Friday, November 17, 2017

The Pens I Got as Gifts

Nothing puts me in a good mood than holding a beautiful pen in my hand and scribbling away. I love pens, be it a ball point or a fountain pen. Knowing how much I love writing with pens my friends and family shower me with gifts of pens. So whenever I get a pen as a gift I automatically fall in love with it and also with the person who gave it to me. Last month around Diwali I got not one but two pens as unexpected gifts. For some reason around Diwali time I feel low, physically and emotionally. But this year the two pens had me smiling like I’ve never received two pens as gifts in my life.

There are close friends and there are very close friends, the sort you hold conversations with in your mind everyday even if they are thousands of miles away. I have one such very close friend- Keshav who I met in the first year of college thirty six years ago. Others know him as Dr Kranti but to me and a few others he is Keshav. When his ex-colleague called me up to say Keshav had sent a gift for me I was surprised. Keshav had shifted to the US to work in an international organization sometime in March this year and there was no way he could have sent it from there. But it seems Keshav had been to Nagpur on a short visit and had sent a gift for me through his colleague at Central Institute for Cotton Research that Keshav headed as its Director. When I went to meet his colleague who had come to Hyderabad for the Diwali holidays I thought it would be a book Keshav wanted me to read. But when I saw the black Sheaffer box with I knew it had to be a pen. I was thrilled when it turned out to be a beautiful fountain pen. When I checked it out I realized I had to get a new filling system for it because there was only provision to attach a cartridge. It would be another excuse for me to drop in at Deccan Pen Stores I thought.

Then a couple of days later Hari sprang a surprise on me. We usually meet once a week over coffee but that evening he turned up with family. When they took out the box and handed it to me I was in for a pleasant shock. It turned out to be a stunning Sheaffer ball point pen. It was just the thing I had been looking for. I wanted something classy to write with at the office and till then I had nothing. Now that Sheaffer ball point is something I carry to work every day. It was a wonderful gift that complemented the fountain pen Keshav gifted me. Now I own a pair of Sheaffer pens presented by my close friends and they are gifts I will cherish forever because they made my Diwali something I will never forget.

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Midweek Haul and the Sunday Haul

This habit of looking for books at Abids has become such an inseparable part of my Sunday routine that the very thought of missing it makes me extremely nervous. It doesn’t seem like a Sunday to me if I don’t appear at Abids and spend a couple of hours there. Last week I came to know that I would have to miss my visit to Abids because I had to be at the office almost half the day on Sunday till I finished my work. I was afraid I’d miss the trip to Abids because I did not have an idea when I would be able to finish the work at the office. So assuming I wouldn’t be able to make it to Abids I decided to drop in at the Best Books store at Lakdikapul on Saturday.
Sometime in January this year I had found a copy of ‘Roots’ by Malayatoor Ramakrishnan at the Oxford Bookstore stall at the Hyderabad Literary Festival in Hyderabad Public School. I haven’t read it yet and at the Best Books store I found another title by Malayatoor Ramakrishnan who had an interesting career. He was a sub-editor in Free Press Journal, worked in the state judicial service and later joined the IAS which he left after a few years and took up full time writing. He was also Chairman of the Kerala Lalit Kala Academy for seven years. It is a fascinating background. I found his ‘Yakshi’ a Penguin title that I picked up. This wasn’t the only book I picked up on Saturday. The other title I bought at the Best Books store was ‘The Nephew’ by James Purdy, again a Penguin title, which for me, is a guarantee of something good. The prices were a bit higher than what these books might sell at Abids but I bought them for a little less than two hundred rupees.
Luckily for me I was able to finish my work at the office by half past eleven on Sunday. I realized that it wasn't too late to go to Abids and rushed there hoping I’d be able to do an hour of browsing. Actually, I had spent Saturday night at the hostel in the Institute where I am working now and hadn’t had a bath. So I wanted to take a quick look around Abids and leave early for home, take a bath, have lunch and catch up on my sleep. After a fruitless search I spotted a title hidden behind another book on a shelf. I could see only the title on the spine-‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ by Alan Sillitoe. I had read somewhere about this title and had read that it was a good tale. I had thought it was a novel but it turned out to be a short story. There were altogether nine short stories in this collection: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner; Uncle Ernest; Mr Raynor the School-teacher; The Fishing-boat Picture; Noah’s Ark, On Saturday Afternoon; The Match; The Disgrace of Jim Scarfedale; and The Decline and Fall of Franke Buller. I got this wonderful title for just thirty rupees.

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 29-10-2017)

This is the 1000th Post on this blog.

In the past due to either wrong judgment or overconfidence I missed buying some really good books at Abids. The following Sunday I try to locate the title after realizing my mistake but by then someone had already made away with the title. I missed several good titles that way, too many to be listed here. Once again I made the same mistake a couple of Sundays ago but last Sunday, however, I found a title I had missed on the previous Sunday. It was a huge relief to have found that title.
Two Sundays ago I had seen a copy of ‘Chinnery’s Hotel by Jaysinh Birjepatil at a seller near the GPO at Abids. I picked it up and took a look at the cover as I had not heard of the title or the author and put it back. It was a big mistake but I did not it then. The next Sunday, that is the Sunday before last, at Chikkadpally I saw ‘Khushwantnama-The Lessons of My Life’ by Khushwant Singh. I leafed through it and in one of the articles on writing in it I found a list of novels that made a deep impression on Khushwant Singh. One of the titles in the list was ‘Chinnery’s Hotel by Jaysinh Birjepatil. I felt like kicking myself for having not had the sense to pick it up the first time I saw it. I felt so bad that I did not buy ‘Khushwantnama’ thinking that it would remind me of the mistake I had made.
However, last Sunday I got lucky. When I reached the seller near GPO I looked carefully at the books spread out on the pavements and spotted ‘Chinnery’s Hotel by Jaysinh Birjepatil. It was a thrilling moment as I immediately pounced on it. The seller asked a hundred rupees for it that I paid gladly. Feeling expansive I wanted to savor the joy of finding a good title so I sat in Grand Hotel and leafed through Chinnery’s Hotel while sipping chai. I read that Jaysinh Birjepatil had written two more books-. I wonder why I had not read about this writer anywhere. But I was glad I found this book.
The icing on the cake was that I found ‘Khushwantnama’ too at Chikkadpalli and picked it up as well. I got this hard cover title with a beautiful cover for a hundred rupees. It has about to dozen short pieces on diverse topics that had appeared earlier in Outlook magazine, Hindustan Times, and The Tribune. Of all the articles I had been attracted by two- The Business of Writing and What it Takes to be a Writer. It was the latter article I had read standing and came across the list that had a dozen title of which ‘Chinnnery’s Hotel’ was one. There was another title- ‘The Hero’s Walk’ by Anita Rau Badami that I want to find next.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 22-10-2017)

Last Sunday turned out to be another very lucky day at Abids for me for I got five fantastic books in the haul. Once again I was alone at Abids and maybe that is why I landed such a good haul because I was focused on the books spread out on the pavements. It was a bright, sunny morning as I set out for Abids hoping to find the copy of ‘The Green Road’ by Anne Enright that I had seen the previous Sunday and not really expected to find anything else. But I was wrong for I not only found ‘The Green Road’ but also found four other wonderful titles.
Luckily for me no one had bought ‘The Green Road’ by Anne Enright after I had seen it but had not picked it because the seller asked for too high a price. However last Sunday I was ready to pay whatever he asked and got it for two hundred rupees. It was a bit too high but I wanted the book so shelled out the cash. I relaxed after I held it in my hand and walked on only to stumble upon another wonderful find.
Hari presented me a brand new copy of ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi on my birthday in February. I read it and felt very sad afterwards reading about the young, talented surgeon’s futile struggle with cancer. Last Sunday I saw another copy of this book and picked it up hoping to give it to someone. It was one of the two books I spotted with the same seller, the other title being ‘The Hour Before Dawn’ by Bhabendra Nath Saikia. It is an English translation of an Assamese novel ‘Antoreep’ and the translation was done by Maitreyee S.C. It was a Penguin title plus the cover was something I couldn’t ignore. I got these two books together for a hundred and fifty rupees which seemed to be a fair price.
There’s a seller who doesn’t know the worth of some of the wonderful titles that he sometimes puts up for sale. He sells every title he has almost at the same price, sometimes twenty or thirty rupees. That was the price I paid for ‘The Moslem Wife and Other Stories’ by Mavis Gallant that he had. This is the second Mavis Gallant title I found. This collection has eleven stories selected by Mordecai Richler who also wrote the Afterword in it: About Geneva, When We Were Nearly Young; The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street; An Autobiography; Saturday; The Latehomecomer; In Youth Is Pleasure; The Moslem Wife; Grippes and Poche; Overhead in a Balloon. I was thrilled to pick up this title that I found so casually.
When ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ by Richard Flanagan won the Booker in 2014 I decided I would read it if I manage to find a second hand copy. Finally I came across a copy last Sunday and bought it for just seventy rupees. Normally I do not buy books that do not have a cover and the copy of ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ too did not have a cover. The cover was a white paper on the front and the back with the front cover folded back to reveal the title that I luckily managed to spot. Cover or no cover I was damn pleased to have found this wonderful book that I plan to read soon.
Then there were three cookbooks I picked up in addition to the above five titles: ‘Cooking with Chicken’ by Kamal Mehta, ‘Creative Cookery’ by Rohini Singh and ‘The Pleasures of Kashmiri Cookery’ by Anu Wakhlu that I paid a little more than fifty rupees for.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 15-10-2017)

Last Sunday’s haul at Abids consisted of two cookbooks. Though I had spotted two good books I did not buy them because the prices were too high. But now I think I should have bought Anne Enright’s ‘The Green Road’ that I saw. The price of three hundred rupees that the seller quoted put me off and I did not even bargain with him and walked away. Anyway, it was the Sunday before Diwali so almost all the regular shops were open and the book sellers were scattered around. I was alone and it did not take me long to finish the round of all the booksellers and finding these two cookbooks. One of them was a hardcover and the other a paperback. Both were large sized books that any other seller would have asked for at least two hundred rupees but my favorite bookseller gave both to me for just a hundred rupees. I love this guy, really because he is so deferential and also gives me the books at whatever price I ask.
The popular chef Sanjeev Kapoor must have written scores of books on almost every cuisine one can think of. I see many of this cookbooks at Abids but I prefer only uncommon titles. When I saw his book on Konkan cuisine I picked it up. The other book I found at the same seller was ‘Meals & Menus’ by three authors one of whom turned out to be a Hyderabadi. I was surprised that the copy I found was signed by Anju Poddar, the Hyderabadi author, to someone. Anyway, it seemed interesting and so I picked it up along with the Konkani Cookbook by Sanjeev Kapoor.

A Happy Diwali to all of you.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 08-10-2017)

Since the past ten days or so Hyderabad has been drenched and soaked so much that it has become a wet rag. Almost every day it is raining and quite heavily at that. The heavy rains and the flooding it is causing is making the IT crowd in Madhapur crib like anything. Now they are getting a taste of what the rest of the city goes through whenever there is a heavy downpour. Last week the weather forecast said that it would rain on Sunday too. The forecast of rain on Sunday dampened my spirits because if it rained then I would have to stay home and miss the visit to Abids.

It did rain on Sunday but only after I’ve been halfway through my visit at Abids. There was a heavy downpour that lasted about half hour and left the roads flooded and also caught the booksellers unawares. However by then I had already picked up a book, the only book that made up the haul last Sunday.
I cannot resist a book on writing that I see. I am yet to get over the impression that reading books on writing will help me writer better so I scoop up anything I find about writing. The haul last Sunday at Abids was a book on writing that caught my eye in a lane. It was ‘The Art of Writing’ that had a very attractive cover with a picture of a flash of lightning over a lake by the mountainside. Inside I read that it was by Cosmo F. Ferrara published by Random House School Division, New York. It was an academic book on writing aimed at high school students but when I went through the contents and read a few random paragraphs I found it to be quite interesting. So I picked it up for a hundred rupees.
I decided to return home after the rain cleared a bit disappointed that I couldn’t check out more than half the sellers but glad that I bought a nice book.

Friday, October 06, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 01-10-2017)

Last Sunday came immediately after the Dasara festival ended so the regular shops at Abids were closed making way for the sellers of second hand books to return to their original spots. With all the sellers back at Abids after the festival shopping was done I expected to land a good haul. With three books in the haul it wasn’t such a bad Sunday out at Abids last Sunday.
The first find was a nice copy of ‘Girl in Hyacinth Blue’ by Susan Vreeland. Vreeland had died in August this year. ‘Girl in Hyacinth Blue’ is one of her bestselling novels that was also made into a movie for television was what I could gather about Susan Vreeland online. I got this book for forty rupees.
The second find was a fantastic book. I spotted a copy of ‘Him with His Foot in His Mouth and Other Stories’ by Saul Bellow. This is a collection of four stories apart from the title story; What Kind of Day Did You Have? ; Zetland: By a Character Witness; A Silver Dish; and Cousins. It wasn’t in a good copy because the pages had moisture stains but I knew I won’t find another copy so I ended buying it. Instead of fixing the price himself the seller asked me to fix the price and said he would accept whatever I gave. I was flummoxed and offered to give seventy five rupees for it. He added five more rupees and fixed the price at eighty rupees that I paid.
The third and last find was at Chikkadpally. The previous Sunday I had seen a book at Chikkadpally I thought I should have bought. However I did not buy it since I had already bought four books and regretted after going home. But last Sunday I saw it again and picked up ‘Coming Forth by Day’ by Niranjana. ‘Coming Forth by Day’ is the English translation of a Kannada novel ‘Mrutyunjaya’ by Niranjana translated by Tejaswini Niranjana, his daughter.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 24-09-2017)

As usual the festival shopping rush disrupted the book bazaar at Abids scattering the sellers from their usual places to different corners of the streets. The books too were disturbed as a result and the some of the sellers displayed only a fraction of their wares. However, it did not bother me much because eagle-eyed that I become wherever books are found I managed to spot a few good titles, four, to be exact. Once again there were more cookbooks than other titles in last Sunday’s haul that was quite heavy. One gargantuan tome that I found was almost nine hundred pages long and twice as thick as a brick.
It was solo browsing too as none of my friends turned up, and the first find was a cookbook. I spotted ‘The Best of Goan Cooking’ by Gilda Mendonsa with one of the sellers on the pavements on the road leading to the Taj Mahal hotel. The cover of ‘The Best of Goan Cooking’ had a charming look and I bought it right away without even checking out the recipes inside. I got this nice title for just fifty rupees. This was one of the two cookbooks I found at the same seller.
The other cookbook title was ‘Food is Home’ by Sarjana with the sub-title ‘The Little Book of Italian Cooking.’ I had seen it earlier too but somehow wasn’t tempted enough to buy it. But last Sunday I picked it up and after leafing through a few pages decided it would be better to buy it. I know nothing about Italian dishes except pasta that I haven’t yet tasted. It wasn’t to learn to prepare pasta I bought this book but to know something about Italian cuisine. However, this book isn’t a cookbook but a sort of memoir as Shobhaa De says in the introduction. This title too I got for fifty rupees.

I saw a nice copy of ‘Nectar in a Sieve’ by Kamala Markandaya which had a different cover. I thought of buying it but somehow I decided not to. But now I think I should have bought it since I love to collect old editions of books by Indian authors. Maybe next Sunday if I happen to find it I will buy it. Then I had also seen a hardcover copy of ‘Complications’ by Atul Gawande that I should have bought though I already have a copy of this title. This hardcover seemed a different and earlier edition but the price pencilled on it deterred me.
The next two finds were at Chikkadpally on the way home. It was an exciting find. I spotted a beautiful copy of ‘Misplaced Objects and Other Poems’ by K. Satchidanandan. It was a Sahitya Akademi book and was almost new. It has eighty five poems translated by Satchidanandan himself from the original Malayalam into English. I was thrilled to find this collection of poems by one of my favourite Indian poets.
With the same seller I found what I can only call as the Mother of all Indian cookbooks. I found ‘The Madhur Jaffrey Cookbook’ an intimidating tome of almost nine hundred pages. It was actually two books- Eastern Vegetarian Cooking, and An Invitation to Indian Cooking, combined into one. I had to think for a long time before deciding to buy this book though I knew I would never find it again anywhere. It was published by Tiger Books International of London, which was a name I haven’t heard before.
‘The Madhur Jaffrey Cookbook’ was not one of the thickest tomes but the thickest book I had bought so far. With over 650 recipes in it, it would take about two years for me to go through the recipes in it at the rate of one a day, that is, if the wife lets me experiment in the kitchen.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Sunday Haul on (17-09-2017)

The haul at Abids on Sunday is getting heavier by the week. The Sunday before last I had a haul of almost nine books and last Sunday too I brought home four books. I had thought that with the Dasara festival barely two weeks away the regular shops at Abids would be open and there wouldn’t be many books to buy. But though some of the regular shops were open displacing the second hand book sellers I landed a modest haul. I wonder if I pick up more books when I am alone because last Sunday none of my friends turned up.
Shashi Deshpande is a writer whose books I have but I haven’t heard much about Gauri Deshpande. One of the first titles I found last Sunday at Abids was a nice copy of ‘The Lackadaisical Sweeper’ by Gauri Deshpande. It was published under the ‘Manas’ imprint and I got this collection of short stories for just thirty rupees. These are the following sixteen stories in it: ‘Hookworm, Lamprey, Tick, Fluke and Flea; The Lackadaisical Sweeper; Hello, Stranger!; A Harmless Girl; Map; Whatever Happened to…; Smile and Smile and …; The Debt; Insy Winsy Spider; Vervain; Rose Jam; Morgan in Disguise; Dmitri in the Afternoon; Habits; Brand New Pink Nikes.’ At the end of the book is an afterword by R. Raj Rao.
At another seller I was surprised to find another collection of short stories under the ‘Mana’ imprint and spotting this book got me excited. It was ‘Neermai’ by Na Muthuswamy, a writer I had only heard about recently. ‘Neermai’ by Na Muthuswamy is a collection of ten short stories translated by Lakshmi Holstrom into English from the original Tamil. The ten stories in it: An Incident; His Father’s School; Time Passing in Punjai; The Honeycomb and the Snake; How Shall We Go to Chembanarkoil? ; Death; Who Will be My Refuge; Cart; Neermai; and Battlefield. However this seller was a different one, someone who prices his books too impossibly high and doesn’t much encourage bargaining. So I paid the price he quoted, a hundred rupees, and took the book.
Though none of my friends had turned up I followed another Sunday routine at Abids by having chai at the Irani café. I sat and leafed through the two collections of short stories I had found, quite unusually by the same publisher. Both the books were in quite good condition and I felt lucky finding them. The next find was a wonderful copy of ‘Snakeman’ by Zai Whitaker that I got for just fifty rupees. I have been reading about Romulus Whitaker since I was a kid, and had also been seeing him in action on the wildlife channels on television.
The last find was another cookbook I had seen earlier with another seller who wanted something like a hundred and fifty rupees for it. However last Sunday I got the same title for just thirty rupees. It was a copy of Part I of ‘Cook & See’ by S. Meenakshi Ammal.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 10-09-2017)

The first find of the haul at Abids last Sunday happened just moments after parking my two-wheeler. I spotted a beautiful copy of ‘A Room of One’s Own’ by Virginia Woolf that I got for just twenty rupees. Though I already have a couple of copies of this title I couldn’t resist buying this copy as well because it was almost brand new. Though my two regular friends did not turn up Jai had made his rare appearance and together we set off on the hunt after a cup of chai at our usual Irani café.
No soon had we stepped out of the café than I spotted a Keigo Higashino title that Jai urged me to buy. Sometime back he had presented me with a copy of ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ that I found to be fascinating. So when he told me to pick up ‘Malice’ I did as he told. I got the book quite cheap for fifty rupees or so. I’ve already forgotten what I paid for it.
My third find was a rare copy of ‘The Chess Players and Other Stories’ by Prem Chand that I saw in a heap of books that were being sold for ten rupees. This was an Orient Paperbacks copy published exactly fifty years ago, in 1967. These are the ten stories in this title: The Voice of God; The Village Well; The Daughter-in-Law; Two Sisters; Wheel of Fortune; Story of Two Bulls; Laila; The Shroud; The Chess-Players and Requiem. These stories were translated from Hindi to English by Gurdial Malik. The copy I found wasn’t in a good condition with the spine damaged but I bought it. A long time back I had read Prem Chand’s ‘Godaan’ when I was too young to understand what I was reading so I do not remember much of the book. I hope the stories in this title takes me back to ‘Godaan’ again after I finish reading the stories.
I really cannot recollect who it was who wanted a copy of ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ by Maurice Sendak but I had grabbed a copy I had spotted a long time back. I came across another copy last Sunday at Abids and I got it for the unbelievable price of ten rupees. It was among a large number of colouring books for children that I usually do not look at carefully but somehow I spotted it. This could have been my third copy had I not missed buying another good copy I had seen some time back at Abids.
I had picked up five more books after this, of which two were cookbooks that are not much to write about here. Another title was a Scholastic title on writing that I had a copy of already. One title was about growing roses and another was a Wolverine comic for my son. It turned out I had already bought a copy of the same title earlier. It was a large haul of nine books but only four of them were worth mentioning here so I have written only about those interesting titles.