Friday, February 28, 2014

The Sunday Haul

It was quite by accident that I discovered William Trevor. I guess it was sometime last year in a book fair that I found ‘Felicia’s Journey’ by William Trevor and picked it up because it was a Penguin title, and because it looked like it would be a good read. William Trevor is a wonderful writer and sometime afterwards I found ‘The Story of Lucy Gault’ at Book Fair last December where I also found his ‘Two Lives.’ But so far I have read only ‘Felicia’s Journey’ that convinced me of William Trevor’s talent. Last week during another of my mid-week hunts in second hand bookstores I found ‘After Rain’ which is a collection of short stories by William Trevor. I was quite thrilled to have found this almost-brand-new book at the MR store adjacent to the flyover in Punjagutta for just eighty rupees. There are twelve stories in it- The Piano Tuner’s Wives, A Friendship, Timothy’s Birthday, Child’s Play, A Bit of Business, After Rain, Widows, Gilbert’s Mother, The Potato Dealer, Lost Ground, A Day, and Marrying Damian.
Later in the week, on Sunday, at Abids I added three more books to the haul which now stands at thirty-six books. In the nine weeks of 2014 I have added an average of four books a week to my collection. I guess it has now become a pathological addiction to pick up books at Abids and also second hand bookstores. I do not think it is possible for me to come out of this habit anytime now or in the future. Abids or wherever I continue to find books wherever I see them and if I can afford to buy them. So the first find of last Sunday was ‘Stardust’ by Robert B. Parker that I got for forty rupees. I already own two copies of this title but I bought this particular copy because it was in a good condition.
The second find was ‘Miscellany One’ by Dylan Thomas that has poems, essays and other stuff. This is the first time I am reading anything by Dylan Thomas though I have come across the name many times. The third find was yet another book of poetry. But this wasn’t any other book but a collection of poems of Robert Frost. This was a beautiful copy of ‘Selected Poems, Robert Frost’ that was partially hidden under another book. I could only see the top of the book and the Penguin logo on the right hand corner. I had it taken out and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was something worth buying. I got the book for just fifty rupees! It has nearly a hundred and fifty poems including a long time favorite- ‘Fire and Ice’ that I discovered a long time back.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Haul

It has become a habit with me to drop in at one of the half a dozen second hand bookstores in Hyderabad whenever I am feeling restless. There are a few books that I am looking for and I scour the bookstores whenever I find time in the hope of finding these elusive titles. Sometime last week I dropped in at the Best Book Centre branch at Lakdikapul. There were many books that I wanted to buy but I had a limited budget and so ended up buying only two books. One was Kamala Markandaya’s ‘Nectar in a Sieve’ and the other was CJ Koch’s ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ that appeared interesting for more than two reasons. The first reason was that it was a Penguin imprint, second reason was that the price was only fifty rupees and the third and final reason was enticing cover. I got both the books for less than hundred rupees.
Then again on Sunday at the book bazaar at Abids I came up with a haul of four books. Three of the books were titles that I already have. The first find was a nice copy of ‘Sudden Mischief’ by Robert B. Parker that I got pretty cheap at only thirty rupees. The second find was yet another copy of Helene Hanff’s ‘84, Charing Cross Road’ that I found exactly at the same spot where I had found another copy a couple of months earlier. Then the third find was my second copy of ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers that I got pretty cheap again, at only thirty rupees. This copy had a different cover and seemed better than the one I had bought a long time ago.
The fourth and final book I had found was a title of poetry by three poets. It was one of a series by Penguin called Penguin Modern Poets 5. One of the poets I could recognise was Allen Ginsberg and the other two were names I had not heard before- Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso. I am glad I found this slim volume of verse that I bought for only ten rupees. Imagine.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Sunday Haul

If the weather outdoors on Sunday was anything to go by then Hyderabad is in for a torrid summer in the months ahead. It was unbearably warm quite early in the day, at about eleven in the morning when we set out for the weekly hunt for books on the pavements of Abids. I made a mental note to bring along a cap and a bottle of water to Abids in the coming Sundays. However, if the weather was not good then the haul I landed was quite good, in fact, better than any haul this year. I found four books- three by Indian writers and one by a writer on writing.
Even before I got to Abids, at Chikkadpally at one of the sellers, I found ‘The Saratchandra Omnibus, Volume-I’ containing five novels of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay: Srikanta (translated by Aruna Chakravarti), Devdas (Translated by Sreejata Guha), Palli Samaj (Tr by Malobika Chaudhuri) and Nishkriti ( tr by Malobika Chaudhuri). Naturally, it was a big tome running into 738 pages but I got to pay only fifty rupees for it. It was a lucky beginning to my Sunday book hunt.

The second find was another book by an Indian writer. I found a nice copy of Anita Desai’s ‘Baumgartner’s Bombay’ which I picked up immediately after spotting it. Luckily, I got this book too quite cheap- forty rupees. The book was in a good condition and the fact that it was a Penguin edition added to my joy of finding it. I had read a collection of her short stories but I haven’t had the opportunity to read a full length novel by Anita Desai so far. I want to begin with ‘Baumgartner’s Bombay’ that I plan to start reading in the coming days.
Only last week I had found Quarratulain Hyder’s ‘Fireflies in the Mist’ at a second hand bookstore in Begumpet and I got a pleasant surprise when I saw ‘The Street Singers of Lucknow and Other Stories’ a collection of short stories by her. This book has the following eight short stories: The Street Singers of Lucknow, The Story of Catherine Bolton, Confessions of St. Flora of Georgia, The Guest House, Beyond the Speed of Light, A Night on Pali Hill, Hyena’s Laughter and The Missing Photograph.

At the last moment, minutes before we were leaving Abids I spotted Natalie Goldberg’s ‘Wild Mind’ and saw that it was a better copy than the one I had found long back. This is another book of hers on writing, the first one being the famous title ‘Writing Down the Bones’ that I have. Though I already have a copy of ‘Wild Mind’ I bought the copy I found at Abids. It came pretty cheap at fifty rupees.

Saturday, February 08, 2014


Last Sunday was another Sunday that added more books to my growing and untidy collection of books. I managed to find three books at Abids. The first title I found was James M Cain’s ‘The Root of His Evil’ that I got for thirty rupees. James M Cain is the author of the classic ‘The Post Always Rings Twice’. I had found a battered copy of this book sometime a year before at Abids. After I read this book I felt like looking out for more books by Cain and so when I found ‘The Root of His Evil’ I picked it up.

Minutes later I saw Graham Greene’s ‘The Heart of the Matter’ that I had been looking for since a long time. I see many copies of ‘The Human Factor’ and ‘Brighton Rock’ but till date I had not been able to get a decent copy of ‘The Heart of the Matter.’ The copy I saw at Abids on Sunday was in good condition and so I bought it for forty rupees.
On the way back home, at one of the sellers at Chikkadpalli I saw Haruki Murakami’s ‘Sputnik Sweetheart’ that I don’t think I have in my collection of Murakami titles. I got it for only seventy rupees which is quite a bargain considering how pricey the new copies are. This was the luckiest and the best find of Sunday. With these three titles the number of books I bought so far in this year (2014) is 17. Unless I watch out and cut down on the number of books I routinely pick up every Sunday at Abids and also at second hand book stores I might end up with another ton of books by the end of the year.

I conveniently forget it when I am out hunting for books in second hand bookstores. On Tuesday on my way home I dropped in at the MR Bookstore in Begumpet. There I found Robert B Parker’s ‘Thin Air’ which I do not have and also another book by Lisa St Aubin de teran called ‘Keepers of the House.’ Sometime last year I had bought ‘The Slow Train to Milan’ by Lisa St Aubin de teran but haven’t read it. ‘Keepers of the House’ is her first book and hence I picked it up. I got both the books for fifty rupees each which would have been enough to make me happy but I wasn’t. The reason was that I had seen Qurruatulain Hyder’s ‘Fireflies in the Mist’ but did not buy it because the price was too steep. After going home I regretted buying ‘Keepers of the House’ and ‘Thin Air’ instead of ‘Fireflies in the Mist’ which made me feel bad. This feeling lasted only one day since I went there on Thursday and bought ‘Fireflies in the Mist’ as a gift for myself since it happened to be my birthday.


Back in the year 2000, when my son was only two years old I filmed my kid and his cousins on a new video camera that my brother had bought. I filled up a couple of cassettes and then forgot all about them until five years later when they turned up while I was cleaning out my shelves. I realized the precious images they cassettes held and wanted to show them to my kid. Alas, the videocamera was not traceable. Someone suggested that I could get the images transferred to a CD. I went around scores of places but they said that the cassettes that I had, small cigarette box type, were out of fashion and they did not have the technology to process them. I was distraught as the years passed by worried that the images would get erased.

Last month I saw an advertisement by Victory studio claiming that they could copy images from obsolete video cassettes to DVDs. I rushed to them the same day and was told that and it would be a fortnight before they could tell me if the cassette was undamaged and if it was possible to copy them to a DVD as their technician was out of station.
I spent a nail-biting fortnight praying that the cassettes be undamaged because they contained some images no amount of money could buy. Luckily, the studio called me and told me that they were able to copy the undamaged footage to a DVD. The original cassettes were of Sony brand and though expensive it is at moments like this that you realize what good quality means. Even after fourteen years the cassettes retained the images without any damage. When I saw the footage on my laptop I was overwhelmed to see how my kid, two years old then, had been.

There were no videocameras or even decent cameras back in the sixties when we were kids. Only a few people had cameras and hence were lucky enough to capture their memories. The memories of one’s childhood, the good and the bad, are something no one ever forgets. The most important people in your life when you happen to be ten years old are the friends you play with, friends you climb trees with, friends you sit with and share implausible stories, friends who run out their houses whenever you call them and play marbles with at any time of the day. I think friends shape your life in different ways. My life was shaped to a large extent by different sets of friends I had at different times of my life which I spent at a few different places.

I spent my early years in Nizamabad where my father, an engineer in the PWD, was transferred from Nalgonda. We lived in the PWD quarters, where the kids who lived there became my friends. One such friend is Emmanuelle or Baba as we used to call him. Last week, after a gap of more than thirty five years I met him again. I was overwhelmed on seeing him again after such a long time. After my father was transferred again a few years later to Khammam, I lost touch with my friends in Nizamabad. He told me he had read the post on my blog about my trip to Nizamabad and got in touch with me. He told me he lived in Hyderabad and finally last week we arranged to meet.

So when I saw Baba I felt as happy as I was when I was with him when we played together. We shared information about other friends in our gang. I was moved when Baba told me that he had sent the picture of getting the award from the CM that I had posted, to Dicky, another friend in our gang. We caught up on the old times, about our parents, the rest of our families. I was glad to know that he too was working for the Government and was quite content with life. We had met in the Garden cafe near Clock Tower and talked for about an hour. It was a short meet but something that brought out deep memories. We planned to keep in touch and meet again.

Of late I’ve been addressing too many training sessions, to officers of the State Government and also to NGOs that are restricted to about thirty trainees at the most. Earlier I had given talks to around two hundred farmers in my posting at Suryapet. Though it sounds quite scary talking to such gatherings I have somehow managed to get through by talking about disaster management (which is a dry subject) peppered with interesting trivia and anecdotes which were, I was told recently, received quite well.

Last week I was told to address a gathering at NRSC on disaster management in the State and other issues which naturally made me quite nervous. I was given fifteen minutes to speak and two days to prepare. There was no way to wriggle out of it since they had already printed my name in the schedule. On the appointed day I reached NRSC and sat in the auditorium to listen to other speakers in a different session. The gathering was from all over the country and naturally, quite large. My session was after lunch and when it was my turn I gave my talk without falling off the stage as can be seen here.

I was surprised when the organisers gave me a Memento ,a glass plaque that can only be put on display.

After a couple of years of lurking on the outskirts like Taramati Baradari in 2012 and MANUU in 2013, HLF is back in the city, in a place which is more fashionable than literary. One would have thought that with such an event being held in their backyard the crème-de-crème of Jubilee Hills/Banjara would make a beeline to show off their literary pretensions but I was disappointed. If the HLF were to be held at one of the glitzier hotesl like the Grand Kakatiya or the Park Sheraton almost the entire JH/BH crowd or at least all those who turn up in their best at launches in such hotels, would have come in droves elbowing out the others. Aashiaana is no Park Sheraton so only the true literati of the JH/BH made it to a couple of high profile events.

I had planned to attend all the HLF on all the three days I missed the first day. I was disappointed that I couldn’t make it to Hari session with Vamsi Juluri on Films and Fiction. However, I applied for leave on Saturday and landed there at Aashiiana just in time for Rajmohan Gandhi’s talk. Of all the events I attended on the two days this session had the largest crowd. Later I sat in other events where the attendance was very thin. Luckily I got to hear TM Krishna sing and also express his radical views on Carnatic music. I was also glad that I could listen to three poets- Sridala Swami, Mani Rao and Srilata K- read out some of their poems. But I wonder why there were no male poets.

I missed the morning’s sessions on Sunday because I had to go to Abids to look for books with my friends. In the afternoon I was back at the HLF and sat in a couple of sessions. Somehow I felt that in all the sessions there did not seem to be any connection with the audience. It appeared like the panelists were only talking among themselves. But we Hyderabadis are also to blame because we simply listen and don’t much encourage the writers on the panel either with applause or with intelligent questions.