3 and surrounded by guys drinking beer I sat and wrote out a report in long hand, all three pages of it. I managed to finish it by the time our flight was announced. That was the second task accomplished and there was one more left. The unfinished task was completing reading Jean Rhys’ ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ which I had started to read in the car on the way to the airport at Hyderabad, and continued to read in the plane to Delhi. By the time we landed in Hyderabad I was done reading the wonderful book.

Friday, May 10, 2013

2013 TRIPS: Trip No 5- Delhi Again

Once again, like a homing pigeon, I flew to Delhi for the second time this year on an official trip. Last Tuesday I went to Delhi on my fifth official trip of the year. This trip came at an opportune time. My kid who was on a school trip to Nainital was in Delhi to spend a week with his cousins, my brother’s kids. It has been almost three weeks since I had last seen him so I was kind of restless to see him. I thought I couldn’t bear another week’s wait when this lucky chance to go to Delhi presented itself.

The meeting at Delhi lasted half a day and I was free after lunch. I thought of checking out the bookstores to see if I could find other titles by Arun Joshi. From the meeting venue (India International Centre) Janpath was the nearest place I could begin my search. For a moment one of the sellers on Janpath had me in excited suspense when he told me he had an Arun Joshi title but it turned out to be a false alarm. At another seller I saw Chimamanda’s ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ that I wanted to buy but did not. My next stop was at Khan Market where I thought I’d find at least one title at Bahrisons. I did find an Arun Joshi title but it was ‘The Foreigner’ that I already have. Nevertheless I picked it up. Then I had the idea of going to Nehru Place where there’s a used book store where I had earlier picked up a book by Edward Albee.

I got there at around four in the hot sun. At the book store I did not find any title by Arun Joshi but came across a book I was looking for. It was Paul Theroux’s ‘Pillars of Hercules’ and it was a massive tome that was on sale for five hundred rupees. Since I did not plan to spend so much I did not buy it but now I think I should have bought it. Afterwards I went to my brother’s home eager to see my son only to learn that he had gone out to play. He came after an hour’s agonizing wait and I hugged him like I hadn’t seen him for years. He too seemed happy to see me. He had lost weight since he had been on miles long hikes in Nainital. I returned to Hyderabad the next day feeling glad to have seen my kid after a long time. On Sunday he was back home.

The Sunday Haul
On Sunday I spent a short time at Abids because I had to go to pick up my son who was returning from Delhi. During that short hunt I found yet another copy of Helene Hanff’s ’84 Charing Cross Road.’ I got very cheap at only thirty rupees. This copy was in good condition and had a nice plastic jacket all over. The other Sunday I had picked up an old copy of Sri Sri’s ‘Mahaprasthanam’ for ten rupees. I had been thinking of reading it since a long time and at last I found a good copy. I haven’t yet started reading it because Srikant borrowed it from me.

Friday, May 03, 2013

The Sunday Haul

The first find of Sunday was a beautiful copy of Anne Enright's 'The Gathering' that I got cheap for Rs 75 at Chikkadpally. This is my second copy of the Booker winning title. I plan to give one of the copies with me to someone who might want to read Enright.

The second find of Sunday was another Anne Enright title that I had seen the previous Sunday too. 'The Pleasure of Eliza Lynch' by Anne Enright had been in a heap selling for fifty rupees last Sunday but this Sunday it was in a Rs 20 heap so I snapped it up.

The third find was an impulsive buy. I picked up Peter Blauner's 'Casino Moon' after I saw the Penguin imprint and the blurbs at the back. I want to read it sometime very soon.

The last find was Nirad C. Chaudhuri's 'To Live or Not to Live' that I found at another seller at Chikkadpally. After reading Arun Joshi I do not want to miss reading any Indian writer who wrote in English in the early years of the previous century. This wasn't the last find though. At Abids I had picked up the April 2012 issue of 'The New Yorker' magazine that I got for only twenty rupees.

Photographs of books taken by Uma Shanker.