Friday, May 20, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 15-05-2016)

Though Sunday morning turned out to be a pleasantly cool one on account of the heavy rainfall the night before I was a bit worried if there’d be water stagnating at Abids deterring the sellers. Last Saturday night it had rained quite heavily and there was a strong wind blowing too that caused many trees to topple over. I saw it in the morning while on my early morning walk. Large trees were uprooted and had fallen across the roads blocking movement of traffic. Some of the trees had fallen on the electricity poles causing a long power cut that lasted until afternoon on Sunday. When I got to Abids I was relieved to see all the sellers at their usual places.
The first title I saw was ‘The Interpreters’ by Wole Soyinka. At last I have managed to find one of his works after reading about him quite a long time back. The other title I found was ‘The Memory of Elephants’ by Boman Desai. I haven’t heard much about Boman Desai which was one reason why I decided to pick up this title apart from the interesting cover page. It was a hard cover and was publised by Andre Deutsch. The other Sunday I had seen an interesting title that I did not buy for some reason and when I wanted to buy it on Sunday the seller hadn’t come!

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 8th May, 2015)

Last Sunday it wasn’t the kind of day Sunday normally is for me. I had been asked to come to the office which put me in a resentful mood. I had just an hour or so to go to Abids and check out the books. I had seen a title the previous Sunday that I realized was a good one and when I wanted to pick it the seller did not turn up. I looked around and managed to find another cook book. It was ‘The Complete Indian Cookbook- from Kashmir to Kanyakumari’ by Vimla Patil that I got for fifty rupees.
Though the visit to Abids in the morning helped me overcome the disappointment of going to work on a Sunday it did not last long. I had thought I’d be able to leave the office by evening but I was in the office until midnight. The Chief Minister was going to New Delhi to meet the Prime Minister to appraise him about the drought in the State and since I was the only officer available it fell on me to prepare the notes. Though I managed to complete the notes the loss of a holiday put me in a bad mood all week until Thursday.
On Thursday I dropped in at the Best Books store at Lakdi-ka-pul since it had been quite a long time since I had checked in at the store. Sometime back at a sale of Best Books in February I found two copies of ‘The Cost of Living’ by Mavis Gallant. Somebody had told me not to miss any title by Mavis Gallant so I felt quite lucky finding ‘The Cost of Living.’ On Thursday I got lucky again and found another title ‘My Heart is Broken’ by Mavis Gallant. It was only for forty rupees and I felt glad I found the book. It is a collection of the following nine stories: Acceptance of Their Ways; Bernadette; The Moabitess: Its Image on the Mirror ( a short novel); The Cost of Living: My Heart is Broken; Sunday Afternoon: An Umarried Man’s Summe; and The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street.

Friday, May 06, 2016

The Sunday Haul ( on 1-5-2016)

Right from the beginning 2016 has been very lucky for me when it comes to finding good books on Sundays at Abids. I’ve been picking up at least one good title every Sunday at Abids and last Sunday too I was similarly lucky. I found not one but two interesting titles at Abids last Sunday. Since I had to attend a marriage in the afternoon on Sunday I planned to browse for about an hour and leave early so that I could be on time for the marriage. In the hour and half that I was at Abids I was able to bag two books that I felt I had to buy.

Sometime back I had found Gordon Ramsay’s memoir titled ‘Playing with Fire’ at Abids. When I began reading it I realized that the pages at the end were missing. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to know how the book ends. Normally I check for missing pages at the front and the back, half torn pages and such damages before I decided to buy any book at Abids. Somehow I failed to notice the missing last pages in ‘Playing with Fire’ before paying for it. Anyway, I found ‘Humble Pie’ also by Gordon Ramsay that turned out to be his autobiography. It was at the bottom of a heap and somehow I spotted the title and dug it out. It would have to be someone very dumb not wanting to know more about Gordon Ramsay after watching ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ on television.
The copy of ‘Humble Pie’ that I found was a hardcover one and in a fairly good condition. It was in a heap of books selling for forty rupees which was what I paid for it. I wish I hadn’t given away ‘Playing with Fire’ because it would have been interesting to read ‘Humble Pie’ before reading ‘Playing with Fire’ again.
After discovering Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer my interest in reading Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series waned a little. However, I haven’t stopped buying them when I find a title I do not have. Next to the heap in which I found ‘Humble Pie’ was another heap of mostly paperbacks selling for thirty rupees each. It was in this heap that I found a beautiful copy of ‘Mortal Stakes’ by Robert B. Parker that was a Penguin edition. I do not remember if I already have this copy but nevertheless I bought it because it was too good a copy to leave behind.
I also found a nice copy of 'Asterix at the Banquet' that looked almost brand new. The smart sellers at Abids quote no less than a hundred and fifty rupees for such copies but I got mine for just fifty rupees which was a steal.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 24-04-2016)

It was another heatwave Sunday but nevertheless I went to Abids to look for books. It was worth sweating it out in the hot sun since I found a couple of good titles. It was pretty hot on Sunday morning as I moved from seller to seller looking at the titles and trying to find books worth picking up. I found the first book worth buying not very long after I reached Abids. There’s a seller with whom I do not like to bargain since he quotes a price that he knows I can pay. I picked up a most interesting title that turned out to be a strange one. I picked up a book, a hardcover one, with a jacket that had the title- ‘Desi Khana: The Best of Indian Vegetarian Cooking’ by Tarla Dalal. The cover got me all excited and I was eager to buy this wonderful sounding cookbook. After I gave it to the seller to tell me its price he told me the book wasn’t what the jacket said. I took it back from him and checked. The jacket was of one book and the book inside was a different one. The book was actually ‘The Bombay Palace Cookbook: A Treasury of Indian Delights’ by Stendahl. It was a nice hardcover book with beautiful photographs of some mouth-watering dishes. I decided to take this unusual find paying Rs 70 that the seller quoted.

My second find turned out to be another cookbook, one that I already had. I found a good copy of ‘Made in India’by Kunal Vijayakar, a short, slim book containing a lot of recipes. The copy I had earlier picked up was had a torn and disfigured cover but I had bought it then as I did not want to miss it. I picked up the good copy I found and got it for just ten rupees.

There’s a seller who comes only occasionally to Abids but when he comes he brings some really good titles that he simply heaps on the pavement. It is quite a task to fish out titles worth buying from that pile of books. Looking through the books I managed to unearth a good copy of ‘Birds of America’ by Lorrie Moore. I was quite excited to find another title by Lorrie Moore not long after I had found my first Lorrie Moore title at the Best Books sale at YMCA in February. I had found ‘Self Help’ then and got it for just twenty five rupees. ‘Birds of America’ was in a heap of books that was Thirty rupees only. ‘Birds of America’ is a collection of twelve stories and these are the stories in it: Willing; Which is More Than I Can Say About Some People; Dance in America; Community Life; Agnes of Iowa; Charades; Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens; Beautiful Grade; What You Want to Do Fine; Real Estate; People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk; Terrific Mother.
The next find turned out to be another collection of short stories but this was by a writer I had only read a lot about about quite recently. I found a copy of an old edition of ‘Birds and Other Stories’ by Intizar Husain. It too had twelve stories: Leaves; Tortoise; Repentance; Complete Knowledge; A Strange Animal; Man and Woman; Monkeys; The Story of the Parrot and the Mynah; The Brahmin Goat; The Boat; They Couldn’t Lick the Wall; and The One Eyed Dajjal. I sat in an Irani cafe on the way home the other day and read ‘They Couldn’t Lick the Wall’ that I found it totally different from all the stories I had read so far.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 17-04-2016)

Even a heatwave couldn’t deter me from my quest for books at Abids on Sunday morning. I hadn’t been to Abids the previous Sunday and I was filled with that restlessness that I feel when I miss my Sunday hunt for books on the pavements of Abids. I rushed to Abids as soon as I was ready, equipped with cap and a bottle of water since I knew it would be pretty hot and that I would be thirsty. Fortunately there was a slight breeze which made the heat bearable. I decided to stay in the shade for as long as possible. Not very soon after I found the first title.
The first title I found was ‘Little Birds’ by Anais Nin. I had read about Anais Nin but hadn’t found any book by her so far, not that I had been looking for them. It was a small book with about a dozen stories. I got this book for thirty rupees and this was from a seller who thinks he is very smart and quotes high prices if you show the slightest interest in the book you pick up from the pavement. This time I felt I had outwitted him and got the book so cheap.
The next find was the kind of book I look forward to reading. I have a lot of autobiographies, and memoirs by writers mostly. Moss Hart’s ‘Act One’ is one autobiography by a playwright that I have with me and I found it very interesting. On Sunday I found another memoir and this was ‘Memoirs’ by Tennessee Williams who wrote the famous play- A Streetcar Named Desire. Though I haven’t read ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ I was thrilled to find the memoirs of its author. Once again, I got this wonderful book for just thirty rupees.
Though I have heard of ‘Game of Thrones’ and also read about how popular George RR Martin is so far I haven’t made any effort to read the books. Sometime back I had come across a title by George RR Martin at Abids but I was intimadated by the size of the book as well as the price quoted by the seller. I remember him asking for something like three hundred rupees and since I wasn’t very keen on the book I did not buy it. So when I saw another similar tilte in a heap of books selling for thirty rupees I was surprised. Though I have no intention to begin reading that fat volume I picked up ‘A Storm of Swords’ from the heap and bought it.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Midweek Haul

One of the major second hand book store in Hyderabad is the Unique Book Centre now located opposite the Saifabad police station in Lakdi-ka-pul. About three years ago this store was shifted to the present location. Earlier the store functioned from a half a dozen musty smelling rooms in a dilapidated building in Nampally. I’ve bought quite a number of good books from this seller during my occasional visits to this store. One of the good books I found here was a nice copy of ‘From Here to Eternity’ by James Jones that I picked up sometime last year.

One idle afternoon, a long, long time back I dropped in at the Unique Book Store at Nampally, going from room to room in which were stacked hundreds of titles. In the middle of one room dozens of books, quite ancient from their lack of appearance and appearance were piled on a table. It was here that I first saw a copy of ‘A Hundred Encounters’ by Sham Lal. It was quite a thick, hardcover volume sans jacket with a faded black cover giving it an unappealing look. I wasn’t aware of Sham Lal and though I had a feeling that maybe it could be a title worth buying the black cover and the price of three hundred rupees pencilled in on the front page put me off. But I kept seeing this book every time I visited the store.

However for some time I couldn’t see this book and also forgot about it when the store shifted to its present location in Lakdi-ka-pul. Sometime last month I had dropped in and was quite surprised to see this title again. It was the same volume with the faded black cover and I noticed there was a tear at the bottom of the spine. It appeared to be one of those volumes no one seems to be interested in buying. I felt a bit sad that some books do not finders for years. I too wasn’t interested in buying it even after I took it out and checked the contents. I saw that there were was an entire section devoted to essays on famous poets, playwrights, and novelists. I counted forty two pieces in that section, that is almost half of the hundred articles in the book. Somehow I did not feel it was worth buying it at the price of three hundred rupees so I returned empty handed.

Sometime in February I was at Akshara with my friend. It was my birthday and Hari asked me to choose a book as a gift from me. I chose ‘The Girl Who Ate Books’ by Nilanjana Roy that I had been planning to buy. I had started reading this wonderful book and day before yesterday I was reading about Sham Lal and ‘A Hundred Encounters’ that was also mentioned in the essay on Sham Lal. After reading it I realized how dumb I had been not to have bought it earlier when I saw it. I was filled with an urgent desire to rush to Unique Book Store and buy it right away if I could find it. Luckily the book store isn’t far away from the Secretariat where I work and I rushed there after office.

Last week or so I had read a small item in some newspaper about a sale of books at Unique. I wondered if I would be able to find ‘A Hundred Encounters’ and fervently hoped no one would have bought it. I was relieved when I saw the book that was stacked on a table with the spine facing up. But it did not come cheap. I had to shell out two hundred and seventy rupees for it and I hope it is worth it.

Friday, April 08, 2016

The Sunday Haul ( on 03-04-2016)

At last after three consecutive Sundays of having had to go to work I had all of a Sunday free. I had the whole of Sunday to myself to do anything I wanted. What I wanted most was to go to Abids in the morning and browse leisurely on the pavements strewn with thousands of books and try to find at least one good title. Last Sunday it may have been the hottest one so far and which prevented me from browsing for more than a couple of hours at Abids. It was so hot with the sun blazing fiercely as early as at eleven in the morning that despite wearing a cap I tried to keep myself in the shade for as long as possible. Though it was pretty hot I was glad I came because I ended up with a decent haul of five good titles.
I had first come across Roland Barthes’s name a long time back while reading an article about fountain pens. Somehow I made no serious attempt to know who Roland Barthes was, or about what he wrote even though I knew he was a writer. Now I have an opportunity to know all about Barthes because the first book I found at Abids last Sunday was ‘A Roland Barthes Reader’ edited by Susan Sontag. After I spotted and picked it up to take a closer look at the contents I felt flattered when the seller told me that he was waiting for me to pick it up. However he did not budge even an inch from the price of Rs 200 that he quoted for it. Of course, I bought it.
A long time back, maybe in the early years of 2000 I was going through a long period of self-doubt and terrible anxiety. Later I realized that I had been depressed but luckily I learnt about ‘Transcendental Meditation’ that helped me bounce back to almost normalcy. I still practice TM and also have an interest and curiosity about various forms of meditation. Recently I found Shunryu Suzuki’s ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’ that I am rereading for the third time. So when I saw a beautiful copy of ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness- A Manual on Meditation’ by Thich Nhat Hanh I bought it.
After soul food it was time for some real food. At another seller I found another beautiful copy of ‘Hot & Spicy’ by Charmaine Solomon that I felt I should not let go. Inside were scores of recipes on glossy pages with beautiful photographs of mouth water dishes. Another find was yet another small but glossy book- Sanjeev Kapoor’s ‘Kitchen Secrets- Breakfast’ that I got pretty cheap. But the real find was a copy of ‘Best Food Writing 2000’ edited by Holly Hughes. It had fifty one essays on food, cooking, ingredients, restaurants, and so on by various writers among which I could recognize only Madhur Jaffrey, Anthony Bourdain, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Michael Ruhlman.
That was the mixed haul that I found at Abids last Sunday.

Friday, April 01, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 27-03-2016)

Last Sunday, despite having had to attend the Legislative Sessions for the third consecutive Sunday, I managed to squeeze a quick visit to Abids lasting a couple of hours. Though the sun beat down mercilessly I felt glad to be among fellow book lovers browsing on the pavements of Abids hoping to fnd at least a couple of titles to take make up for the disappointment of not being able to come to Abids since two Sundays. I was even prepared to return from Abids because I felt being at Abids was just enough. Finding a good title would have been a bonus I thought and in the end that was exactly what I found- a good title.
A long time back, maybe a decade and half ago I read my first le Carre title. It was ‘The Little Drummer Girl’ and after reading it I decided to buy all the books John le Carre had written. I had with me his bestseller ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’ that I somehow misplaced. A couple of months ago I had found a good copy of this title. Last Sunday I came across another copy that I could not resist buying so I ended up picking it. It happened to be the only book I bought last Sunday at Abids. After I bought I felt that life was normal again.

Currently I am reading the Len Deighton trilogies and after I am through with them I plan to begin reading, or rather rereading all the John Le Carre titles that I have starting with ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.’ I still have Deighton’s ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’ to finish before I can begin on the le Carre titles. Next Sunday I will be able to resume my usual Sunday routine because the Budget sessions of the Telangana legislatures ended today ( 31 March) leaving all Sundays free for me. I just hope it wouldn’t too hot on Sunday.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Midweek Haul

A sort of hellish punishment for me is not being able to look for books on the pavements of Sunday. I can barely endure it for a Sunday but total hell if it is for two Sunday. For the past two Sundays I had to endure this deprivation due to the Budget sessions of the Legislatures being held on Sundays also. It meant that I had to be sitting in the Legislative Assembly or the Council almost all day instead of browsing on the pavements of Delhi. When I miss going to Abids on Sunday I try to compensate by dropping in at a second hand book store and gawking at the books. But due to a heavy and busy schedule I couldn’t find the time to visit a secondhand bookstore until last Tuesday. Since Wednesday happened to be a holiday due to Holi I was free on Tuesday and found enough time to visit the MR Bookstore in Begumpet where I found two good titles.
Ngugi Wa Thiong’O is an author whose titles I found entirely by accident some time ago. My first Ngugi title was perhaps ‘Devil on the Cross’ and later I found ‘Dreams in a Time of War’ recently at the Best Books sale in YMCA in January. I also have a collection of his stories that I found sometime last year I guess but I am now unable to recollect the title. Anyway, at the MR store I found a beautiful copy of his ‘Petals of Blood’ for which Ngugi was jailed. I had read about this title somewhere recently and I was thrilled to find a copy so soon.
Another title I picked up in line with my interest in food and cooking was ‘The F-Word’ by Mita Kapur which appears like a memoir peppered with a lot of recipes. I had read about this book too not so recently and had hoped I would get to read it somewhere. But finding a good copy of this wonderful title was a lucky thing. Now I am planning to get a copy of ‘Chillies and Porridge’ edited by Mita Kapur soon.

All the anger and the resentment in my heart at being made to work on two Sundays vanished after finding these two wonderful titles. Next Sunday too happens to be a working day for us and I hope I will get the time, at least in the afternoon, to browse for a short time at Abids.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Sunday Haul (on 6-3-2016)

It was another of searches on Sunday at Abids that resulted in a big haul of titles I couldn’t have found elsewhere at the prices I got them. Last Sunday I found seven wonderful titles that I felt I had to buy at any cost. By the end of February, that is in just two months, I bought a total of forty five books. I had never before bought so many books in the span of just eight weeks. Though this thought was at the back of my mind when I started for Abids on Sunday morning when I saw a nice copy of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ by Sigmund Freud at Chikkadpally I simply couldn’t leave it behind for someone else to buy it. So I had to buy it and luckily the seller offered to give it to me for just fifty rupees.
When I reached Abids the first title I saw was ‘Skin’ by Margaret Mascarenhas. I had read about this author somewhere and since the title was by Penguin I thought maybe it would be a good book nd that I should read it. I paid fifty rupees for this good copy.
The next finds were at a seller who had divided his pile of books into two sections- Books for Rs 30 and Books for Rs 40. In the former heap I came across ‘The Africans’ by David Lamb. I am absolutely fascinated by Africa and have many books by those who had lived and travelled in Africa such as ‘Dark Star Safari’ by Paul Theroux, ‘Journey Without Maps’ by Graham Greene, all the books of Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and also books by Ryszard Kapuscinski, Laurens van der Post and so many others I cannot recollect right away. All these books that I’ve read with fascination have left me an image of Africa that I long to see in person someday if I can afford it and if I live long enough.
In the same heap I found another collection of short stories- ‘The Guardian Review Book of Short Stories’ which is a slim volume that contains eleven stories by well-known writers such as William Trevor, Margaret Atwood, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Helen Simpson, Rose Tremain, Mohsin Hamid, Rachel Cusk, Margaret Drabble, Hisham Matar, Audrey Niffenegger, and Polly Samson. In the introduction to the book it is mentioned that all these eleven stories are previously unpublished stories, and it also says that William Trevor is often cited as ‘the world’s greatest living short story writer.’ A friend of mine had found a copy of this books sometime back and I did not expect to find the same title so it was a pleasant surprise more so since I could get this little gem for just thirty rupees.
In the other heap of books selling for forty rupees I spotted a thick tome that turned out to be ‘When the Lights Go Down’ by Pauline Kael, the famous movie critic. It was a wonderful find because it is quite difficult to find such movie-related titles in Abids. Sometime back I had found a tattered copy of ‘I Lost it at the Movies’ and had been thrilled to find it. Now I was doubly thrilled to find ‘When the Lights Go Down’ which has reviews of more than hundred and sixty movies most of which I hadn’t watched. I guess I will try to watch them after reading Pauline Kael’s reviews. I was quite pleased with myself that I could spot this thick volume of nearly six hundred pages and also get it at such a ridiculously low price.
At a seller who I usually ignore and had been ignoring since a couple of weeks a sudden visit threw up a couple of good books. I saw a beautiful, hardcover copy of ‘Secrets of Better Cooking’ that I felt I must buy since I had just begun dabbling in cooking. It seemed just the book that would make me cook better or so I told myself before buying it. Another book I saw was a nice copy of ‘The Happy Isles of Oceania’ by Paul Theroux that I already have two copies of. But this copy was a paperback and had a different cover. The seller offered to give me these two books at a price I thought was reasonable. Other than that he looked like he hadn’t sold anything since the morning and I took pity on him and bought these two titles.