Friday, April 11, 2014


Last Sunday too I couldn’t go to Abids. After returning from Tirupati on Friday morning I had been feeling a bit under the weather. Since I had to leave for Delhi later in the evening on Sunday I did not want to be out in the hot sun at Abids for a couple of hours. As I had already decided I would be skipping the visit to Abids on Sunday I went to a bookstore- MR- at Begumpet to check out if there was anything I could find.

There was a new lot of books at MR which I had seen on my last visit. During this visit I found a brand new copy of ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe and Annie Dillard’s ‘Living By Fiction’ that was also in a good condition. Surprisingly, each book was priced at fifty rupees only which is less than what these books sell at Abids.

Then at Delhi, at Janpath, I bought a new copy of Chinua Achebe’s ‘Never At Ease’ which was a slim volume of just hundred and thirty six pages. I had nothing to read on the plane journey to Hyderabad so I picked it up. Later I went to Nehru Place, where in Nanda Bookstore I found Oliver Sacks’ ‘Musicophilia’ that I got for a hundred rupees. I also saw ‘ An Atlas of Impossible Longing’ by Anuradha Roy which I now feel I should have bought instead of ‘Musicophilia.’



In the last week I made two back to back trips. My second trip of the year was a personal trip with family to Tirupati. As usual we opted for the one day package of IRCTC which we find to be perfectly suitable for us as it takes care of train reservation, accommodation, darshan, transport and even food. On this trip however we faced a few problems. The train was three hours late and reached Tirupati at nine in the morning instead of six. This delay affected the entire program. It took us more than three hours to come out of the temple after darshan. We had lunch at half past four. I felt nauseous sitting in the back of the Tata Sumo coming down the ghat road, something that had never happened to me before. However, we were able to catch the train for the journey back home.


Two days later I was off to Delhi again for the second time this year. Exactly a month ago, I was in Delhi to attend a workshop and on the same dates there was another workshop I was told to attend. I was reluctant to go but I agreed because there was a personal matter I had to deal with. I wanted to go because I wanted to meet and console a friend who lost his young son to cancer. The workshop was on Monday and I sat through it listening to the various speakers. Afterwards I went to Nehru Place to Nanda Bookstore to check if there was anything I could find worth buying. I bought a new copy of ‘Musicophilia’ by Oliver Sacks. I had finished reading ‘Red Leaves’ by Robert H Cook on the plane while coming to Delhi and had nothing to read on the way home. I bought ‘Never at Ease’ with the idea of reading it on the way back home. Earlier at Janpath I had bought a new copy of ‘ Never at Ease’ by Chinua Achebe that I read on the way back home.

Every parent’s worst nightmare is losing a child. It is very difficult to imagine how someone whose child dies feels. It is more difficult to console such parents. A day after the workshop when I met BN who was my friend in college while doing my post-graduation, I couldn’t hold back my tears. It was gut-wrenching to listen to him tell about the ordeal that the family went through watching the boy’s life fade away before their eyes after numerous sessions of chemotherapy. I felt miserable that no one could do anything to save the life of the child. I did not know what to tell my friend. My heart felt empty like it had a hole from which every feeling had gone.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Sunday Haul

When I resolved not to visit Abids for a month or so in order not to add to the clutter of books at home I thought I would be able to hold on to this resolution. I stuck to this decision with great difficulty for exactly two weeks. Last Sunday I started to feel some kind of withdrawal symptoms. I missed being at Abids, missed looking at all the thousands of titles laid out on the pavements waiting for someone to pick them up, missed the usual Sunday banter with my friends at the cafe drinking chai. I missed it all. So last Sunday I decided to go but with a caveat that I would not pick up even a single book. However, it was not to be so because I bought three books, title that I couldn’t help buying.
Sometime back I had picked up a book on a hunch that was proved to be correct. After I read ‘The Tears of Autumn’ by Charles McCarry I felt like patting myself on the back for having picked up such a good book without knowing anything about the author or the title. So when I saw Dan Waddell’s ‘Blood Atonement’ on the pavement it did not take long for me to pick it up. That it was a Penguin title helped a bit but it was more my intuition that it would be an interesting read that made me pick it up.
The next find was another Penguin title, a King Penguin. I found a good copy of an old edition of RK Narayan’s classic ‘The Man Eater of Malgudi’ and got it for only thirty rupees. This was the first book I read in my life. I was maybe twelve years old when I found this book in my uncle’s bookshelf. I think I finished reading it in one day and since then I was hooked on books. Later I found all books of RK Narayan and read them one by one. I do not have a copy of ‘The Man Eater of Malgudi’ so finding this copy at Abids last Sunday was special.
The third title I found also was a Penguin title. On Sunday I came across a pretty decent copy of Dom Moraes’ autobiography ‘My Son’s Father’ that I got quite cheap. I paid only thirty rupees for it. I plan to read it one of these days. It is a perfect way to know more about Dom Moraes one of India’s famous poets/ journalists and a much honoured one at that.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Twin Post- The Talk at Oakridge and The Sunday Haul

The Talk at Oakridge

After the presentation at New Delhi to a group of the country’s top meteorological big shots and others earlier in the month, I give another presentation to an entirely different bunch of little people last week. I gave a talk on natural calamities to students of sixth standard at Oakridge International School last Thursday. It was an entirely different experience for me since so far no audience at my talks or presentation had been 10-11 year old school kids.
Normally I have a standard power point presentation that I use at my talks at various places. But since this audience was different I had to modify it accordingly. Usually disaster management is a dry subject and a vast one at that. I had only forty five minutes to finish my talk so I thought it would be better if I told the kids about a natural calamity that is as dramatic as it is devastating. I chose to tell them about cyclones.
The forty five minutes flew by. The kids were so enthusiastic and asked so many questions I found it a bit difficult to answer all of them. There were about twenty five kids and out of them a few were more enthusiastic than the others and kept up a barrage of questions. I felt happy that I had told them something that I knew and I hope they also learnt something from my talk. It was a wonderful experience.

The Sunday Haul

Since I had barred myself from going to Abids on Sunday I stopped at Chikkadpally while returning home from some errand. I found Shashi Deshpande’s ‘That Long Silence’ that I got for thirty five rupees. It had a nice cover and was in good condition. Though I had bought ‘The Binding Vine’ a couple of months ago I haven’t found the time to read it. Someday soon I plan to read these two books since I have not read anything by Shashi Deshpande so far.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Last Saturday I decided that I wouldn’t go to Abids since I had far too many books at home and did not want to add any more to that pile. My list of books to be read is growing longer by the day with the addition of an average of four or five books every week and hence this decision. On Sunday I stayed put at home fighting off the urge to rush to Abids. For some time I vacillated telling myself that I’d just go to only look at the books and not buy. I managed to control this urge until four in the afternoon. But suddenly I found it quite difficult to stay at home without even looking at the books on sale at Abids. However, true to my resolve, I did not go to Abids. I went up to Chikkadpally only.
At the first seller I stopped to browse at Chikkadpally I saw four brand new copies of titles I did not have the heart to leave alone. When I asked for the price I was told they cost five hundred rupees. The price was too steep and unaffordable and I told myself that I’d buy only two titles and not more. It was a struggle not succumbing to the urge to buy all the four titles. Finally, I ended up buying only two titles. The first title was the O.Henry/Pen Prize Stories, 2012 which was a welcome addition to my growing collection of short story titles. It had twenty stories including one by Alice Munro.
The second title I bought was a book by a writer I had not heard of before. The title was ‘Time Will Darken It’ by William Maxwell. The copies I found were so brand new that they could have come straight from the printers. I felt glad I came to Chikkadpally and found these two titles. I also felt a bit disappointed that I couldn’t buy the other two titles- Ian McEwan’s ‘Atonement’ and Toni Morrison’s ‘Home’ that also looked good and were in the same condition as the two books I had bought. I was particularly pleased with the Pen/ O.Henry Prize stories. This collection not only has twenty stories but also essays by the jurors on their favourite stories and also something by the winners. I do not know when to start reading it since there are too many books I have to read.

Friday, March 14, 2014


One reason why I cut my trip to Delhi short by a day was that I did not want to miss my Sunday routine which includes sitting in an Irani cafe near home and reading the Sunday papers leisurely over a cup of steaming hot tea while entertaining thoughts very different from those I get on weekdays such as planning a trip or even writing another book and so on. The most important part of my Sunday routine is the visit to Abids to look for books on the pavements which is something I wouldn’t miss for anything in the world. So I arrived home late on Saturday night and by the time I went to bed it was past midnight but I went to bed smug in the knowledge that in the morning I would be at Abids.
On Sunday morning I set out for Abids filled with anticipation and excitement at the thought of finding some really good titles as always and also filled with half dread about how many books I would find that I have to carry back home. Mercifully there was only one title I saw fit to pick up and bring home. I have read most titles of Stephen King except a handful such as Misery that I found. I got it for thirty rupees only and planned to read it soon since the story is about a writer who suffers at the hands of a crazy fan.

Yesterday I happened to drop in at the Best Book Centre bookstore in Lakdikapul where I found a book I had missed twice. I first saw ‘Desert Shadows’by Anand (P. Satchidanandan), a Sahitya Akademi award winning title at the same store sometime last year. Though it was a Penguin title I did not buy it thinking it would be around for some time. When I went there a couple of weeks later it wasn’t there and I was disappointed. But when I saw the same book at Blossoms at Bengaluru last August again I missed buying it since by then I had picked up quite a few books and couldn’t afford to buy another. After I got back to Hyderabad I regretted not buying it at Bengaluru also. But when I saw it yesterday I grabbed it.

FRIDAY DOUBLE POST: POST-1/2; 2014 Trips: Trip No. 1- Another Trip to Delhi

My first trip of the year and one that came after a gap of almost five months was once again to the only place I go to half willingly- New Delhi. All my trips to Delhi have been official with the purpose of attending some meeting or seeing someone important and hence weren’t anxiety inducing. But this trip last week was no ordinary one since I was going to attend a two day workshop that was supposed to be chaired by the Cabinet Secretary himself. This alone was enough to make me sweat all over because the Cabinet Secretary is the top bureaucrat in the country. I had prepared a presentation at the last minute after I came to know that a Collector who was supposed to have come wasn’t making it to the workshop.

On Friday I landed at the venue near Lodhi Garden quite early to check out what the facilities were and reaching before everyone does gives you an idea who is coming and what is expected. Looking at the participants streaming in made me even more nervous because almost all of them were elderly gentlemen wearing suits and ties. I was one of the very few people in a simple dress sans tie or anything. My anxiety was further compounded at the time of the introductions when almost everyone turned out to be either Professor So So or Dr XYZ. They were all Directors or Heads of top institutions in the country and a couple of them turned out to be Vice Chancellors. This was the crowd I had to address and that thought made me wonder why I had agreed to make this trip. My anxiety lessened when the Cabinet Secretary departed after the tea break. Surprisingly, I was calm and when my turn came to speak I think I made a pretty impressive presentation.
I was relieved that my presentation went off without any problem though I felt my mouth dry up at the beginning. Afterwards I relaxed and looked at all the stuff they gave us. If one attends top-drawer workshops like this then one gets top-drawer stuff to take home. Everyone got a beautiful bag with the sort of notebook that I usually carry around to jot down stuff but what took the cake was another item. Usually one gets dinky pens along with a notebook and a plastic folder at such workshops but here I got not one pen but two pens and those too in a box. After the workshop ended on the first day I came into more pens.

I called up a friend who was my room-mate during my stay at Port Blair back in 2006. Rahul Dixit was just an intern at the NGO there when I joined him and now, after about eight years he has come a long way. Rahul came in his car to pick me up and we both went to Hauz Khas where I planned to check out Vandana Book Store in the Aurobindo Market. I had read about it long back and recently I was able to dig out the address. After a long chat with Rahul I went to Vandana and found they had Sheaffer fountain pens that they called the ‘No Nonsense’ model. They were light weight, good to hold and came cheap at Rs 250 each. I bought three of them, two for myself and one I gave to my brother. I thought I could fill ink straight away into the barrel since the pen did not have a filling system. But the pen started to leak so when I got to Hyderabad I went to Deccan Pen Stores in Secunderabad and got a filling system fitted that cost me more than what I paid for the fountain pen. But it writes beautifully and I was terribly glad I had been to Vandana Book Store.

On Saturday, the second day of the workshop, the whole thing was over by lunch time. After lunch I caught the Metro at JLN stadium station and went to Nehru Place. I checked out the Nanda bookstore but couldn’t find any title worth buying. There was a hard copy of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’and also a hardcover copy of VS Naipaul’s ‘The Masque of Africa’ that I did not buy. I was back in Hyderabad by midnight. This was one trip to New Delhi when I returned without a book.

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Sunday Haul

Since the past couple of weeks I was lucky enough to find some really good poetry at Abids. First it was ‘Penguin Modern Poets’ (Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti) that I found a couple of weeks back at Abids. Next find was ‘Collected Poems’ by Robert Frost that I found again at Abids only last Sunday. This Sunday I had another lucky hit at Abids. I found ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ by Agha Shahid Ali. I was a bit shocked at finding a book by Agha Shahid Ali, a name that stayed in my mind ever since I first read his poem sometime in the late eighties. I think it was in The Illustrated Weekly of India that I read his poem but I do not remember the title of the poem now. Whatever, I am feeling elated that I found this slim collection brought about by Penguin, another favorite publisher of mine.
Before I found ‘The Country Without a Post Office’ I spotted ‘A Heart So White’ by Javier Marias at one of the sellers in Chikkadpally. I haven’t read any book by Marias though I vaguely remember reading the name somewhere recently. One of the reasons I picked up this book was that the publisher was ‘The Harvill Press’ and another reason was the cover. It lookd like it would be a good read thought it was quite lengthy at 278 pages. But it did not come cheap, I had to pay eighty rupees for this super serious book.
The last find of Sunday was ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ by Audrey Nifenegger that I have read about a lot almost everywhere. Somehow I have managed not to get too interested in this book so far assuming it wouldn’t be not to my taste but when I found a good copy of this book at Abids selling cheap. I hope it is something I can enjoy reading.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Sunday Haul

It was quite by accident that I discovered William Trevor. I guess it was sometime last year in a book fair that I found ‘Felicia’s Journey’ by William Trevor and picked it up because it was a Penguin title, and because it looked like it would be a good read. William Trevor is a wonderful writer and sometime afterwards I found ‘The Story of Lucy Gault’ at Book Fair last December where I also found his ‘Two Lives.’ But so far I have read only ‘Felicia’s Journey’ that convinced me of William Trevor’s talent. Last week during another of my mid-week hunts in second hand bookstores I found ‘After Rain’ which is a collection of short stories by William Trevor. I was quite thrilled to have found this almost-brand-new book at the MR store adjacent to the flyover in Punjagutta for just eighty rupees. There are twelve stories in it- The Piano Tuner’s Wives, A Friendship, Timothy’s Birthday, Child’s Play, A Bit of Business, After Rain, Widows, Gilbert’s Mother, The Potato Dealer, Lost Ground, A Day, and Marrying Damian.
Later in the week, on Sunday, at Abids I added three more books to the haul which now stands at thirty-six books. In the nine weeks of 2014 I have added an average of four books a week to my collection. I guess it has now become a pathological addiction to pick up books at Abids and also second hand bookstores. I do not think it is possible for me to come out of this habit anytime now or in the future. Abids or wherever I continue to find books wherever I see them and if I can afford to buy them. So the first find of last Sunday was ‘Stardust’ by Robert B. Parker that I got for forty rupees. I already own two copies of this title but I bought this particular copy because it was in a good condition.
The second find was ‘Miscellany One’ by Dylan Thomas that has poems, essays and other stuff. This is the first time I am reading anything by Dylan Thomas though I have come across the name many times. The third find was yet another book of poetry. But this wasn’t any other book but a collection of poems of Robert Frost. This was a beautiful copy of ‘Selected Poems, Robert Frost’ that was partially hidden under another book. I could only see the top of the book and the Penguin logo on the right hand corner. I had it taken out and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was something worth buying. I got the book for just fifty rupees! It has nearly a hundred and fifty poems including a long time favorite- ‘Fire and Ice’ that I discovered a long time back.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Haul

It has become a habit with me to drop in at one of the half a dozen second hand bookstores in Hyderabad whenever I am feeling restless. There are a few books that I am looking for and I scour the bookstores whenever I find time in the hope of finding these elusive titles. Sometime last week I dropped in at the Best Book Centre branch at Lakdikapul. There were many books that I wanted to buy but I had a limited budget and so ended up buying only two books. One was Kamala Markandaya’s ‘Nectar in a Sieve’ and the other was CJ Koch’s ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ that appeared interesting for more than two reasons. The first reason was that it was a Penguin imprint, second reason was that the price was only fifty rupees and the third and final reason was enticing cover. I got both the books for less than hundred rupees.
Then again on Sunday at the book bazaar at Abids I came up with a haul of four books. Three of the books were titles that I already have. The first find was a nice copy of ‘Sudden Mischief’ by Robert B. Parker that I got pretty cheap at only thirty rupees. The second find was yet another copy of Helene Hanff’s ‘84, Charing Cross Road’ that I found exactly at the same spot where I had found another copy a couple of months earlier. Then the third find was my second copy of ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers that I got pretty cheap again, at only thirty rupees. This copy had a different cover and seemed better than the one I had bought a long time ago.
The fourth and final book I had found was a title of poetry by three poets. It was one of a series by Penguin called Penguin Modern Poets 5. One of the poets I could recognise was Allen Ginsberg and the other two were names I had not heard before- Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso. I am glad I found this slim volume of verse that I bought for only ten rupees. Imagine.