Friday, September 30, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 25-09-2016)


In the dismal, rain-soaked week that passed by in Hyderabad there was only one ray of sunshine-it did not rain on Sunday. Though the skies were overcast all day giving the impression that it might rain at any moment not a drop fell from morning till night. I had thought that the Sunday at Abids would be a wash out since it had rained quite heavily on Saturday in the evening and continued into the night. Luckily for me the rains took a break last Sunday.
The Sunday before last I had missed buying a couple of good titles I had seen at Chikkadpally. So last Sunday I decided to stop at Chikkadpally first before going to Abids. Luckily, the titles I wanted to pick up were still with the seller. I picked up ‘Inner Spaces- New Writing by Women Writers from Kerala’ that was published in 1993. It was in a good condition with a bright yellow cover that was very attractive. It has fifteen stories by the following writers: Lalitambika Antharjanam (The Admission of Guilt), Sarah Thomas (When Dreams Turn Live), Shobha Warrier (Granny), B. Saraswathy (The Fisherman), K. Saraswathi Amma (The Soil that Grows Diamonds), K.B. Sreedevi (The Stone Woman), M.D. Retnamma (The Cow), Rajalekshmy (In the Temple), Ashita (Incomplete Stops), Kamala Das (The Game of Chess), P. Vatsala (Chamundi’s Pit), P.R. Shyamala (The Guest Who Came in a Palanquin), Nalini Bakel (The Third Night), Manasi (The Sword of the Princess), Sarah Joseph (The Symphony of the Forest).
The other title was ‘The Lunar Visitations’ by Sudeep Sen which was a title I had read about a long time back. It is divided into six sections: Prologue (Eclipse), The Ceremony, The Lovers and the Moon, Nightscape in a Moonlit City, and Epilogue (The Triads) that have a total of thirty one poems. I was glad I had the sense to buy this title the second time I saw it. I got both these books for fifty rupees. But I couldn’t locate the third title which was another collection of poetry by Sujata Bhatt. The seller said he had it somewhere but wasn’t sure where. He looked for a long time but couldn’t locate it. He promised to find it and keep it aside for me to pick up on the way back. Ultimately he couldn’t find it when I returned from Abids.

At Abids I found three more books in addition to the two books I had picked up at Chikkadpally. Last Sunday too I was alone on the hunt for books as my friends did not turn up.
One author I had discovered quite by accident was Charles McCarry. This was in 2014 when I found three books by him within a span of a couple of months. Sometime in January, 2014 I came across ‘The Tears of Autumn’ that I picked up on a hunch. After reading it I wanted to find more books by McCarry. Luckily in April the same year I found ‘The Better Angels’ and two months later, in June, I found ‘The Miernik Dossier’ that I finished reading only recently. ‘The Tears of Autumn’ was one of the best books I read in 2014 and since then I’ve had an eye out for titles by Charles McCarry. So when I spotted ‘Second Sight’ at the bottom of a vertical stack of books I had it taken out. I got it for just thirty rupees.
I had heard of ‘The Treasure of Sierra Madre’ but wasn’t able to remember the author’s name. When I spotted ‘The Bridge in the Jungle’ and picked it up to have a closer look because it was a Penguin title, something which I don’t pass over, I read it was a book by B. Traven, author of ‘The Treasure of Sierra Madre.’ What made me decide on buying this title, apart from it being a Penguin title, was what V.S. Pritchett wrote about this title on the back of the book. It said, “This is one of Traven’s quiet, profoundly intuitive and very frightening Mexican stories, in which a single incident… is expanded until it precipitates an indescribable atmosphere of primitive mystery, alarm and suspense.’
My collection of cookbooks is slowly expanding and is now big enough to fill a bookshelf. Though it is a modest collection it did not have a single title by one of the most popular names- Madhur Jaffrey. Last Sunday at last I found a Madhur Jaffrey title- ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Cookbook: Food for Family and Friends.’ Though it was published in 1989 it was in a very good condition. I got it for just fifty rupees that I paid to the seller as soon as he quoted the price. I was glad that last Sunday’s haul of five books included two volumes of poetry, a fiction title, a collection of stories, and a cookbook.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 18-09-2016)


One of the advantages of going to Abids in the morning on Sundays is that one can be among the first to rummage through the pile of fresh stocks of books on the pavements even before anyone has got the chance to do so. The chances of finding good titles are high in the mornings than at any other time of the day and this is one reason why I usually browse for books at Abids in the morning. Sometimes when it is not possible to go in the morning I make it a point to go in the afternoon. Due to an event at my son’s college which I had to attend last Sunday I couldn’t be at Abids in the morning. But I went in the afternoon because my Sundays are not complete without visiting Abids even if it is for an hour or so.
Once again it was a solo hunt as my friends did not turn up. Mercifully it did not rain. The search resulted in just one find but it was a good find. It is not usual to find ‘faber and faber titles at Abids. I’ve found only a hand of ‘faber and faber titles during my more than two decades of book hunting at Abids. Last Sunday the title I found turned out to be an ff title. I saw Michael Dibdin’s ‘The Tryst’ with a black metallic cover that stood out in the heap of books with a seller. On the front cover was Ruth Rendell’s blurb that said “Tremendously exciting…. This is a novel both subtle and horrific” which was enough to make me pick up ‘The Tryst’ that I got very cheap. I paid just thirty rupees for it.

The previous Sunday I had missed picking up Bharati Mukherjee’s ‘Jasmine’ that I had seen at Chikkadpally and had decided that I would buy it this Sunday. But this Sunday I couldn’t locate it with the seller at Chikkadpally. However I saw other titles I now wish I had bought right away but did not. I will write about those titles that I missed buying if I find them next Sunday.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 11-9-2016)


Last Friday’s post was supposed to have begun differently. I had thought of writing about the weather first before writing about what I had found at Abids. I had thought that the weather was changing. There was something about the sunlight that made me think that winter was around the corner. It looked like it wouldn’t rain anymore and that thought lifted my moods. A day later, on Saturday it poured like anything all day. It appeared like the rain would continue the next day too. But luckily it stopped raining early on Sunday morning. It was cloudy but it did not look like it would rain when I set out for Abids.

I was alone at Abids last Sunday without my friends and I decided to focus on the search for good titles. However luck eluded me and I couldn’t find anything worth buying for a long time. In the end I found a book that had a good cover, a good title, and was also about something I had grown interested in. I found a nice copy of ‘The Joy of Vegetarian Cooking’ by Jasleen Dhamija. It was a Penguin title and I did not even check what was inside before buying it. It was yet another welcome addition to my growing collection of cookbooks.
The other Sunday I had seen a nice copy of ‘Jasmine’ by Bharati Mukherjee at a seller in Chikkadpally. I did not buy it right away and thought I would buy it the next week. So last Sunday after finding ‘The Joy of Vegetarian Cooking’ I was keen to get to Chikkadpally. Unfortunately for me it began to rain and by the time I got to Chikkadpally the seller had spread a large plastic sheet over his books. With the rain coming down in sheets I couldn’t ask him to take off the cover and look for ‘Jasmine’ that I was keen to buy. So I had to return home with just Jasleen Dhamija’s cookbook.

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 4-9-2016)


Yesterday, by a curious coincidence I was reading a book by David Pryce Jones on Graham Greene’s writing when the next chapter I came upon in Navtej Sarna’s ‘Second Thoughts,’ that I am dipping into occasionally, also happened to be on Graham Greene. One of the books I had bought at Abids last Sunday happened to be one by Graham Greene- ‘The Ministry of Fear’- which was also written about in David Pryce Jones’ book.
Somehow I had come rather late to Graham Greene. Although I came across his ‘Brighton Rock,’ ‘The Power and the Glory’ on the pavements at Abids I did not pick them up feeling that I wasn’t yet ready for Graham Greene. A long time back I had found a book of essays by Greene that I read soon after. Then slowly I began to collect his titles one by one. I found his ‘Journey Without Maps’ recently and before that I had picked up ‘The Man Within’ after I read ‘The Man Within My Head’ by Pico Iyer.

I had also found ‘The Heart of the Matter’ and also ‘The Lawless Roads’ after reading which I felt I had been a bit dumb not to have read Graham Greene much earlier. I am captivated by Graham Greene’s writing and now I try not to miss any of his titles whenever I come across them. So far I haven’t found ‘The Ministry of Fear’ so when I saw it at Abids I made a grab for it. I got it for just thirty rupees.
The other book I found at Abids was a beautiful, brand new copy of ‘The Foolproof Cookbook’ by Rohini Singh. I already possess a copy of the same book but it is not as good as the copy I found on Sunday. It was for a hundred rupees but I did not paying that much for it. In the next couple of weeks I may have to start cooking for myself because now I plan to set up house at either Nalgonda or Suryapet where I am likely to be posted after the formation of the new districts in the State. This book might be useful then.

Friday, September 02, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 28-08-2016)

Away from Hyderabad for two weeks on official work I badly missed three things: my family, home cooked food, and the Sunday trips to Abids. I could lessen the anguish of not being with my family by talking to them over phone every day, and also sneak out to a hotel to have something different from the stuff being provided to us but there wasn’t anything I could do to get over the massive disappointment of not being able to browse for books at Abids on two Sundays. Ironically, I had forgotten to pack a couple of books to take along on the trip. I had brought along only one book- The Cost of Living’ by Mavis Gallant. I read just one story a day from this terrific collection of short stories. Even then after just a week I ran out of reading material. Luckily for I had a book at office that someone managed to get for me. It was ‘Travelling in Nepal’ by Charlie Pye Smith.

Anyway, last Sunday despite being not too well I went to Abids eager to meet my friends and browse to my heart’s content. I don’t know why but it seems the traffic cops had made the pavement booksellers to limit their displays so it meant that many of the booksellers had just a few books laid out. It was very disappointing but I guess since it was the Hyderabad Marathon the cops must have tried to make sure the runners don’t tread on the books!

I found only one book and it was a wonderful title. I found a collection of stories by Joyce Carol Oates titled ‘faithless: tales of transgression’ that had twenty one stories in three parts: Au Sable; Agly; Lover; Summer Sweat; Questions;Physical; Gunlove in Part One, Faithless; The Scarf; What Then, My Life?; Secret, Silent in Part TWO; A Manhattan Romance; Murder-Two; The Vigil; We Were Worried About You; The Stalker; The Vampire; Tusk; The High School Sweetheart: A Mystery; Death Watch; in *COPLAND* in Part THREE. For a book with twenty one stories it is quite bulky and appears like half a brick. I was glad to find this book but had to pay a hundred rupees for it. I am sure the book is worth more than what I paid for it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

A Long Break

After completing nine years of this blog I thought I deserved a short break. I got a break from unexpected quarters. The Government (my employer) itself gave me a break by sending me away from home for two long weeks. Naturally I couldn't go to Abids for the past two Sundays and hence no posts here. I came home only two days ago from that strenuous duty bringing with me fever, cold and a nagging cough. Right now I am recovering from it all and promise to post something next Friday. Until then let me rest :)

Friday, August 05, 2016

Nine Years On and The Sunday Haul


I’m a bit surprised that I’ve managed to keep this blog running for nine years. I am not known to be tenacious at anything that requires regular effort so last week when I noticed that I have completed nine years of blogging I felt pleased. While thinking of what could have made me keep this blog afloat for so long two things struck me as possible factors. One was that the time this job in the government that allowed me to write sometimes in the office. Sometimes I go through days with almost nothing to do and on such days I try to fill the time by reading and writing which is far better than chatting with colleagues. The second factor is that the fear of becoming just another boring bureaucrat must have made me keep on writing the blog so that I have something to show that I am something more than a mere file pusher. Anyway I am pleased that this blog has now crept into its tenth year. If I keep at it for another year it means that I’ve done it for almost half of my service in the government. It is thanks to all those who follow this blogo and also to those who aren’t followers but who read this blog regularly and leave comments occasionally.
One thing I regret is that I am not travelling as much as I wish to. I haven’t been anywhere exotic or even far off sine long other than that single trip to the Andamans that I made exactly ten years ago. It seems highly unlikely that I’ll make another such trip given that I am not longer young. I am fifty three now in case you didn’t know.

However what lessens the frustration of not having travelled much is the travel books I keep finding and read. Except for a couple of travel writers like Patrick Leigh Fermor I think I’ve found books by almost all the big names in travel literature like Wilfred Thesiger, Jan Morris, and Pico Iyer. I even have a copy of Moritz Thomsen’s ‘The Saddest Pleasure’ that I found a couple of years ago at Abids. The Sunday before last I had found a list of travel titles in a book I found at Abids and I realized that there are many travel writers and their books that I do not know about. It humbled me, honestly. Last Sunday I was pleasantly surprised to find another travel title by a writer I haven’t heard anywhere before. Since it was a Penguin title I literally pounced on it to grab it like before anyone could set their eyes on it.

The title I found was ‘West of Centre’ by Ray Ericksen and it was, as the blurb on the cover says ‘A Journey of Discovery into the Heartland of Australia’ and I have kept it aside as my next immediate read.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 23-07-2016)

My weekly visits to Abids every Sunday have been yielding a regular haul of books. I bring home at least two good books from Abids every Sunday. This has resulted in overflowing bookshelves at home crammed with books. This year so far I have bought about 106 books, all of them (in my view) fantastic titles that I have brought with the intention of reading, obviously. Last Sunday was no different and I added five more titles to this figure.
The Sunday before the last I had found Series II of Sahitya Akademi’s ‘Contemporary Indian Short Stories’ that had a story by an author I had been looking for. I had bought it because it had a story by Pudumai Pitthan. Though there were Series I, III, and also IV I did not buy them for some reason. Last Sunday I bought series I and II but left Series IV behind to be picked up next Sunday. Series I has fifteen stories and Series III has nineteen stories. These series have stories translated into English that were by writers of all Indian languages that would be difficult to find at one place. I am glad I found these series. Next Sunday I will buy Series IV. I do not think anybody would be interested in it so I am certain it will be at the same place I saw it last Sunday.
Another title I bought was a title someone I am bumping into at Abids told me was a good read. I have read David Morrell earlier but since I haven’t read ‘Extreme Denial’ I bought it to avoid disappointing a fellow book lover. In the same heap of books I saw a couple of titles by a writer whose books I see quite often at Abids. Somehow I have resisted buying T. Jefferson Parker’s books so far but last Sunday I decided to picked up one title and that was ‘Silent Joe’ just to see if he is any good.
The most interesting find of the day was a title I picked up right away the moment I spotted it. The title was ‘Travels in Nepal’ by Charlie Pye Smith which I bought because I love to read travelogues. Another reason why I bought it was that it was a Penguin title that I cannot resist buying. In one of the pages at the back I found ‘The Penguin Travel Library’ which is a selection of about two dozen travel titles published by Penguin. I was quite thrilled to find that I have ‘Hindoo Holiday’ by AJ Ackerley, ‘Indian Summer’ by James Cameron, ‘Stones of Florence and Venice Observed’ by Mary McCarthy, and also ‘Mash Arabs’ by Wilfred Thesiger. After seeing the titles in the list I want to look out for all those I do not have especially ‘First Russia, Then Tibet’ by Robert Byron and also ‘A Little Tour in France’ by Henry James. One travel writer whose books I have been unable to find is Patrick Leigh Fermor. I wish I could lay my hands on one of his titles somewhere soon.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 17-07-16)

Most of the titles I’ve picked up purely on a hunch at Abids have turned out to be those written by good writers I haven’t had the luck to know until then. In this manner I have found Ross MacDonald, Ross Thomas, Peter Blauner and other writers. I do not hesitate if I find a Penguin title by writers I haven’t heard about before since I know Penguin publishes only good writers. Last Sunday I came across a Penguin title that I bought right away.
I found this title with the seller at RTC X Roads who kept this title in a heap of twenty rupees books. It was ‘An Exile’ by Madison Jones, which, I read on the cover was also made into a movie under the title ‘I Walk the Line.’ ‘An Exile’ is a small, slim title with just 156 pages. I love these kind of novels that tell a story in under two hundred pages because it doesn’t take me more than a day to finish reading them.
The previous Sunday I had picked up ‘The Group’ by Mary McCarthy from this same heap but not her other title ‘A Charmed Life’ that was also in the same heap. I decided that I would buy it this Sunday if it was still in the same place. It was and I bought this title too for twenty rupees only. Sometimes after you finish reading a good book by an author you haven’t heard before you wish you could read other titles by the same author. Since I read that ‘The Group’ is a good book I hope I will like it and also read ‘A Charmed Life’ next.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 10-07-2016)


The second hand book sellers of Abids who were scattered and in disarray on all Sundays during the month of Ramzan that got just over were back to their usual places last Sunday. This was comforting because it meant that it improved my chances of finding some good titles that I usually find at some of the good sellers at Abids. Needless to say last Sunday I ended up finding three good books.
The first find of the day was a collection of short stories- Series II of the Contemporary Indian Short Stories- brought out by the Sahitya Akademi. Though there were all the series from Series I to Series IV with the seller I had reason to buy only Series-II. Sometime back I had read about Pudumai Pithan, the Tamil short story writer whose works I was desperately hoping to find some day. I was glad I found one of his stories- The Redemption- in this volume that had twenty stories by different authors translated into English from different languages. After I went home I realized that it would have been better if I had bought all the series. Next Sunday I will buy them if I find them.
The second find was a title I picked up on a hunch. In a heap of books that were being sold for Rs 20 each I spotted the title ‘Law and Order’ on an attractive cover. The author was Dorothy Uhnak and it was a name that I was coming across for the first time. I read inside that Uhnak had been a police officer and ‘Law and Order’ was her first book. I had a hunch that it could be a good book and so I bought it. Later when I checked out the reviews online I discovered that I had indeed bought a good title. I hope to find her bestseller ‘The Investigation’ and other titles by Dorothy Unhak soon.
The third and last find was another wonderful title. I already own a good copy of ‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf that I found a couple of years ago. I saw another nice copy of this same title with a seller who manages to stock some good titles in the few dozen tattered books that he displays. This copy was in a good condition except for a stain on the bottom of the cover that seems to have spread to some of the first few pages. Otherwise it looked new. I bought it to add it to a couple of books I plan to a dear friend who lives in Mumbai.