Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Twin Post- The Talk at Oakridge and The Sunday Haul

The Talk at Oakridge

After the presentation at New Delhi to a group of the country’s top meteorological big shots and others earlier in the month, I give another presentation to an entirely different bunch of little people last week. I gave a talk on natural calamities to students of sixth standard at Oakridge International School last Thursday. It was an entirely different experience for me since so far no audience at my talks or presentation had been 10-11 year old school kids.
Normally I have a standard power point presentation that I use at my talks at various places. But since this audience was different I had to modify it accordingly. Usually disaster management is a dry subject and a vast one at that. I had only forty five minutes to finish my talk so I thought it would be better if I told the kids about a natural calamity that is as dramatic as it is devastating. I chose to tell them about cyclones.
The forty five minutes flew by. The kids were so enthusiastic and asked so many questions I found it a bit difficult to answer all of them. There were about twenty five kids and out of them a few were more enthusiastic than the others and kept up a barrage of questions. I felt happy that I had told them something that I knew and I hope they also learnt something from my talk. It was a wonderful experience.

The Sunday Haul

Since I had barred myself from going to Abids on Sunday I stopped at Chikkadpally while returning home from some errand. I found Shashi Deshpande’s ‘That Long Silence’ that I got for thirty five rupees. It had a nice cover and was in good condition. Though I had bought ‘The Binding Vine’ a couple of months ago I haven’t found the time to read it. Someday soon I plan to read these two books since I have not read anything by Shashi Deshpande so far.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Last Saturday I decided that I wouldn’t go to Abids since I had far too many books at home and did not want to add any more to that pile. My list of books to be read is growing longer by the day with the addition of an average of four or five books every week and hence this decision. On Sunday I stayed put at home fighting off the urge to rush to Abids. For some time I vacillated telling myself that I’d just go to only look at the books and not buy. I managed to control this urge until four in the afternoon. But suddenly I found it quite difficult to stay at home without even looking at the books on sale at Abids. However, true to my resolve, I did not go to Abids. I went up to Chikkadpally only.
At the first seller I stopped to browse at Chikkadpally I saw four brand new copies of titles I did not have the heart to leave alone. When I asked for the price I was told they cost five hundred rupees. The price was too steep and unaffordable and I told myself that I’d buy only two titles and not more. It was a struggle not succumbing to the urge to buy all the four titles. Finally, I ended up buying only two titles. The first title was the O.Henry/Pen Prize Stories, 2012 which was a welcome addition to my growing collection of short story titles. It had twenty stories including one by Alice Munro.
The second title I bought was a book by a writer I had not heard of before. The title was ‘Time Will Darken It’ by William Maxwell. The copies I found were so brand new that they could have come straight from the printers. I felt glad I came to Chikkadpally and found these two titles. I also felt a bit disappointed that I couldn’t buy the other two titles- Ian McEwan’s ‘Atonement’ and Toni Morrison’s ‘Home’ that also looked good and were in the same condition as the two books I had bought. I was particularly pleased with the Pen/ O.Henry Prize stories. This collection not only has twenty stories but also essays by the jurors on their favourite stories and also something by the winners. I do not know when to start reading it since there are too many books I have to read.

Friday, March 14, 2014


One reason why I cut my trip to Delhi short by a day was that I did not want to miss my Sunday routine which includes sitting in an Irani cafe near home and reading the Sunday papers leisurely over a cup of steaming hot tea while entertaining thoughts very different from those I get on weekdays such as planning a trip or even writing another book and so on. The most important part of my Sunday routine is the visit to Abids to look for books on the pavements which is something I wouldn’t miss for anything in the world. So I arrived home late on Saturday night and by the time I went to bed it was past midnight but I went to bed smug in the knowledge that in the morning I would be at Abids.
On Sunday morning I set out for Abids filled with anticipation and excitement at the thought of finding some really good titles as always and also filled with half dread about how many books I would find that I have to carry back home. Mercifully there was only one title I saw fit to pick up and bring home. I have read most titles of Stephen King except a handful such as Misery that I found. I got it for thirty rupees only and planned to read it soon since the story is about a writer who suffers at the hands of a crazy fan.

Yesterday I happened to drop in at the Best Book Centre bookstore in Lakdikapul where I found a book I had missed twice. I first saw ‘Desert Shadows’by Anand (P. Satchidanandan), a Sahitya Akademi award winning title at the same store sometime last year. Though it was a Penguin title I did not buy it thinking it would be around for some time. When I went there a couple of weeks later it wasn’t there and I was disappointed. But when I saw the same book at Blossoms at Bengaluru last August again I missed buying it since by then I had picked up quite a few books and couldn’t afford to buy another. After I got back to Hyderabad I regretted not buying it at Bengaluru also. But when I saw it yesterday I grabbed it.

FRIDAY DOUBLE POST: POST-1/2; 2014 Trips: Trip No. 1- Another Trip to Delhi

My first trip of the year and one that came after a gap of almost five months was once again to the only place I go to half willingly- New Delhi. All my trips to Delhi have been official with the purpose of attending some meeting or seeing someone important and hence weren’t anxiety inducing. But this trip last week was no ordinary one since I was going to attend a two day workshop that was supposed to be chaired by the Cabinet Secretary himself. This alone was enough to make me sweat all over because the Cabinet Secretary is the top bureaucrat in the country. I had prepared a presentation at the last minute after I came to know that a Collector who was supposed to have come wasn’t making it to the workshop.

On Friday I landed at the venue near Lodhi Garden quite early to check out what the facilities were and reaching before everyone does gives you an idea who is coming and what is expected. Looking at the participants streaming in made me even more nervous because almost all of them were elderly gentlemen wearing suits and ties. I was one of the very few people in a simple dress sans tie or anything. My anxiety was further compounded at the time of the introductions when almost everyone turned out to be either Professor So So or Dr XYZ. They were all Directors or Heads of top institutions in the country and a couple of them turned out to be Vice Chancellors. This was the crowd I had to address and that thought made me wonder why I had agreed to make this trip. My anxiety lessened when the Cabinet Secretary departed after the tea break. Surprisingly, I was calm and when my turn came to speak I think I made a pretty impressive presentation.
I was relieved that my presentation went off without any problem though I felt my mouth dry up at the beginning. Afterwards I relaxed and looked at all the stuff they gave us. If one attends top-drawer workshops like this then one gets top-drawer stuff to take home. Everyone got a beautiful bag with the sort of notebook that I usually carry around to jot down stuff but what took the cake was another item. Usually one gets dinky pens along with a notebook and a plastic folder at such workshops but here I got not one pen but two pens and those too in a box. After the workshop ended on the first day I came into more pens.

I called up a friend who was my room-mate during my stay at Port Blair back in 2006. Rahul Dixit was just an intern at the NGO there when I joined him and now, after about eight years he has come a long way. Rahul came in his car to pick me up and we both went to Hauz Khas where I planned to check out Vandana Book Store in the Aurobindo Market. I had read about it long back and recently I was able to dig out the address. After a long chat with Rahul I went to Vandana and found they had Sheaffer fountain pens that they called the ‘No Nonsense’ model. They were light weight, good to hold and came cheap at Rs 250 each. I bought three of them, two for myself and one I gave to my brother. I thought I could fill ink straight away into the barrel since the pen did not have a filling system. But the pen started to leak so when I got to Hyderabad I went to Deccan Pen Stores in Secunderabad and got a filling system fitted that cost me more than what I paid for the fountain pen. But it writes beautifully and I was terribly glad I had been to Vandana Book Store.

On Saturday, the second day of the workshop, the whole thing was over by lunch time. After lunch I caught the Metro at JLN stadium station and went to Nehru Place. I checked out the Nanda bookstore but couldn’t find any title worth buying. There was a hard copy of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’and also a hardcover copy of VS Naipaul’s ‘The Masque of Africa’ that I did not buy. I was back in Hyderabad by midnight. This was one trip to New Delhi when I returned without a book.

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Since the past couple of weeks I was lucky enough to find some really good poetry at Abids. First it was ‘Penguin Modern Poets’ (Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti) that I found a couple of weeks back at Abids. Next find was ‘Collected Poems’ by Robert Frost that I found again at Abids only last Sunday. This Sunday I had another lucky hit at Abids. I found ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ by Agha Shahid Ali. I was a bit shocked at finding a book by Agha Shahid Ali, a name that stayed in my mind ever since I first read his poem sometime in the late eighties. I think it was in The Illustrated Weekly of India that I read his poem but I do not remember the title of the poem now. Whatever, I am feeling elated that I found this slim collection brought about by Penguin, another favorite publisher of mine.
Before I found ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ I spotted ‘A Heart So White’ by Javier Marias at one of the sellers in Chikkadpally. I haven’t read any book by Marias though I vaguely remember reading the name somewhere recently. One of the reasons I picked up this book was that the publisher was ‘The Harvill Press’ and another reason was the cover. It lookd like it would be a good read thought it was quite lengthy at 278 pages. But it did not come cheap, I had to pay eighty rupees for this super serious book.
The last find of Sunday was ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ by Audrey Nifenegger that I have read about a lot almost everywhere. Somehow I have managed not to get too interested in this book so far assuming it wouldn’t be not to my taste but when I found a good copy of this book at Abids selling cheap. I hope it is something I can enjoy reading.