Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 24-04-2016)

It was another heatwave Sunday but nevertheless I went to Abids to look for books. It was worth sweating it out in the hot sun since I found a couple of good titles. It was pretty hot on Sunday morning as I moved from seller to seller looking at the titles and trying to find books worth picking up. I found the first book worth buying not very long after I reached Abids. There’s a seller with whom I do not like to bargain since he quotes a price that he knows I can pay. I picked up a most interesting title that turned out to be a strange one. I picked up a book, a hardcover one, with a jacket that had the title- ‘Desi Khana: The Best of Indian Vegetarian Cooking’ by Tarla Dalal. The cover got me all excited and I was eager to buy this wonderful sounding cookbook. After I gave it to the seller to tell me its price he told me the book wasn’t what the jacket said. I took it back from him and checked. The jacket was of one book and the book inside was a different one. The book was actually ‘The Bombay Palace Cookbook: A Treasury of Indian Delights’ by Stendahl. It was a nice hardcover book with beautiful photographs of some mouth-watering dishes. I decided to take this unusual find paying Rs 70 that the seller quoted.

My second find turned out to be another cookbook, one that I already had. I found a good copy of ‘Made in India’by Kunal Vijayakar, a short, slim book containing a lot of recipes. The copy I had earlier picked up was had a torn and disfigured cover but I had bought it then as I did not want to miss it. I picked up the good copy I found and got it for just ten rupees.

There’s a seller who comes only occasionally to Abids but when he comes he brings some really good titles that he simply heaps on the pavement. It is quite a task to fish out titles worth buying from that pile of books. Looking through the books I managed to unearth a good copy of ‘Birds of America’ by Lorrie Moore. I was quite excited to find another title by Lorrie Moore not long after I had found my first Lorrie Moore title at the Best Books sale at YMCA in February. I had found ‘Self Help’ then and got it for just twenty five rupees. ‘Birds of America’ was in a heap of books that was Thirty rupees only. ‘Birds of America’ is a collection of twelve stories and these are the stories in it: Willing; Which is More Than I Can Say About Some People; Dance in America; Community Life; Agnes of Iowa; Charades; Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens; Beautiful Grade; What You Want to Do Fine; Real Estate; People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk; Terrific Mother.
The next find turned out to be another collection of short stories but this was by a writer I had only read a lot about about quite recently. I found a copy of an old edition of ‘Birds and Other Stories’ by Intizar Husain. It too had twelve stories: Leaves; Tortoise; Repentance; Complete Knowledge; A Strange Animal; Man and Woman; Monkeys; The Story of the Parrot and the Mynah; The Brahmin Goat; The Boat; They Couldn’t Lick the Wall; and The One Eyed Dajjal. I sat in an Irani cafe on the way home the other day and read ‘They Couldn’t Lick the Wall’ that I found it totally different from all the stories I had read so far.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 17-04-2016)

Even a heatwave couldn’t deter me from my quest for books at Abids on Sunday morning. I hadn’t been to Abids the previous Sunday and I was filled with that restlessness that I feel when I miss my Sunday hunt for books on the pavements of Abids. I rushed to Abids as soon as I was ready, equipped with cap and a bottle of water since I knew it would be pretty hot and that I would be thirsty. Fortunately there was a slight breeze which made the heat bearable. I decided to stay in the shade for as long as possible. Not very soon after I found the first title.
The first title I found was ‘Little Birds’ by Anais Nin. I had read about Anais Nin but hadn’t found any book by her so far, not that I had been looking for them. It was a small book with about a dozen stories. I got this book for thirty rupees and this was from a seller who thinks he is very smart and quotes high prices if you show the slightest interest in the book you pick up from the pavement. This time I felt I had outwitted him and got the book so cheap.
The next find was the kind of book I look forward to reading. I have a lot of autobiographies, and memoirs by writers mostly. Moss Hart’s ‘Act One’ is one autobiography by a playwright that I have with me and I found it very interesting. On Sunday I found another memoir and this was ‘Memoirs’ by Tennessee Williams who wrote the famous play- A Streetcar Named Desire. Though I haven’t read ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ I was thrilled to find the memoirs of its author. Once again, I got this wonderful book for just thirty rupees.
Though I have heard of ‘Game of Thrones’ and also read about how popular George RR Martin is so far I haven’t made any effort to read the books. Sometime back I had come across a title by George RR Martin at Abids but I was intimadated by the size of the book as well as the price quoted by the seller. I remember him asking for something like three hundred rupees and since I wasn’t very keen on the book I did not buy it. So when I saw another similar tilte in a heap of books selling for thirty rupees I was surprised. Though I have no intention to begin reading that fat volume I picked up ‘A Storm of Swords’ from the heap and bought it.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Midweek Haul

One of the major second hand book store in Hyderabad is the Unique Book Centre now located opposite the Saifabad police station in Lakdi-ka-pul. About three years ago this store was shifted to the present location. Earlier the store functioned from a half a dozen musty smelling rooms in a dilapidated building in Nampally. I’ve bought quite a number of good books from this seller during my occasional visits to this store. One of the good books I found here was a nice copy of ‘From Here to Eternity’ by James Jones that I picked up sometime last year.

One idle afternoon, a long, long time back I dropped in at the Unique Book Store at Nampally, going from room to room in which were stacked hundreds of titles. In the middle of one room dozens of books, quite ancient from their lack of appearance and appearance were piled on a table. It was here that I first saw a copy of ‘A Hundred Encounters’ by Sham Lal. It was quite a thick, hardcover volume sans jacket with a faded black cover giving it an unappealing look. I wasn’t aware of Sham Lal and though I had a feeling that maybe it could be a title worth buying the black cover and the price of three hundred rupees pencilled in on the front page put me off. But I kept seeing this book every time I visited the store.

However for some time I couldn’t see this book and also forgot about it when the store shifted to its present location in Lakdi-ka-pul. Sometime last month I had dropped in and was quite surprised to see this title again. It was the same volume with the faded black cover and I noticed there was a tear at the bottom of the spine. It appeared to be one of those volumes no one seems to be interested in buying. I felt a bit sad that some books do not finders for years. I too wasn’t interested in buying it even after I took it out and checked the contents. I saw that there were was an entire section devoted to essays on famous poets, playwrights, and novelists. I counted forty two pieces in that section, that is almost half of the hundred articles in the book. Somehow I did not feel it was worth buying it at the price of three hundred rupees so I returned empty handed.

Sometime in February I was at Akshara with my friend. It was my birthday and Hari asked me to choose a book as a gift from me. I chose ‘The Girl Who Ate Books’ by Nilanjana Roy that I had been planning to buy. I had started reading this wonderful book and day before yesterday I was reading about Sham Lal and ‘A Hundred Encounters’ that was also mentioned in the essay on Sham Lal. After reading it I realized how dumb I had been not to have bought it earlier when I saw it. I was filled with an urgent desire to rush to Unique Book Store and buy it right away if I could find it. Luckily the book store isn’t far away from the Secretariat where I work and I rushed there after office.

Last week or so I had read a small item in some newspaper about a sale of books at Unique. I wondered if I would be able to find ‘A Hundred Encounters’ and fervently hoped no one would have bought it. I was relieved when I saw the book that was stacked on a table with the spine facing up. But it did not come cheap. I had to shell out two hundred and seventy rupees for it and I hope it is worth it.

Friday, April 08, 2016

The Sunday Haul ( on 03-04-2016)

At last after three consecutive Sundays of having had to go to work I had all of a Sunday free. I had the whole of Sunday to myself to do anything I wanted. What I wanted most was to go to Abids in the morning and browse leisurely on the pavements strewn with thousands of books and try to find at least one good title. Last Sunday it may have been the hottest one so far and which prevented me from browsing for more than a couple of hours at Abids. It was so hot with the sun blazing fiercely as early as at eleven in the morning that despite wearing a cap I tried to keep myself in the shade for as long as possible. Though it was pretty hot I was glad I came because I ended up with a decent haul of five good titles.
I had first come across Roland Barthes’s name a long time back while reading an article about fountain pens. Somehow I made no serious attempt to know who Roland Barthes was, or about what he wrote even though I knew he was a writer. Now I have an opportunity to know all about Barthes because the first book I found at Abids last Sunday was ‘A Roland Barthes Reader’ edited by Susan Sontag. After I spotted and picked it up to take a closer look at the contents I felt flattered when the seller told me that he was waiting for me to pick it up. However he did not budge even an inch from the price of Rs 200 that he quoted for it. Of course, I bought it.
A long time back, maybe in the early years of 2000 I was going through a long period of self-doubt and terrible anxiety. Later I realized that I had been depressed but luckily I learnt about ‘Transcendental Meditation’ that helped me bounce back to almost normalcy. I still practice TM and also have an interest and curiosity about various forms of meditation. Recently I found Shunryu Suzuki’s ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’ that I am rereading for the third time. So when I saw a beautiful copy of ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness- A Manual on Meditation’ by Thich Nhat Hanh I bought it.
After soul food it was time for some real food. At another seller I found another beautiful copy of ‘Hot & Spicy’ by Charmaine Solomon that I felt I should not let go. Inside were scores of recipes on glossy pages with beautiful photographs of mouth water dishes. Another find was yet another small but glossy book- Sanjeev Kapoor’s ‘Kitchen Secrets- Breakfast’ that I got pretty cheap. But the real find was a copy of ‘Best Food Writing 2000’ edited by Holly Hughes. It had fifty one essays on food, cooking, ingredients, restaurants, and so on by various writers among which I could recognize only Madhur Jaffrey, Anthony Bourdain, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Michael Ruhlman.
That was the mixed haul that I found at Abids last Sunday.

Friday, April 01, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 27-03-2016)

Last Sunday, despite having had to attend the Legislative Sessions for the third consecutive Sunday, I managed to squeeze a quick visit to Abids lasting a couple of hours. Though the sun beat down mercilessly I felt glad to be among fellow book lovers browsing on the pavements of Abids hoping to fnd at least a couple of titles to take make up for the disappointment of not being able to come to Abids since two Sundays. I was even prepared to return from Abids because I felt being at Abids was just enough. Finding a good title would have been a bonus I thought and in the end that was exactly what I found- a good title.
A long time back, maybe a decade and half ago I read my first le Carre title. It was ‘The Little Drummer Girl’ and after reading it I decided to buy all the books John le Carre had written. I had with me his bestseller ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ that I somehow misplaced. A couple of months ago I had found a good copy of this title. Last Sunday I came across another copy that I could not resist buying so I ended up picking it. It happened to be the only book I bought last Sunday at Abids. After I bought I felt that life was normal again.

Currently I am reading the Len Deighton trilogies and after I am through with them I plan to begin reading, or rather rereading all the John Le Carre titles that I have starting with ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.’ I still have Deighton’s ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’ to finish before I can begin on the le Carre titles. Next Sunday I will be able to resume my usual Sunday routine because the Budget sessions of the Telangana legislatures ended today ( 31 March) leaving all Sundays free for me. I just hope it wouldn’t too hot on Sunday.