Monday, July 31, 2017

Ten Years of the Blog

Ten years ago, I started this blog by putting up the first two posts in the last week of July, 2007. The idea of beginning a blog had taken hold sometime in January in 2007. It took me six months to overcome the hesitation, nerves and also a bit of laziness to finally begin the blog. Since I had decided to start the blog no matter what I hadn’t really thought about what the blog was going to be about. I had a vague idea that I would write about books, a bit of work and a lot about Hyderabad, and whatever that would result whenever I travelled. In the rush to begin the blog it did not occur to me that I should begin with a good post and ended up posting something about the Bata stores not stocking shoe horn and about Bonalu in the very first posts! As the months and years rolled by I realized writing about the books I found at Abids is the safest thing to do along with occasional posts on other issues. Regular readers of the blog would notice that in the past couple of months I have been posting only about The Sunday Haul. It is because I am not finding the time to write about anything else though there is a lot I have to write about. I actually think one can have a blog writing exclusively about the potholes on the roads in Hyderabad.

As the countdown to the completion of ten years of the blog began sometime in May this year or so I thought I’d be overwhelmed when the end of July came around. Now, however I am not experiencing any overwhelming feeling except for a vague sort of question that is buzzing around in my mind about how I could manage to persevere with it week after week. There aren’t many people following my blog and despite this I kept on with the blog posting every Friday with unfailing regularity. I still feel that I am not writing the blog for the sake of the followers but for myself, to get something off my mind. But I am glad there are people following my blog, occasionally leaving comments and I do think of them when I do not feel like writing the Friday’s post. Anyway, I’ve just realized why I have managed to keep the blog alive for a decade.

The only reason why I have been able to sustain the blog for so long is my passion for books. There is no other reason. It helped that my passion was so strong that I wanted to share it with others. I like to think that I have been modestly successful in revealing my love for books and reading in the blog. It has been a long journey but it has been rewarding. I have made a few friends along the way, wonderful people I meet regularly. The only thing I can say is that as long as the passion burns in my heart the blog will continue. The good news is that the passion seems to be growing stronger the older I become.

Thanks, everyone and especially the forty six people following my blog.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 23-7-2017)

Weatherwise, last Sunday it was exactly opposite to how it was the Sunday before last. If it was cloudy, gloomy with the threat of rain looming all day the Sunday before last, it was sunny and bright last Sunday. Naturally it put me in a good mood when I set out for my weekly visit to the book bazaar at Abids. I wasn’t disappointed that none of my friends had turned up to join me on the hunt for books. Whether it was the weather or the absence of my friends I ended up with six books in the haul, one of the biggest hauls of this year so far. Of these six books four happen to be cookbooks.

The number of cookbooks I have managed to buy so far is far, far more than the number of times I’ve actually cooked anything. There must be around thirty or forty cookbooks on my shelves but so far I’ve cooked something for myself just two or three times. I do not understand why I am picking up cookbooks like they are going out of fashion but every time I see a cookbook at Abids I pick it up. Last Sunday I happened to come across four cookbooks and I bought each and every title I saw.
The first was ‘Indian Food Made Easy’ by Anjum Anand, the graceful and lovely chef. I got this title for a hundred rupees which was too expensive by my standards but somehow I did not want to let it go so I bought it. It was in a good condition and seemed totally unused. Another cookbook title I found also had a simple but beautiful cover. It was ‘Beyond Vegetarian Cooking’ which seemed to be an ISKCON title. The slim volume that I bought for only ten rupees had nearly a hundred and twenty recipes of vegetarian dishes.
The third cookbook I picked up was ‘Vegetarian Indian Cookbook’ by Kaushi N. Bhatia published sometime in the early eighties. As is usual in cookbooks this book too was divided into different sections like rice dishes, breads, sweets, vegetable dishes, salads and so on. It is a simple book of a hundred and eighty pages containing many recipes interspersed with half a dozen thick pages containing colour photographs of some dishes. Somehow I was attracted by the cover and so I picked it up paying just thirty rupees for it. The last cookbook was one I found at Chikkadpally on the way back home. It was ‘Spice & Soul’ by Shakuntala Chamala. It had such a bright and attractive cover that it stood out among the books displayed on the pavement. It seemed brand new and the seller asked for a hundred rupees for it. I hesitated for some time but in the end bought it. I felt glad picking up all these cookbooks though I don’t see any occasion in the near future of trying out some of the recipes in them.
Apart from the cookbooks I managed to find two other titles too. In the spot near Bata one of the sellers has a pile of books that he sells at ten rupees only. Normally I just glance through the titles and walk away but last Sunday for some reason I decided to sift through the haphazardly piled books. I am glad I did it because I fished out a fantastic title. I found Aldo Leopold’s ‘A Sand County Almanac’ which is a nature conservation classic. I was thrilled to find it and dumbstruck that I got it for a mere ten rupees.
The next find was with the same seller but not in the ten rupee pile. I found ‘Girl, Interrupted’ by Susanna Kaysen on a shelf. I’ve come across mention of this book but haven’t really bothered to find out more about it. The book, a memoir actually, about the author spending some time in a mental institution was published in the early nineties. I got it for forty rupees only which isn’t much.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Sunday Haul (16-07-2017)

It is less of a Sunday when the sun remains hidden behind the clouds on an overcast day especially if leads to drizzles which dampen the mood like anything. Last Sunday was one such day when it appeared there’d be more rain than holiday cheer. However after some hesitation whether to go to Abids or not I started out on the two wheeler despite the light drizzle. I was certain the second hand book sellers would be there so as not to disappoint regular visitors like me. So when I arrived in Abids and saw that the booksellers were there at their usual places I felt glad I had come.
I had another reason to be glad for a friend joined me. As usual we sat in the Star of Asia café and whiled away a good part of an hour talking books, movies, and writers. Then later we set out on the quest for books. First I picked up two hardcover children’s books on cyclones and heatwaves that could help me in my current job. The good finds came after I bought these two books. The first find was the screenplay of ‘Pulp Fiction’ by Quentin Tarantino. I already have the screenplay of ‘Reservoir Dogs’ so finding this was a double joy. I found this book just moments after I bought another book- ‘Writing with Ease’ by Usha Pandit that I thought might come handy someday.
The last find of the day was ‘The Magic Animal: Mankind Revisited’ by Philip Wylie. I don’t remember where I had come across this name but I felt it could be a book worth picking up so I picked it up. I really have no idea about Philip Wylie till now but maybe after reading the book I might know. From the blurb on the back cover Philip Wylie seems some kind of iconoclastic writer shaking up things with his fierce writing. After I read on the back the tile of his earlier book- A Generation of Vipers- I felt that I must get hold of this book and read it. Even before I read anything by Philip Wylie I get the feeling that I am going to like his writing.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 9/7/2017)

I’ve got it written down somewhere in a notebook the name ‘James Salter’ that I read in an article by a writer who said that Salter was a writer’s writer or something to that effect. Since then I’ve been looking for titles by James Salter and finally last Sunday I found a title. However, this wasn’t the first title I found. A couple of months ago I had found another James Salter title. The seller quoted a too high price that I should have paid but some kind of hubris got over me and I walked away thinking no one would buy it because it was not in such a good condition and I also thought, foolishly though, that no one would have known about James Salter. The next Sunday when I searched for it I couldn’t find it. It was a stupid thing to do but somehow I do not seem to have learnt from past experience.
But last Sunday I wasn’t going to let go of ‘A Sport and A Pastime’ by James Salter that I saw the first thing at Abids. On the cover it said that it was the first paperback edition of the celebrated new underground classic. After I found this book I experienced a strange kind of high that remained with me all day. I couldn’t quite fathom why I was so elated finding this title but I felt very good. Unfortunately there was no friend with me last Sunday to share my joy since both my friends did not turn up. This was one of the two titles I picked up at the same seller. The other title was ‘Outline of American Literature’ brought out by the United States Department of State. I got both these books for fifty rupees which means the James Salter title ‘A Sport and A Pastime’ cost me just twenty five rupees.
It may sound unbelievable but one can find good books for just ten rupees at Abids. I have bought scores of books at Abids spending just ten rupees for each title. Last Sunday too in a heap of books being sold for ten rupees I found ‘The Heather Blazing’ by Colm Toibin. On the cover there was ‘PICADOR THIRTY’ printed and I wondered if this was some kind of special edition by Picador. I have to find out more about it.
The last find of the day was not at Abids but at Chikkadpally. I found another beautiful copy of ‘The Maltese Falcon’ by Dashiell Hammett. The copy I found looked brand new as if it had just come from the press. I was thrilled to find it and getting it for just fifty rupees added to the thrill. Though I have two copies of this title I couldn't resist buying this copy.
So it was another four book haul last Sunday. Somehow I felt very pleased with myself for having picked up some really good titles. However, there were a couple of books I saw but did not buy because they were beyond my reach. If I pick them up next Sunday I will write about them next Friday.

Friday, July 07, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 2/7/2017)

The Sunday before last Sunday I had returned home from Abids empty handed. Next day happened to be Ramzan so all the regular stores were open for the last minute shoppers. It meant that all the second hand booksellers had set shop at different places other than at their usual spots on the pavement in front of the regular stores. It was a bit disconcerting and apart from it, none of my friends turned up so alone I trawled through the heaps of books laid out on the pavement and failed to find anything worth buying.

However, last Sunday it was the normal scene at Abids with the regular stores shut and the second hand booksellers back at their usual place. On top of it Jai made an appearance after a long gap. By then I had already picked up my first find- another copy of ‘Screenplay’ by Syd Field that I got for two hundred rupees. It was a new copy and though I had a copy already I picked it up. Later my two other friends joined us and we sat in the café and indulged in a long spell of conversation about books, movies, and other things. Shrikant wanted the ‘Screenplay’ and took it so that is why there is no picture of that book here.
The next find was another cookbook. I found ‘Balti’ a hardcover book in an interesting format. It had a lot of recipes of chicken, mutton, prawn dishes apart from a few recipes of a few vegetarian dishes. I picked it up for just fifty rupees. The next find was in a heap of books selling for fifty rupees. It was a copy of ‘Too Much Happiness’ by Alice Munro, the master storyteller. I don’t remember if have a copy of this title but I picked it up. It was too good a title to let go. It had the following ten stories: Dimensions, Fiction, Wenlock Edge, Deep-Holes, Free Radicals, Face, Some Women, Child’s Play, Wood, and Too Much Happiness.
I got a pleasant surprise when Jai gave me a copy of Jo Nesbo’s ‘The Redbreast.’ I had no book to give him but I told him to pick up ‘Twilight at Macs’ by Ross Thomas that we saw in a heap of books selling for only twenty rupees.
The last find was not at Abids but at Chikkadpally and it was a very interesting title that I found. I came across a copy of ‘The Picador Book of Latin American Stories’ edited by Carlos Fuentes and Julio Ortega. I got this wonderful title for just fifty rupees. There were thirty nine Latin American short stories in this collection. Of the thirty-nine writers I am familiar with only three names- Carlos Fuentes, and of course, Jorge Luis Borges, and Marquez. I was happy with this find and am eagerly waiting to read it.