Friday, August 29, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Some time back, 2011, I guess I read somewhere about the books that Barack Obama took on his vacation to read. One of the titles that I remembered was John Le Carre’s ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ and the other title was David Mitchell’s ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.’ I have come across ‘Our Kind of Traitor’ but haven’t seen the other title anywhere till last Sunday.

On Thursday I was in a second hand bookstore where I saw a copy of David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’ selling for Rs 100. Somehow I didn’t buy it though I was aware of its bestseller status. Also, it was quite a tome. I had several titles bigger than that (like The River of Smoke, Idris) lying unread and I did not want to add one more intimidating doorstopper.
On Sunday, at a seller near the GPO I found a nice copy of ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’ which was quite a tome with 560 pages. The seller was ready to give it to me for Rs 80 rupees which I shelled out. I knew because I wouldn’t be able to find it anywhere so cheap.
Another book I picked up on Sunday was Stephen King’s ‘Everything’s Eventual’ which is a collection of 14 dark tales- Autopsy Room Four, The Man in the Black Suit, All That You Love Will Be Carried Away, The Death of Jack Hamilton, In the Deathroom, The Little Sisters of Eluria, Everything’s Eventual, L.T’s Theory of Pets, The Road Virus Heads North, Lunch at The Gotham Café, That Feeling YOU Can Only Say What Is It in French, 1408, Riding the Bullet, and Lucky Quarter. I had recently finished reading his ‘On Writing’ once again and thought it would be a good idea to taste some of his stories. This book was with the same seller who gives the books to me at any price I ask. I got it for fifty rupees which is a bit higher than what I usually pay but then this was an almost brand new copy.
Apart from the two good titles I found, the Sunday was a special for another reason. Jai came along with Hari Balakrishnan, watch and pen collector/restorer/expert with an unmatched knowledge of fountain pens made in India. Recently I had bought three fountain pens from him so I was keen to meet him and thank him personally for the fountain pens with the special nibs that are a pleasure to own and write. Along with Uma and Srikanth, we were quite a crowd.
In the photographs taken by Shrikanth at Abids: Uma in red tee and Raybans pretending to be intimidated in my presence beside him. Hari B next to me and next to him Jai bhai.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Somehow since the past couple of weeks the haul during my weekly visits to the second hand book bazaar at Abids has been just one or two titles. It is something I welcome since I am running out of space at home to store all the books I keep buying all the time. The other Sunday I had bought just one book and the Sunday before the last Sunday too I bought just one book.
At Chikkadpally I saw a few Robert B. Parker titles and only one of them was a title I did not have and the rest were all titles I have a couple of copies of. I picked up ‘Pale Kings and Princes’ that I got for just twenty rupees though I could have got it for a lesser price. There was a copy of ‘A Case of Exploding Mangoes’ by Mohammed Hanif that I did not buy. Later I felt I should have bought it but last Sunday too I did not pick it up though the title was still on the pavement.
Last Sunday though the haul was nil as I did not find any book worth buying except for a book on solving crosswords. I found ‘Cryptic Crosswords & How to Solve Them’ by Fred Piscop that I got for just twenty rupees. There seemed to be nothing else interesting to pick up. However, I also picked up the June 2014 issue of Conde Nast Traveller. I got it from my favorite seller for only twenty rupees.
It was a hot day though with the temperature somewhere in the mid thirties which is a bit unusual for this time of the year. There has been no rain for a long time which is another thing weighing on my mind since one of my tasks on the job is to keep track of the monsoon. I have to send reports to everyone who matters on how much it has rained and what the deficit it. As on today, the rainfall deficit in the State (Telangana) is 53 % if any of you cares to know.

Friday, August 08, 2014

The Sunday Haul

The surprises at Abids never cease. Last Sunday I found another crime fiction title by a writer I had not heard about before. I found 'I Married a Dead Man' by Cornell Woolrich and got it for only thirty rupees. Since it was a Penguin title I had a hunch it could be a good book and I found I was right when I read the reviews of the book and the author's bio online.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The Sunday Haul


This blog completes seven years. This is the first post of the eighth year of the blog.

With only two days to go for Ramzan, Abids on Sunday was a beehive of activity with hordes of shoppers thronging the shops that were kept open though it was a Sunday. Early in the morning on Sunday there was rain and I had almost dropped the idea of visiting Abids to look for books. But after a couple of hours the rain cleared out and I changed my mind since the Sunday wouldn’t be complete for me without the visit to Abids, without the half hour of chatting with my friends over chai in the café there. When I reached Abids I found that since the regular shops were open the pavement booksellers had set up shop in other vacant places.
Since my haul of books till date had crossed the century mark I was wary of buying any more books and I decided to buy only if the title was something I would never find again. Sometime back, maybe a year ago I found a copy of Judith Guest’s ‘Ordinary People’ that someone borrowed from me even before I could read and forgot to return it. When I saw another good copy with the seller who gives me the books at whatever price I ask for I decided to buy it. I got the book for thirty rupees.
At one place Uma pointed out a Graham Greene title lying on the pavement. I bought ‘It’s a Battlefield’ though I had to shell out sixty rupees for it. This was with a seller who doesn’t much encourage bargaining and sticks to the price he quotes. Both the books were in good condition and, coincidentally, both were Penguin titles.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Last Sunday was one with a difference, made special when Jai and his family joined us at Abids to look for books. I saw their daughter ‘Mamun’ , a cute little girl, for the first time. I like it when kids search on their own for books to read. She bought more books than all five of us put together, and she is in the kindergarten! It makes me wonder how many books she will read by the time she reaches college. Later we five (Jai, Shruti, Mamun, Uma, Srikanth and me) went to the Taj Mahal where we had coffee and Mamun enjoyed ice cream. I wish they would come often.
There was another reason I was glad last Sunday. My first haul was VS Naipaul’s ‘Half a Life’ that I got for only thirty rupees. It was a good copy and I was surprised when the seller offered it to me for thirty rupees though he had pencilled 50/ on the back.
Another find was a book I had seen last Sunday but hadn’t picked up. I had seen DB Mokashi’s ‘Farewell to the Gods’ which was a small and slim book not more than 130 pages. On the cover the blurb said ‘An Outstanding Marathi Novel’ translated by Pramod Kale but I did not buy it the first time though it was only ten rupees. Last Sunday I took it.
The last buy was Joseph Conrad’s ‘The Heart of Darkness’ that I was told by my friends had been at the same place for weeks. I do not know how I missed it but I bought it. This edition had notes and references that might help me know more about this famous title. It did not come cheap though, I had to pay sixty rupees for it. Incidentally, with this haul, my haul of 2014 so far reaches 102 books.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Due to the coming Ramzan festival and the shopping spree that it generates almost all the shops in Abids were open. This meant that some of the book sellers have shifted (temporarily) to other spots and some had not turned up last Sunday. Since I and my friends are at Abids every Sunday, come rain, hail, or festival, we turned up this Sunday too. I ended up buying two books despite having decided not to buy any more books.

I have seen several copies of ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ by Francois Sagan but somehow did not feel like buying it. I did not even know that Francois Sagan was a woman until I picked up ‘The Unmade Bed’ at Abids. It was almost brand new and somehow I could not resist buying it. Moreover, the seller was one guy who would give any book to me at whatever price I asked for. Though I did not bargain I got the book for only thirty rupees and I have already started reading it.
A long time ago I came across a wonderful article by Manoj Das on some topic that I do not remember now but I his name. Of course, I did not know that he wrote several books also so it was a surprise finding a copy of ‘Selected Fictions’ by Manoj Das at Abids. It was a Penguin and had a beautiful cover which was another reason why I bought it. Till now I have not read anything by Manoj Das and I am wondering why I had not seen any of his books so far at Abids or anywhere.
‘Selected Fictions’ has twenty eight short stories and a novella titled- The Tiger at Twilight. These are the twenty eight stories: The Misty Hour, The Naked, The Crocodile’s Lady, The Owl, The General, The Murderer, The Bridge in the Moonlit Night, The Tree, Miss Moberly’s Targets, Prithviraj’s Horse, The Strategy, The Submerged Valley, Bhola Grandpa and the Tiger, Farewell to a Ghost, Friends and Strangers, The Martial Expedition, The Irrational, The Different Man, The Concubine, Mystery of the Missing Cup, The Birds, The Shadow, Son and Father, The Miracle, The Assault, The Crooked Staff, The Vengeance and, The Dusky Horizon.
One of these days I plan to begin reading the short stories.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Sunday Haul and a Midweek Haul


The Midweek Haul


Sometime last week, Thursday afternoon to be exact, I felt a ‘mysterious force’ compelling me to rush to the nearest second hand bookstore at once. I did not sit down and try to find out what this ‘mysterious force’ was because I usually succumb to any pressure involving books. Anyway, late in the afternoon I slipped out of the office and as compelled, rushed to the nearest second hand bookstore, which, as it happens, was the Best Book Centre at Lakdikapul.

Once I reached the bookstore and looked around I realized what this mysterious force was. This mysterious force was generated by a full wallet in my pocket since it wasn’t even three days since pay day. So it was in this ‘there’s enough money for everything including books’ mood that I picked up three wonderful books, all of them, btw, no one would resist buying.
The first title I bought was yet another copy of ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. Over the years I must have bought about a dozen copies of this title and distributed them to people who happened to mention to me that they were planning to write something but did not have any idea about how to do it. Every month I come across someone like that so I picked up this copy as well.
Coincidentally, the next title I spotted was also ‘On Writing’ but this was by the venerable Jorge Luis Borges. There was no way I could have not bought it instantly without appearing dumb to myself. Though Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ was only seventy five rupees the book with the same title but by Borges was a steep hundred and fifty rupees. Incidentally I have another book by the same title and of Borges. The earlier book is based on the talks given by Borges at some university. The book I found on Thursday seems to be a different book.
It looked like a day when I would be finding multiple copies of titles I already have. So when I saw yet another copy of Arun Joshi’s ‘The Last Labyrinth’ I picked it up though I have a couple of copies with me. Not many know of Arun Joshi and I want to give these copies to those who have not read some of the finest novels written by him.
The Sunday Haul

As if these three books weren’t enough on Sunday at Abids I picked up three more books. The first book I found was Stephen King’s ‘Green Mile’ that I have been looking for. I got it for fifty rupees. Hari had told me the story long back and ever since I had been thinking of reading the novel and finally I found a good copy on Sunday. It is quite a tome and I have to make time to read it.

Of late I am trying to read all the writers who have won the Sahitya Akademi prize taking it as a measure of the quality of the writing. I have a few Sahitya Akademi prize winners in my collection. When I saw on a book that it was by a Sahitya Akademi winner I picked it up having never heard of the writer. It was ‘It Does Not Die’ by Maitreya Devi that I got for the ridiculous price of ten rupees. Later I discovered that Maitreya Devi led an interesting life and there is a story behind her novel.
The last find on Sunday was not at Abids but at RTC X Roads where there is a seller where sometimes I had been lucky to find a few good titles. On Sunday I saw a different copy of a book I already have. It was the ‘The Art of Worldly Wisdom’ by Balthasar Gracian but by a different translator, Christopher Maurer. The copy I have with me is a translation by Joseph Jacobs. This book I found on Sunday was a new copy without any kind of blemishes. However I had to pay seventy five rupees for it. This is a book I had been thinking of giving to one of my friends. I wish I had found this title when I was young because I would have avoided making so many mistakes in life had I known what the consequences of some of my decisions and actions would be later on.

Friday, July 04, 2014

At the launch of Pankaj Sekhsaria’s The Last Wave’

There isn’t a day when at least one memory of my stay at Andamans doesn’t surface in my mind. One day it is the memory of the two nights I spent at the resort at Kalipur, all alone in that large guest house, listening to the sound of the furious wind blowing all night, going to the beach early in the morning and watching a fisherman walking over the rocks that had been exposed at low tide, another day it is the memory of watching the wisps of clouds hovering over the densely forested mountains on the way to Mayabunder through the windows of the bus, and the clear sea at Port Blair. I can never forget that trip, and the three months I spent there though it is more than eight years that I have been there.

But it wasn’t until after I returned from Port Blair that I came to know Pankaj Sekhsaria. I read his passionate articles on conservation of wildlife, our nature, and the damage that is being done in the name of development in The Hindu. Since I had been in the Andaman islands and had fallen in love with the place I followed Pankaj Sekhsaria’s articles on the Andaman Trunk Road and other issues avidly. Much later I got in touch with him in Hyderabad. I found him humble and down to earth. I remember he had told me about the novel that he was working on but I did not ask him what it was all about. When he announced on Facebook the launch of his novel at Hyderabad in the last week of June, I instantly decided to attend the event.
Last Friday evening I was at Goethe Zentrum for the launch. There was a small crowd but there was no one from the usual crowd I see at book launches. Gita Ramaswamy launched the book and Usha Raman talked with Pankaj about the novel. It was interesting to listen to Pankaj talk about his experiences while working on the novel and the ambiguities he experienced while writing about the Jarawas and the way they were being exploited. Some of the incidents he narrated about the local people in Andamans treated the Jarawa women enraged me. I also feel strongly about conservation, and since I had been to the Andamans the novel would be interesting to read. I bought a copy and had it signed by the author. Sometime soon I will read it and also maybe do a review here on the blog.

The Sunday Haul

Last Sunday every minute since the moment I opened my eyes in the morning was filled with anxiety about my visit to Abids. The Sunday before, I had foolishly left behind two titles by Romesh Gunesekera that I had seen on the pavements. After Jai told me I should have picked them up I felt even more anxious since it was more likely that the books would have been already snapped up by others. On Sunday when reaching Chikkadpally when I did not see the book at the seller’s where I had seen it I felt really disappointed. The book I had seen at Abids, ‘The Match,’ too would have been taken by someone I thought.
But, as I never tire of saying, when it comes to books I am lucky. I was glad to find the copy of Romesh Gunesekera’s ‘The Match’ at the same place I had seen it the previous Sunday. Only after I had it in my hands did I feel some kind of relief. I didn’t bargain with the seller and paid the fifty rupees he asked for it.
The second book I found was yet another copy of ‘Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys’ by Dave Barry that I found with a different seller. It was a wonderful copy and I couldn’t resist buying it though I have three copies with me at home. I got it for only thirty rupees. I have given away many copies of Dave Barry’s books to friends and others and I always pick up his books whenever I find them at Abids or at second hand book stores.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Sunday Haul


Last Sunday it would have been a haul of three books had I been a bit less dumb. I ended up with only one book, one that I already have a couple of copies of, but missed two titles by a wonderful writer whose writing I discovered only yesterday. A friend had given me ‘ Many Roads Through Paradise’ an anthology of Sri Lankan literature edited by Shyam Selvadurai in which I read ‘A House in the Country’ by Romesh Geunesekera. I found it wonderful and was filled with regret.But all is not lost since I expect to find these two titles on Sunday and this time I am going to pick them up whatever their cost.
On Sunday I had only Uma Shankar for company at our usual Sunday Abids routine. We sat in the cafe and talked about everything under the sun over a cup of chai. The weather was nice, cloudy with a mild breeze. There was no need to wear a cap. After the tea we set out to check out the books on the pavements. The first book I found was Irving Wallace’s ‘The Writing of One Novel’ which is about how he wrote ‘The Prize’ a novel about the Nobel Prizes. I have bought several copies of this title and have given them all away to people who expressed even the mildest interest in writing. This too would go to someone who plans to write.

Earlier on the way to Abids I had stopped at a seller in Chikkadpally where I saw a Romesh Gunesekera novel, the tile of which I do not remember now. I knew the name but somehow I did not buy it. The seller was asking a hundred rupees for it which I did not want to pay. Then at Abids I came across another Romesh Gunesekera novel- ‘The Match’-which I should have bought but did not. Later I realized it was dumb of me not to have bought that book.