Friday, April 25, 2014


It is infinitely better to stop resolving about not buying any more books because I simply cannot do it. I have to buy the books I come across and that which make me restless if I do not buy them. It makes me far relaxed now that I have decided to keep continuing buying the books I find at Abids and other second hand book stores. Otherwise it took me infinite will power to look at a book I wanted to read without buying it. In this easy frame of mind I made my weekly Sunday trip to Abids and ended up buying three fantastic titles.
A couple of weeks ago I read a book that I had picked up on a hunch at Abids for just ten rupees. It was Charles McCarry’s ‘The Tears of Autumn’ and reading which made me wonder how I had missed not knowing this wonderful writer. I decided to buy any title of his that I happened to come across though it appeared remote. But luckily I saw ‘The Better Angels’ at a second hand bookstore in Begumpet. Though I wanted to buy it right away I did not do so. One reason I did not buy it immediately was the resolution at the back of my mind about not buying whatever books I happened to see and like, and the second reason was that even if I wanted to buy the book, I did not wish to spend a hundred rupees buying it when I could buy the same book at Abids at a quarter of the price.

Lucky guy that I am, last Sunday, I found this very title in a heap of books selling for only twenty rupees. It was a decent enough copy, decent enough to make me forget about the copy I saw in the bookstore. I am eager to read it as soon as I get the time because ‘The Tears of Autumn’ was one damn exciting book.
The next find of Sunday was ‘The Penguin Book of English Short Stories’ that I had seen last Sunday and had not bought due to the same reasons I mentioned above. I got the book for eighty rupees, twenty rupees less than the price the seller had scribbled on the back cover. There are sixteen stories by writers like Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad, Maugham, James Joyce and all the other great writers of that time. This adds to my growing collection of short story titles which is growing at the rate of one title a month. Earlier this month I had found Graham Greene’s ‘Twenty One Stories’ and now this title.
The last and third find of Sunday was an absolute beauty. I found Raymond Chandler’s ‘Farewell, My Lovely’ that I had bought at the Hyderabad Book Fair in 2012. I got this copy on Sunday at just sixty rupees. In 2012 too I got a better copy at the same price.

Incidentally, I met Jai and his friend at Abids while going around looking for books to pick up. We five (me, Uma, Srikanth) sat in an Irani and had chai. We talked about books, fountain pens, and also watches, things around which most of our lives revolve, awake or in sleep.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s death last week was a dampener and the wonderful writer that he was, he richly deserved all the praise that filled the pages of almost every newspaper I read. However, another writer’s death went completely unnoticed because he remains unknown to a large number of people though he is a fantastic writer. A couple of days after Marquez’s death I came across a small news item announcing the death of Alistair MacLeod. I had discovered Alistair MacLeod’s only recently and it was totally by accident that I found his book of short stories- ‘Island’- that I spotted at the Best Books sale sometime last year. Incredibly enough, shortly afterwards I found another famous collection of his short stories- ‘The Lost Salt Gift of Blood’- at Abids for just ten rupees. Unfortunately, I did not buy his novel ‘No Great Mischief’ that was also on the shelf for some reason. Now I realize I had been dumb not have bought it.

Alistair MacLeod’s stories are unforgettable and I am very pleased with myself for having unearthed this wonderful writer on my own. However, his death is an enormous loss. If you ever come across any of his books then do not miss buying them.

FRIDAY DOUBLE POST- 2014 TRIPS- Trip No. 4- To Tirupati Again

Ordinarily nothing exciting or even interesting happens at work in the lives of those in the Government. But occasionally, there will be something that will put in a bit of excitement though transient, for those, like me, who are lucky. If not anything else I am travelling very often making a trip a month, usually to Delhi. But sometimes I get to travel to a different place, like Bengaluru, Bubaneshwar and also Tirupati. Sometime in 2012 I guess I went to Tirupati on an official visit and incidentally had darshan at the famed Temple of Balaji in Tirumala.

Only a couple of weeks before, in the first week of this month, I had made a trip to Tirupati with my family for the darshan. While the train was moving out of the station at Tirupati I had the same thought that everyone who visits Tirumala has, that is, when the next trip would be. Even before a month has passed I got a chance to visit Tirupati again, this time on an official visit. I was accompanying a team of officials of the Government of India. Because of the importance of the visit the team was accorded State Guest status which meant that they would be accorded many privileges not available to others. Naturally, some of the privileges extended to those following them and I was one of those in the retinue.

After the meeting at Tirupati on Monday afternoon we went up the hills to Tirumala. I got a large room for myself at a nice guest house on the top. Since we had to get up at around one a.m. in the night in order to have an early morning darshan, I went to bed early. At 2-30 am we entered into the temple and were taken to the inner temple in such an incredibly short time. This normally takes hours and I felt lucky to have made it in a matter of minutes. The luckiest thing was that I was able to stand in the Sanctum Sanctorum for a full five minutes having a wonderful darshan that others only can dream about. In 2006 too while I was posted in the Vigilance Department I got a similar opportunity. At this early hour, the attendants in the temple are relaxed and in no hurry to shoo off the people like they do in the rest of the day. In fact, one of the attendants asked me to move closer to have a better darshan of the deity. Darshan over, we rushed to the airport to catch the flight back to Hyderabad.

This was one dream trip I am unlikely to forget.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Sunday Haul

After missing my usual visit to Abids the Sunday before last I could make it this Sunday. Though I was not entirely successful in my resolve not to buy any more books I could limit my picks to just one book. Sometime back I had read ‘A Stone for Danny Fisher’ by Harold Robbins that I had somehow not read back in the eighties when I first started reading such books. There are a couple more HR titles I have yet to read. So when I came across a title that I had not been aware of I took it. It was ‘The Fence.’ The cover made it appear like it must be one of the original editions published sometime in the seventies. I was right and it turned out to be a first printing published in 1975. The artwork on the cover gave that look of the seventies. I got it for just thirty rupees. This was the only book I bought on Sunday.

But strangely enough, I am not able to find any mention of this book- The Fence- on the net. I keep coming across ‘Hopping the Fence’ but not ‘The Fence’ which is quite intriguing. I have a copy of the actual book but there’s no mention of it anywhere which is making me wonder if this title is some kind of a rare title or unknown title. There has to be more to this story and I promise I will keep looking for more about this title until I know the truth.
Monday too was a holiday so I felt like going to a bookstore. On my last visit to MR Books somewhere in Begumpet I had noticed that they had a new collection. In fact all the books I had bought recently were from this store. On Moday I saw ‘Best American Essays, 2005’ and felt like buying it. It had twenty five essays by writers like Edward Hoagland, David Sedaris, Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace, Ian Frazier, Oliver Sacks, names I have come across earlier, and also by some writers I am not familiar with. It was at an unbelievable price of Rs 50 only which is something pretty unusual in a second hand bookstore.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Last Sunday too I couldn’t go to Abids. After returning from Tirupati on Friday morning I had been feeling a bit under the weather. Since I had to leave for Delhi later in the evening on Sunday I did not want to be out in the hot sun at Abids for a couple of hours. As I had already decided I would be skipping the visit to Abids on Sunday I went to a bookstore- MR- at Begumpet to check out if there was anything I could find.

There was a new lot of books at MR which I had seen on my last visit. During this visit I found a brand new copy of ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe and Annie Dillard’s ‘Living By Fiction’ that was also in a good condition. Surprisingly, each book was priced at fifty rupees only which is less than what these books sell at Abids.

Then at Delhi, at Janpath, I bought a new copy of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Never At Ease’ which was a slim volume of just hundred and thirty six pages. I had nothing to read on the plane journey to Hyderabad so I picked it up. Later I went to Nehru Place, where in Nanda Bookstore I found Oliver Sacks’ ‘Musicophilia’ that I got for a hundred rupees. I also saw ‘ An Atlas of Impossible Longing’ by Anuradha Roy which I now feel I should have bought instead of ‘Musicophilia.’



In the last week I made two back to back trips. My second trip of the year was a personal trip with family to Tirupati. As usual we opted for the one day package of IRCTC which we find to be perfectly suitable for us as it takes care of train reservation, accommodation, darshan, transport and even food. On this trip however we faced a few problems. The train was three hours late and reached Tirupati at nine in the morning instead of six. This delay affected the entire program. It took us more than three hours to come out of the temple after darshan. We had lunch at half past four. I felt nauseous sitting in the back of the Tata Sumo coming down the ghat road, something that had never happened to me before. However, we were able to catch the train for the journey back home.


Two days later I was off to Delhi again for the second time this year. Exactly a month ago, I was in Delhi to attend a workshop and on the same dates there was another workshop I was told to attend. I was reluctant to go but I agreed because there was a personal matter I had to deal with. I wanted to go because I wanted to meet and console a friend who lost his young son to cancer. The workshop was on Monday and I sat through it listening to the various speakers. Afterwards I went to Nehru Place to Nanda Bookstore to check if there was anything I could find worth buying. I bought a new copy of ‘Musicophilia’ by Oliver Sacks. I had finished reading ‘Red Leaves’ by Robert H Cook on the plane while coming to Delhi and had nothing to read on the way home. I bought ‘Never at Ease’ with the idea of reading it on the way back home. Earlier at Janpath I had bought a new copy of ‘ Never at Ease’ by Chinua Achebe that I read on the way back home.

Every parent’s worst nightmare is losing a child. It is very difficult to imagine how someone whose child dies feels. It is more difficult to console such parents. A day after the workshop when I met BN who was my friend in college while doing my post-graduation, I couldn’t hold back my tears. It was gut-wrenching to listen to him tell about the ordeal that the family went through watching the boy’s life fade away before their eyes after numerous sessions of chemotherapy. I felt miserable that no one could do anything to save the life of the child. I did not know what to tell my friend. My heart felt empty like it had a hole from which every feeling had gone.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Sunday Haul

When I resolved not to visit Abids for a month or so in order not to add to the clutter of books at home I thought I would be able to hold on to this resolution. I stuck to this decision with great difficulty for exactly two weeks. Last Sunday I started to feel some kind of withdrawal symptoms. I missed being at Abids, missed looking at all the thousands of titles laid out on the pavements waiting for someone to pick them up, missed the usual Sunday banter with my friends at the cafe drinking chai. I missed it all. So last Sunday I decided to go but with a caveat that I would not pick up even a single book. However, it was not to be so because I bought three books, title that I couldn’t help buying.
Sometime back I had picked up a book on a hunch that was proved to be correct. After I read ‘The Tears of Autumn’ by Charles McCarry I felt like patting myself on the back for having picked up such a good book without knowing anything about the author or the title. So when I saw Dan Waddell’s ‘Blood Atonement’ on the pavement it did not take long for me to pick it up. That it was a Penguin title helped a bit but it was more my intuition that it would be an interesting read that made me pick it up.
The next find was another Penguin title, a King Penguin. I found a good copy of an old edition of RK Narayan’s classic ‘The Man Eater of Malgudi’ and got it for only thirty rupees. This was the first book I read in my life. I was maybe twelve years old when I found this book in my uncle’s bookshelf. I think I finished reading it in one day and since then I was hooked on books. Later I found all books of RK Narayan and read them one by one. I do not have a copy of ‘The Man Eater of Malgudi’ so finding this copy at Abids last Sunday was special.
The third title I found also was a Penguin title. On Sunday I came across a pretty decent copy of Dom Moraes’ autobiography ‘My Son’s Father’ that I got quite cheap. I paid only thirty rupees for it. I plan to read it one of these days. It is a perfect way to know more about Dom Moraes one of India’s famous poets/ journalists and a much honoured one at that.