Friday, June 18, 2021

The Sunday Haul (on 13-06-2021)

After more than a month I finally got to go to Abids. The odd relaxation timing during the lockdown here, from six in the morning to ten for a couple of weeks, and until one in the afternoon for another couple of weeks meant I could not go to Abids on Sundays. Now that the relaxation is until five in the evening I thought I’d go and check out the pavement book bazaar. I really missed going to Abids for my weekly book hunting so when I arrived at Abids and found that almost all the booksellers were at their usual places I felt pretty excited at the prospect of finding something good.

While at school and college I used to participate in quizzes where one of the questions would be who wrote ‘Thirukural’? Also in the many competitive tests I wrote there would be the same question- author of ‘Thirukural?’ I knew what it was but never got around to finding more about it. I never thought that there would be English translations of the great Tamil classic until I saw a copy of ‘Kural’ by Thruvalluvar last Sunday.

A few Sundays ago before the lockdown I had seen a copy of ‘Autumn Lights’ by Pico Iyer, that for some reason, I did not buy right away. The seller told me he had another copy so I went away thinking I would buy it another Sunday. When I looked for it again, needless to say, it was gone and the seller did not remember telling me he had two copies. Once again I felt stupid for having let go of a good book. However, last Sunday the second copy surfaced on the shelf of the seller and I grabbed it. I got it for two hundred rupees.

Next to this seller is another seller I like very much because he doesn’t have any clue about the value of the books he sells. He has only one way of pricing the books, all books big or small at the same price. Since a few weeks I have been on an Africa binge reading all books about or set in the African countries. In the past few weeks I have read ‘French Lessons in Africa’ by Peter Biddlecombe, ‘Africa’ by David Lamb, ‘When a Crocodile Eats the Sun’ by Peter Godwin, and ‘The Healing Land’ by Rupert Isaacson as part of a plan to read all Africa titles in my collection. I do not know why but I am fascinated by Africa, and want to read as many books on Africa as I can find. Luckily, the clueless seller had a copy of ‘Carcase for Hounds’ by Meja Mwangi, another title in the African Writer series. A while back I had picked up another title from this series, ‘People of the City’ by Cyprian Ekwensi. Anyway I got ‘Carcase for Hounds’ that is set in Kenya and is about the Mau Mau struggle that I am keen to know more about since I had read different versions of this struggle. I got this book for just twenty rupees.

On the way back home from Abids I stopped, as usual, to look at the titles that one of the three book sellers at Chikkadpally had on the pavement. I spotted a title I had seen earlier- ‘The House on Mall Road’ by Mohyna Srinivasan. I hadn’t felt like picking it up the last time I saw it but on Sunday I bought because I noticed it was a Penguin title and also had a blurb by Pico Iyer, a combination impossible to resist. I got it for a hundred rupees. 

Friday, June 04, 2021

An Online Haul

With the lockdown restrictions in place in Hyderabad I haven’t been able to visit Abids for almost a month now. I had this restless urge to buy books and so when there were a couple of sales of second hand books on WhatsApp groups I claimed six good titles. After a long time I felt pleased that I had bagged some really good books though it burned a bit of a hole in the pocket.

In February, 2019 while on a visit to Bengaluru along with my son, I found a copy of ‘Bang, Bang Birds’ by Adam Diment at the Blossoms store that I bought for just seventy rupees. Only weeks before I had read about Adam Diment, and I felt glad I had bought the book since I had read it after I got home and found Diment to be a terrific talent. I wished I had found more of his titles but I couldn’t until last week when I found not one but two Adam Diment titles up for sale on a WhatsApp group.

I was surprised that no one claimed ‘The Great Spy Race’ by Adam Diment and ‘The Dolly Dolly Spy’ by Adam Diment. I was quite thrilled to get these two titles.

Later in the same year Jokha Alharthi won the Man Booker Prize for her ‘Celestial Bodies’ that is still being talked about. I wanted to read it and luckily a copy was on sale on the WhatsApp group and I claimed it before anyone else could and got it. I do not know when I am going to read it but read it I will.

A long time ago I had found a copy of ‘Paraja’ by Gopinath Mohanty that I haven’t read so far because it is a large tome and I am hesitating to begin it. Sometime last year I also found another hardcover copy of another collection of stories by Gopinath Mohanty with the title ‘The Bed of Arrows’ that too I haven’t read so far.  On the WhatsApp sale I saw a copy of ‘Stories’ by Gopinath Mohanty that I claimed and also got. It is a small and slim book with just three stories- Ants; The Shelter; and The Bed of Arrows. 

For a long time I had been looking for a travelogue about the Carribean countries but couldn’t find any. When I saw ‘A Walk Around the West Indies’ by Hunter Davies on the sale I decided to claim it and to my surprise I got it because no one else had claimed it.

There’s no need to mention about Martin Amis’ writing because everyone knows how good he is. Only the other day I read an entire chapter on Martin Amis in Christopher Hitchen’s ‘Hitch-22’ where references to Martin Amis are aplenty. I have a few titles by Martin Amis including two copies of his most famous  title- ‘The War on Cliché’ the first copy of which  I found at Daryagunj in Delhi a couple of years ago. When I saw ‘The Moronic Inferno’ by Martin Amis on the sale I claimed right away and nervously prayed that no one would claim it before me because it was a non-fiction and a travelogue kind of work. To my relief I got it and a few days back when the books were delivered I saw that it has 27 essays on various places and people. This looked like a book I am going to enjoy immensely.

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Sunday Haul (on 09-05-2021)

With only a few regular shops open for the Ramzan shoppers the second-hand booksellers who set shop before such shops in Abids shifted elsewhere last Sunday. Many of them were at their regular spots and I was glad to see them again after the previous Sunday’s no-show. It is so comforting to be among familiar surroundings and to see so many books spread out on the pavements waiting to be bought. It was a warm morning and there were not many people other than the regulars browsing there. In the couple of hours I was at Abids I picked up four good titles.

I had read about ‘The Vegetarian’ by Han Kang when it was in the news for being shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2016. It was a slim book of less than two hundred pages and I got it for just eighty rupees. Now with the lockdown in force I am planning to read it one of these days.

A long time back, more than ten years ago I had found a hardcover copy of ‘Travels’ by Michael Crichton at Abids. I had also read it and forgot all about it until I found another copy last Sunday. This was a paperback copy though but somehow I wanted to read it again so I bought it. I paid fifty rupees for it.

Again, long back, sometime in the early nineties I guess I had attended a talk in Hyderabad Central University where Bill Aitken too had come. I remember taking his autograph too on a notebook that I cannot find now. I loved his ‘Seven Sacred Rivers’ that I still have somewhere in the house. I don’t have ‘Travels by a Lesser Line’ by Bill Aitken that I saw with a bookseller who gave it to me for only twenty rupees.

After I had found ‘Look at Me’ by Anita Brookner sometime ago and read I wanted to read all the books she had written. I found a couple of her titles afterwards but ‘Hotel du Lac’ still eludes me. I saw a copy of ‘The Rules of Engagement’ by Anita Brookner that I got for eighty rupees. It was a nice copy and I was glad I spotted it half-hidden under other books.

Friday, May 07, 2021

An Online Haul

Last Sunday I couldn’t go to Abids as there was a wedding in the family. My niece’s marriage was on Sunday, the 2nd of May so there was no way I could go to Abids as it was held at noon and I was busy all day. The marriage was originally scheduled last December but due to travel restrictions and problems of leave from the office my niece couldn’t make it to India so it was postponed. Even though the pandemic was raging all around we had to conduct the marriage after following all precautions to the extent possible.

However, I did not really miss books though I missed going to Abids last Sunday.  About two weeks ago I had claimed a book on a WhatsApp sale by a second hand book seller. In that sale I came across ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis that I instantly claimed. I had been on the lookout for this title after I read a few references to it in reviews online.  I had wondered if I would be able to get it here in Hyderabad but luckily I found it online. It was delivered last Thursday and I was more than happy to see it on my table when I returned from work.

The copy of ‘True Grit’ by Charles Portis that I got was a beautiful almost new copy that was lovingly encased in a plastic jacket. I think I paid Rs 200 for it including the postage charges. I am filled with an indescribable joy holding the book in my hand and feeling that I now own a good book.  I am glad I was able to claim it before anyone on the group did though later I saw that no one had claimed it.

In these times of anxiety and despair at the damage the virus is wreaking across the world reading is the only thing that is keeping me sane.

Friday, April 30, 2021

The Sunday Haul (on 25-04-2021)

After missing my Sunday visits to the Abids second hand book bazaar for two consecutive Sundays,  I was able to go there last Sunday. I had been in Ooty for two weeks on work and though I found a couple of good books in a small bookstore there I missed the slow and lazy browse at Abids. I was glad I was back in Hyderabad though it was pretty hot compared to the cool weather in Ooty.  I felt at home walking down the road looking at the hundreds of books spread out on the pavements and seeing the familiar faces of the regular sellers at Abids. Though I had been away for only two weeks it felt like ages.

Travel titles are what I am most interested in and most of my time is taken up with travelogues by writers like Pico Iyer, Kaupuscinski, Sebald, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Freya Stark and several other wonderful writers. All this reading has only made me curious about the history and also the geography of the places I read about in these books. I do not miss any book that gives a detailed history of any place I am familiar with (of course, only in books) so when I saw a copy of ‘White Nile’ by Alan Moorehead I grabbed it. I haven’t read anything by Alan Moorehead so far nor have I read much about the White Nile so this title piqued my interest and I am itching to read it as soon as I finish reading ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’ by Paul Theroux which I am half way through.

It was only recently that I read somewhere about John McGahern. ‘Amongst Women’ by John McGahern who is an Irish writer. I had read a few Irish writers and found their writing to be very powerful. I do not know how I missed knowing about John McGahern but I am glad at last I found a title by him. The blurb by John Banville says it is ‘A Masterpiece’ which is making me want to read it right away which I might do.

I got these two books for hundred rupees each which is a bit more than what I pay usually but I did not mind paying it since I found these two wonderful titles. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

The Ooty Haul

Only a few people are as lucky as I am. I was sent to Ooty on work where I had to stay for almost two weeks. It was a welcome break though there was the constant fear of catching the virus. The weather was pleasant and where I stayed, the Queen’s Palace in Tamizhagam, was luxury the work itself was a bit stressful. I was there to oversee trekking programme of 40 All India Service officers who were undergoing a Foundation Course in our Institute. Early in the morning I would go out to a camp around Ooty, and again in the evening to check on how they were doing. I visited quite a few picturesque places like Sholur, Theppakadu, Pandiar, Naduvottam, and Porthimund. Since I knew in December last itself that I would be making this trip I had bought an iPhone as a birthday gift to self. I got to click some nice photographs.

Wherever I go I look out for bookstores. On my last visit with family in 2017 I couldn’t find the time to shop for books. But this time I was lucky to spot a bookstore while I was driving around in Ooty. I spotted ‘Church Hill Book Shop’ near Charing Cross and went in. It was a small store, with just a couple of shelves containing a few hundred books. I thought I would not find anything but I couldn’t believe it when I found two wonderful titles on my first visit to the book shop.

The first find was a nice copy of ‘Cheating at Canasta’ by William Trevor. I never imagined I would find a William Trevor title in such a small store. It is a collection of short stories and I got the book for a hundred and eighty rupees. I was pleased that I had found a bit of treasure. 

Then I spotted a beautiful copy of ‘The River at the Centre of the World’ by Simon Winchester. This was a travelogue about China, another one in my collection of books on China. It had a beautiful cover and I was terribly glad that I had found another wonderful title. This book too I got for a hundred and eighty rupees. Finding these two titles took away the sense of loneliness and stress I had been feeling after being away from home for more than a week.  I resolved to visit the store again whenever I had the time. 

Luckily a couple of days later I got the time to drop in at the book shop once again. On this second visit I found another wonderful title. I spotted a copy of ‘Step by Step’ by Simon Reeve. I wouldn’t have known who Simon Reeve was if I hadn’t watched his programme on BBC one day by accident. I watched his episodes on Greece, Russia, and Turkey I guess before I was hooked to his show. It was sheer luck that I came across ‘Step by Step’ which, as the cover says, is a sort of memoir. This too I got for a hundred and eighty rupees. 

Friday, April 09, 2021

The Sunday Haul (on 04-04-2021)

The Saturday before last when I dropped in at a hospital to enquire about the vaccination process I didn’t know I would end up getting my first dose of the vaccine. It happened so quickly and so smoothly that I was surprised and also very pleased. However in the evening I developed a fever and spent the whole of Sunday in bed. Which is why there was no blog post last Friday about the Sunday haul because I had to give Abids a miss. I spent a miserable week waiting for yet another Sunday.

After a week’s deprivation of books last Sunday I was terribly pleased to return to Abids. Add to that pleasure it wasn’t as hot as I had expected since the temperature was touching 40 degrees C in Hyderabad. I went around eyes darting around the hundreds and thousands of books laid out on the pavements of Abids hoping something would catch my attention.

Half hour of such browsing I spotted a copy of ‘Kitchen Privileges’ by Mary Higgins Clark which turned to be her memoir. I am a sucker for memoirs and autobiographies of writers and have several dozens of such titles and so picked it up though I have never read anything by Mary Higgins Clark. Next time I find anything by her I am going to pick it up and read it before reading ‘Kitchen Privileges.’ It was a hard cover copy with jacket in good condition and I paid only seventy rupees for it.

My next find also turned out to be a sort of memoir. I found a copy of ‘Performing Flea’ by PG Wodehouse on a wooden shelf with a seller in the Hollywood lane. Though the seller had written 90/- on the front page he gave it to me for just fifty rupees. Sometime back I had found the same 

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Sunday Haul (on 21/03/2021)

I had to take someone to a doctor on Sunday morning and the long wait meant I was late for my usual visit to Abids. From the doctor’s I rushed home and got ready to go to Abids. In that haste halfway to Abids I realised that I forgot to take along the cap I started to wear outdoors because the sun was growing fiercer by the day. Surprisingly somewhere near the King Koti hospital I spotted a small kiosk with some caps hanging on a stand. I stopped though I felt I wouldn’t get a nice cap but I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice, light blue cap without any garish logo on it. But there was a hitch. It was a flat cap, something I dislike. However I liked the colour and not wishing to go around Abids without a cap on my head I bought it for a hundred rupees.

The Sunday before I had seen a copy of ‘China: A History’ by John Keay that I did not buy right away. I found it at the same seller I had seen it the other Sunday. It was quite a tome with nearly 600 pages and before I bought it I had second thoughts wondering if I would ever find the time to read it. But I did not want to let it go also so I picked it up. I remember I had seen John Keay’s book on India that I decided right then to pick up whenever I see it next. I got this title for a hundred and thirty rupees.


A couple of years ago I had come across the name ‘Maryse Condé’ somewhere and I was so impressed by the recommendation that I noted it down in a notebook. I do not remember where I had read about Maryse Condé but last Sunday when I spotted a copy of ‘Segu’ by Maryse Condé with a beautiful cover I snapped it up. I got it for a hundred and fifty books. ‘Segu’ too was another huge tome running into nearly 500 pages and I wonder when I will get to read it.


Then beside the Bata store in a separate pile of books selling for twenty rupees I spotted a copy of‘Saving Agnes’ by Rachel Cusk, and also a copy of ‘I Heard the Owl Call My Name’ by Margaret Craven that I bought without a second thought because Rachel Cusk was a name I had frequently come across, and ‘I Heard the Owl Call My Name’ was a title I had read about somewhere.

Friday, March 19, 2021

The Sunday Haul (on 14/03/2021)

I think I am very lucky to live in a city like Hyderabad where I get to pick choice titles from a selection of thousands of books laid out on the pavements of Abids every Sunday.  Sunday is one day of the week I look forward to. Others want to stay at home and laze around but I want to go to Abids and browse for books to buy. It is a million dollar feeling nothing can beat, the feeling when I return home with a couple of good titles. Last Sunday too I managed to find three wonderful titles.

The first title I found was a copy of ‘Inside/out: New Writing from Goa’ that had articles etc by writers and others living in Goa. It has twenty eight essays by writers like Vivek Menezes, Savia Viegas, Damodar Mauzo, Amitav Ghosh whose names are familiar to me, and also by writers I haven’t heard of before. Wendell Rodericks is another name I am familiar with. On checking the flyleaf I saw that someone in Goa had gifted this book to a couple with the message: ‘ a bit of Goa to take back.’ I got this collection for hundred rupees.

Somehow the recent weeks seem to be Vijay Nambisan season. A couple of weeks ago I had found a copy of ‘Language as an Ethic’ by Vijay Nambisan. On Sunday soon after the Goa title I spotted a nice copy of ‘Bihar Is in the Eye of the Beholder’ by Vijay Nambisan with another seller down the road. It was a brand new copy. There are about a dozen essays in it and also a prologue, an epilogue, and afterword to the new edition. I was delighted to find it because I like to read such books and I had always wanted to read more of Vijay Nambisan’s journalism. I got this book for a hundred and fifty rupees.


Outside the Best Books branch in Abids, there’s a display of books laid out selling for Rs 20 and Rs 50. I stopped there to take a look on the way back. I spotted a book with the title ‘The Big Heat’ by William P. McGivern that appeared to be a crime fiction title. On taking a closer look at the cover I discovered that it was also made into a movie by Fritz Lang starring Glenn Ford and Lee Marvin so I thought it would be something worthwhile to read. It was in the Rs 20 section that I found it so that was what I paid for it.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Sunday Haul (on 07/03/2021)

Not a week passes for me without doing something stupid, sometimes really stupid things I tend to regret later. Last Sunday at Abids while checking out two books I recalled two stupid things I did long back. Many years ago I had seen a copy of ‘Sunlight on a Broken Column’ by Attia Hosain that I thought did not deserve attention. After I read about this title somewhere I regretted my act of ignoring the copy of ‘Sunlight on a Broken Column’ by Attia Hosain that I could have bought. The pain of not having bought it lingered and last Sunday it became reignited when I saw a copy of ‘Phoenix Fled’ by Attia Hosain. At first glance I thought it was a novel but when I looked inside I saw that it was a collection of twelve short stories. The cover was very attractive and it also had an introduction by Anita Desai. This book was published originally in 1953 but the copy I found was an 1993 edition that I got for hundred rupees.

With the same seller who puts up his books on makeshift wooden shelves and some on a plastic sheet spread on the ground I spotted a copy of ‘Speedboat’ by Renata Adler. I remembered reading the name ‘Renata Adler’ somewhere recently but even otherwise I would have picked up this book that had a blurb by John Updike. I got it for hundred rupees which was a pretty steep price but I was in a different mood so I paid up and added it to my haul.

Then came the second occasion to feel the pain of past foolishness. This was an unbelievable act of foolishness. Years ago, in 2012, to be exact I had bought a copy of ‘The Savage Detectives’ by Robert Bolano that remained unread on my bookshelf for a long time because it appeared too bulky. I don’t understand why but I gave away the book to someone and forgot all about it until I began to come across this title being mentioned by several people on Twitter and elsewhere. I realized I had been stupid to have given it away. Luckily, I saw another copy of ‘The Savage Detectives’ by Robert Bolano that was in quite good condition and also came cheap at only hundred rupees which was far less than the two hundred and fifty rupees I had paid for the copy I found in 2012.

Every Sunday after returning home from Abids I take pictures of the covers of the books I had picked up at Abids and post it on Twitter. Usually these tweets get about twenty likes in all but the tweet last week about the above three titles got an unusually high 38 likes and also a couple of replies which were about Renata Adler’s ‘Speedboat’ and also ‘The Savage Detectives.’