Friday, May 26, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 21.05.2017)

Though it was forecast that the day would be very hot in the city I dutifully turned up at Abids last Sunday. It turned out to be one of the hottest days I had seen this summer with the sun blazing down as early as eleven in the morning. No one in his right mind goes out when it is so hot but I just couldn’t sit at home and think about all the titles I would miss spotting. In the end it turned out to be a good haul of three nice titles.
The first find was near the café where we have tea before we set out. I like to read Robert B. Parker’s Spenser titles and I have almost all the titles. Last Sunday I spotted an unusual Parker title-‘Love and Glory’ that wasn’t the type of books Robert B. Parker writes. It was a romance and the cover was quite enticing and I ended up buying it for thirty rupees.
The second find of the day was another wonderful book. I found the screenplay of ‘Taxi Driver’ by Paul Schrader. It was with another seller who has his wares just beside the café. Normally he quotes high prices but somehow he asked for only forty rupees for ‘Taxi Driver’ which I thought was quite low and so I bought it without a second thought.
Since a long time I am in the habit of jotting titles of books I come across in articles or other books that sound interesting. One such title that I had jotted down a very long time back, more than a decade or so, was ‘Anyone Here Been Raped and Speaks English?’ by Edward Behr. I do not remember now where I had come across this title but I remembered the title because it so outrageous. I spotted this book with a seller who has hundreds of books spread out on low tables placed on the pavement and that he sells for twenty rupees. I picked it up feeling amazed that at Iast I had found a book I had read about long, long ago.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Another Delhi Haul (on 16-05-17)

Last week again I was in Delhi. Unlike the earlier visit not more than ten days ago when I had gone there to attend a training course this time I was there to attend a meeting. Then again unlike the earlier trip that was five days last week’s trip was for only two days. On the five day trip I hauled in five books and on this two day trip I hauled in only one title and it was one that I had missed buying on the earlier trip.

On the earlier trip though I had been to the Oxford Book Store in Connaught Place where I love to hang out, I had returned without buying a wonderful title that I had spotted. It was ‘Naiyer Masud: Collected Stories’ edited and translated by Muhammad Umar Memon. The size of the book and also its price had deterred me from buying it though I had been keen to buy it. It was also something I regretted after returning to Hyderabad without it. I had wondered if I’d get a chance to buy this book. Even as I was contemplating ordering it online just a week after I had returned I was asked if I’d like to Delhi again. The question was popped on Sunday and I had to leave on Monday. I couldn’t say no because the meeting I was going there to attend was a national level meeting and promised to be something really good.
Anyway, suffice it to say the Union Home Minister found it important enough to inaugurate the meeting on the first day. I was glad I had agreed to go at such short notice because I learnt quite a bit and got an idea of how the real experts view something and come to the core of anything. It was an eye opener since I had thought I knew all there was to learn about the subject. The meeting I attended was the second meeting of the National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction that was held at the sprawling Vigyan Bhawan, just a stone’s throw away from where I was staying- the Telangana Bhavan.

I had planned to return on the second day after the meeting ended. My flight was sometime after nine in the night and I had a few hours to kill before starting for the airport. I decided to go to CP and pick up the Naiyer Masud title I had seen at OBS. When I went to OBS I was relieved to see that the book was at the same spot where I had seen it on my earlier visit. It was nine hundred rupees but I did not mind the price.
‘Collected Stories’ has thirty five stories in five sections. In the first section titled ‘SEEMIYA (THE OCCULT) there are five stories: Obscure Domains of Fear and Desire, The Colour of Nothingness, Snake Catcher, Seemiya (The Occult) and Resting Place.

In the second section titled ‘ESSENCE OF CAMPHOR’ there are seven stories: Epistle, Janus, Sultan Muzaffar’s Chronicler of Events, Jarga, Interregnum, Essence of Camphor, and The Fifth Saasaan.

The third section- THE MYNA FROM PEACOCK GARDEN- has these stories: Ba’i’s Mourners, The Chief Accountant of the Pyramid, Nosh Daru, Lamentation, Remains of the Ray Family, Custody, Dead End, The Myna from Peacock Garden, Occult Museum, and Sheesha Ghat.

GANJEFA the fourth section has these stories: Ganjefa, The Big Garbage Dump, Weathervane, Allam and Son, The Successor, The Stone with Sacred Names, The Librarian, Destitutes Compound, Hounded, and Afflictions.

The last section titled MISCELLANEOUS has three stories: Dustland, The Aster, and Whirlwind. At the end of the book is an interview the translator, Muhammad Umar Memon had with the author, Naiyer Masud. It is a big book with six hundred and sixty two pages and bigger than an ordinary brick, more like one of those modern cement bricks.

Last December, at the Hyderabad Book Fair, I had found a copy of ‘Snakecatcher’ by Naiyer Masud and had got it for about hundred rupees. It had eleven stories and I was not surprised that all these stories are in ‘Collected Stories.’ Of course, the translator was Muhammad Umar Memon and the publisher too was Penguin. I’ve made a plan to read one story from this collection every day but I don’t know when I will put the plan into action. Until then I am just content looking at this wonderful book I had the good fortune to find.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 14-05-2017)

There’s seems to be no end to my lucky streak finding good titles at Abids on Sunday mornings. Once again last Sunday I ended up with a good title in the haul. Though I found only good title it made me very glad coming across it unexpectedly. Actually, I found two titles and the second title was a cookbook which exactly doesn’t qualify as literature though it is no less entertaining. I found my third Adil Jussawalla title last Sunday at Abids. Coincidentally, I was going through the poems, one a day, in ‘Trying to Say Goodbye’ the collection I found very recently.
The first find at Abids last Sunday was ‘Dakshin Delights’ by Sanjeev Kapoor, the famous TV Chef who makes whipping up tasty dishes as easy as swallowing water. In the recent past I’ve found quite a few cookbooks by him and this was another good title that I picked up without a second thought because it was a hardcover and was in very good condition. I got it for only fifty rupees when the original price is two hundred and ninety five rupees.

After spending sometime in the café drinking tea alone and leafing through ‘Dakshin Delights’ I continued on the next leg of the usual circuit of the pavements of Abids. In one corner I spotted a book with a cover in beautiful dark blue and took it out to check the title and got a pleasant shock. It was a copy of ‘Maps for a Mortal Moon’ by Adil Jussawalla. I have been reading him since I was a teenager trying to be a poet.
‘Maps for a Mortal Moon’ (subtitled Essays and Entertainments) is edited by Jerry Pinto who wrote a wonderful introduction to Adil Jussawalla- his work, his persona, and a bit of his life. The present volume is a collection of Jussawalla’s poems, prose, articles and essays on sundry topics including essays on writers, writing, and reading which are three things that never fail to interest me. In fact there is a short essay on the pleasures of writing with pencils and fountain pens that was the first essay I read eagerly. I am eager to read the rest of the book that contains many, many interesting essays on diverse subjects. However, I do want to write more about this wonderful book in detail in a separate post that I want to do very soon. By the way, I got this book for just a hundred rupees which is a pittance compared to what is inside the book. Lucky me.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 7-5-17)

Since the beginning of this year I’ve been finding quite a number of books on my trips to Abids on Sundays. But the haul has been quite bountiful in the past week with the trip to Delhi yielding a haul of five titles and another four titles at Abids last Sunday. With this haul of four titles the total number of books that I’ve bought so far this year is now sixty four! However hard I am trying to cut down on my book buys I am unable to restrain myself. I don’t know what the total haul this year would be and I sincerely hope I don’t create any new records.
Last Sunday it wasn’t so hot at Abids so I did a leisurely amble at Abids. Since a long time I’ve been looking for a good copy of ‘The Good Earth’ by Pearl S. Buck. I had read it when I was a kid just out of high school when I wasn’t exactly mature enough to take the book in. I wanted to read it but I did not have a copy. I had seen a few copies in the second hand bookstores but they were priced too high so I waited until I could find a copy at Abids. Last Sunday at last I got a decent enough copy for just twenty rupees. I want to read it when it starts raining and the farming activity begins here.
The second find was a cookbook classic that I had been reading about in almost all the ‘must have’ lists of chefs in India. I wasn’t really looking for ‘Tiffin’ by Rukmini Srinivas or expecting to find it but at Abids last Sunday I was in for a pleasant shock. I found a really good copy of Tiffin’ by Rukmini Srinivas that I got for only hundred rupees. I was quite surprised to read that it was published in 2015! I had thought it was published long, long back but anyway I am glad I found this wonderful memoir-cum-cookbook.
Another good find was ‘We Need New Names’ by NoViolet Bulawayo that I had read about recently. It was on the short list for the Booker Prize in 2013. I was very excited finding this title at Abids that is getting to be a bigger treasure house than I’ve thought it to be. I got this book too for a hundred rupees which was a bit too high for Abids standards.
In a heap of books before the Bata store there were many brand new titles selling for just twenty rupees. I spotted three Le Carré titles and Ross Macdonald’s ‘Twilight at Mac’s Place’ that I wanted to buy but did not. Instead I picked up ‘The Hunted’ by Elmore Leonard. It was a beautiful copy and I was glad I bought it though I already have a copy of the same title at home.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Delhi Haul

For us in the Government, depending on where one is posted, in the districts or the capital and also depending on the department one is working in, sometime or the other one has to make a trip to the national Capital. Just a year back when in a different posting I used to go to Delhi at the drop of a hat. In the five and half years that I was in that posting I must have made at least thirty or more trips to Delhi. After I got out of that department I did not travel to Delhi for more than a year. My last trip to Delhi was in January last year. After more than a year I got the opportunity to travel to that national Capital. Unlike the short trips I made earlier this time I spent five days at Delhi. Last week I was in Delhi attending a training programme in an institute near ITO. On a couple of days I went looking for books in the evenings.
My first foray was on Tuesday when I decided I’d check out Connaught Place. I went to the New Book Land on Janpath. I had read recently that it was set up by someone originally from Hyderabad. At this stall I found a copy of ‘Why I Write’ a collection of essays by Saadat Hasan Manto translated by Aakar Patel from Urdu into English. Though the price at the back was Rs… I got it for two hundred rupees. It was a new book and I was glad the Delhi haul had begun with a wonderful title. However, I couldn’t locate a second hand seller- Anil Bookstore- who is said to be somewhere near the C Block. The last time too I was unsuccessful in locating him so I gave up and went to the pen seller beside Regal cinema. He showed me a Guider that was exorbitantly priced. I opted for a Pilot that someone had gifted me earlier. I had returned it because I felt it was too light for my taste. I picked up the same pen but a cherry red colored one that I got for seven hundred and fifty rupees. It had a F nib that I got changed to a M.
Next stop was the Oxford Book Store. There were more people in the café than in the actual store looking at the books. I too went around checking out the titles but couldn’t find any worth buying. I saw a collection of stories by Naiyer Masud that I wanted to buy but didn’t. It was a thick tome and though the price was something I could afford I did not buy it because of the space it would take. Now I wonder if I had made a mistake not buying it. I do have a Naiyer Masud title that I found recently but I think I should have bought it. Anyway, that was the haul on my first outing looking for books in Delhi.
The next foray was on Thursday. On my way to visit my younger brother I stopped at Nehru Place. I had thought I’d check out Nanda’s Bookstore that I had been to on my earlier visits and maybe pick up a good title. I was surprised to find that the bookstore had closed down and something else had come up in its place. It made me quite upset when I couldn’t find one of those sellers who usually sell the books in the open. I was dejected and was preparing to leave when I spotted a tall stack of books stuck in between two stalls selling clothes. I felt like I had spotted an oasis in a desert. It was difficult to take a look at the titles since the books were so precariously stacked that if one book came loose then the whole stack would collapse. The seller, an elderly gentleman with a shock of white hair assured me he wouldn’t mind if the books fell down.
When the seller told me that I could pick any title for just fifty rupees I looked around the stack and managed to find four good titles.
The first title I found was ‘Other People’s Trades’ by Primo Levi. It was a small book and seemed a wonderful find. The next find was ‘The Condemned Playground’ by Cyril Connolly. I hesitated to buy it wondering if I’d be able to digest this high-brow stuff written by one of the foremost critics of his time. I decided to buy it and added it to my kitty. Then I went around to the back of the stack and spotted ‘Love and Summer’ by William Trevor. I remember I had picked up the same title some time ago at the Hyderabad Book Fair but I bought it anyway. I’ve read his ‘The Story of Lucy Gault’ and I did not need much convincing about buying ‘Love and Summer.’ I also have his ‘Felicia’s Journey’ that I found some time back at Abids I guess.
The last find was a copy of ‘Moon Tiger’ by Penelope Lively that the seller had to prise out from the bottom of the stack. It is a title that won Penelope Lively the Booker Prize in 1987 and that made me pick up this book. I have a few titles of Penelope Lively including a short story collection. This title completed the haul of five books I picked up at New Delhi last week. This was the second thing that made me feel glad about the trip the first being seeing my mother and my younger brother’s family.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 23-04-2017)

For the world April 23 might be World Book Day but for me every Sunday is a Book Day. This year World Book Day fell on a Sunday when I make my weekly visit to the Sunday book bazaar at Abids which made it all the more reason to buy more books. Since the beginning of this year I’ve been consistently lucky in finding good titles at Abids almost every Sunday. The previous Sunday I had found ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Thomas Pynchon, a mammoth book with nearly nine hundred pages. Last Sunday too I found two good books that I got cheap.
The first find was another cookbook to add to my growing collection of such books. I found a beautiful copy of ‘The Harekrishna Book of Vegeterian Cooking’ containing more than a hundred vegetarian recipes printed on glossy paper. It is a high quality book that I was glad I found and got for just fifty rupees. However I do not know when I will find use for it. So far I haven’t found use for any recipe book that I have bought over the years except on a couple of occasions.
The other book Uma spotted. It was a beautiful copy of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ by Ross Macdonald, one of my favourite crime fiction writers. I do not remember if I have this Ross Macdonald title in my collection but I bought it nevertheless. After flipping through the first few pages I realized that I haven’t read the book before so I bought it. It was in a good condition so I did not mind paying the sixty rupees the seller asked for it.
So that was how the World Book Day was for me.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 16-4-2017)

It was quite hot last Sunday. I knew it would be because that was the forecast I read in the morning news. If I knew any better I should have stayed home but I did not. Nothing can stop me from going to Abids on Sundays, not rain, not sun. Anyway on that hot Sunday I ended up with two cool finds.
The first find was ‘Memoirs of an Infantry Officer’ by Siegfried Sassoon that I picked up from a heap of books selling for twenty rupees. I picked it up though I had not read anything about by this author and only knew that Siegfried Sassoon was a name I had read about earlier a long time back. It appeared like a good read so I felt glad I found this title.
The second find was a bumper one. I almost missed it but I spotted this massive tome at the last minute. I found ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Thomas Pynchon that I had read about somewhere I cannot recollect now. It was a thick book almost nine hundred pages and was thicker than a brick. I don’t know when I will find the time to read it but I definitely plan to read it someday. Interestingly this too seemed a war book. I got it for only fifty rupees. It needs a little fixing up because the cover had come loose and was kept in place by two strips of tape.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 14-04-2017)

Summer is truly here in Hyderabad. After a few weeks of high temperatures hovering around forty degrees now it has touched 40 degrees already. Last Sunday at Abids I wondered if I should go ahead and browse around the pavements of Abids in the hot sun. I decided the heat and discomfort of being out in the hot sun was better than the miserable feeling I get if I sit at home on Sunday instead of visiting Abids. So there I was patiently looking up and down the covers of hundreds of books displayed on the pavements. This patience was rewarded at last when I found two titles that I picked up before I headed home to escape the scorching sun.
Though I am not a passionate conservationist I do love nature. I am concerned at the way some species are going extinct. I do not find many well written books on nature and wildlife in India at Abids. It is only very rare and infrequent that I come across a well written book on wildlife in India. On Sunday I came across a copy of ‘Nature’s Spokesman: M.Krishnan & Indian Wildlife’ edited by the venerable Ramachandra Guha that turned out to be a Penguin title. I confess that I did not know who M. Krishnan was until I picked up this book. This is a collection of more than sixty articles by M. Krishnan on wildlife in India edited by Guha. I felt very happy finding this wonderful book that I got for hundred rupees. I consider myself fairly well acquainted with people who write on various subjects and issues but I had not come across the name of M.Krishnan. It is my own loss but since I found this title I am really glad that now I know who he is.
The second find of Sunday was another title that I already have with me. In a corner of the street I found a copy of ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’ by Dee Brown. I had found a good copy a long time back though I have not read it till now because it is a considerably sized volume. Since I already own a copy of this book I did not want to pick it up and went away. But on the way back after going up to the last seller I did not have the heart to leave this title behind and picked it up. It was in a heap of twenty rupee books so I took it. There might be someone who might want to read this book I thought as I paid for it and took it.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

A Trip, a Pen, and a Book

Last Sunday I was in Ooty on a short vacation with the family. It had been ages since we had been on a break so on the insistence of the family I agreed for a trip to Ooty. A week before I booked the entire vacation on MakeMyTrip which worked out a bit expensive but was worth it since we did not have any problems except one that I’ll mention later on. We flew to Coimbatore and from there motored up to Ooty. I had heard a lot about Mettupalayam since I was a child and finally I got to see the place, or rather, pass through it. Then it was an hour and half’s climb up the Nilgiri hills to Ooty via Coonoor. We stayed at a resort called Deccan Park Resort in Teetkul, away from the town. It was quiet and tranquil at the resort where we stayed for four days until Wednesday. During our stay we did the usual touristy things- sightseeing and shopping. We went to Doddabetta Peak, Botanical Gardens, Ooty lake, Pykara falls, again boating in the waters of the dam there, and on the way back we stopped at Coonoor where we went to Sim’s Park, Lamb’s Rock, and back to Coimbatore. The only problem we had was the cab driver who had a mind of his own. When I told him we’d have lunch at Mettupalayam he took us to Annnur. He was always late, never polite, and did not know the places well enough since he did not know how long it took to reach and how far the places were. If it weren’t for the driver we’d have had a better experience.
At Coimbatore we had a few hours to kill before catching the plane back to Hyderabad. So we ventured into Coimbatore where I had been earlier sometime in 1993 I guess. Coimbatore turned out to be a surprisingly neat town. Sometime in February I had read anarticle by K.Jeshi about an iconic hotel in Coimbatore -Hotel Annapoorna- in The Hindu and somehow I managed to read the article just before the Ooty trip. Luckily, I spotted the hotel when we were out shopping in Gandhipuram. We had snacks there that were shockingly cheap. Though I couldn’t find the time to look for books or bookstores in Ooty, I found a small store called ‘Pen House’ in Gandhipuram in Coimbatore where I bought an Oliver fountain pen for three hundred rupees. We rushed back to the airport only to learn that the flight was delayed by an hour. An hour later there was a message that it was delayed by another hour. Then again another message about another hour’s delay. Finally, the Spicejet flight that was supposed to leave at 8-15 pm left somewhere around midnight. I was relieved we got back from the trip safe and sound.
I have a confession to make here. About an year ago, sometime in the end of May I left the Secretariat Department where I had worked for almost six years and came back to my own department. I was posted to Nalgonda where I worked until mid-January shuttling between Hyderabad and Nalgonda almost every day. Luckily a friend told me to apply to an Institute in Hyderabad and quite miraculously I was taken in the Dr MCRHRD Institute which is incidentally located in a place I’ve written about here quite often- Jubilee Hills! I never thought I’d work in Jubilee Hills but here I am but more about it in another post. Anyway, at the Institute I am in a center called the Centre for Climate and Disaster Management. I have a bit of experience in Disaster Management having worked in the Disaster Management department at the Secretariat but my knowledge about Climate & environment isn’t much. Since I am supposed to teach about these issues I had to read as much about these subjects as I can find. I had read about ‘The Great Derangement’ by Amitav Ghosh and had seen it at the Akshara bookstore in Jubilee Hills. Yesterday (Friday) I went there and picked up the book. I had not been to Abids on Sunday because I was travelling and so buying this book somewhat made up for it.

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 26-03-2017)

For more than twenty years I’ve been coming to Abids, week after week, drawn by the prospect of finding good titles in the heaps of books laid out on the pavements every Sunday. Very rarely have I returned disappointed at not finding anything good. Almost every Sunday I find something at least one title good enough to buy and bring home. Over the years I’ve bought thousands of books at the Abids book bazaar on Sundays. This is one place that never ceases to amaze me with kind of treasures it offers to the true book lover.
Since the beginning of this year I’ve been quite lucky finding some really wonderful titles every Sunday at Abids. Last Sunday before I met Uma I found two more good titles. The first find was ‘Women Travel’ which was a title of Rough Guides. The hefty volume had several stories by women travellers of their trips across the world. There were articles by a few writers that I had read about earlier such as Margaret Atwood (Ecuador), Sara Wheeler (Antartica), but the rest were writers I am not aware of. The first-hand accounts of these writers covered almost every country in the world. There were accounts by Sheila Keegan, Rebecca Hardie, and Eleanor Simmons of their trips in India. I got this interesting title for just thirty rupees.
A little before having tea in the café I found a copy of Issue No 210 of ‘The Paris Review’ that I decided to pick up. It had an ‘Art of Fiction’ interview with Herta Muller who won the Nobel Prize a couple of years ago. I got this issue of ‘The Paris Review’ for fifty rupees.

If I’ve read about a particular title and want it I only have to wait for some time for it to turn up at Abids. One such title that I have been waiting to find finally turned up at Abids last Sunday. Ever since I read about ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ by George V Higgins that Stephen King wrote about in his book ‘On Writing’ I’ve been on the lookout for it. I’ve managed to find other George V Higgins titles such as ‘Outlaws’ ‘Wonderful Years, Wonderful Years,’ ‘Bomber’s Law’ but not ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ which turned into some sort of Holy Grail for me.
It’s been a pretty long wait for it, almost a decade, so imagine my joy when at last I spotted it last Sunday a few minutes after we’ve had tea in the café. It felt curiously wonderful holding the copy of ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ in my hand, feeling as if I’ve dug out a diamond out of the earth. I had read “Outlaws” by George V. Higgins that I found to be riveting and wonderfully written. I had then set my heart on finding ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ and at last my wish came true when I spotted it. The wonderful thing was that I did not have to pay much for it. The seller asked for just thirty rupees for it which was peanuts.
I started reading Mint Lounge since more than a few months and I found it to be very interesting. I have a few favourite columns in it one of which is the one by Samar Halarnkar who writes on cooking. In the issue the Saturday before last he had mentioned that his collection of cookbooks is more than hundred strong and one of the titles in his collection is ‘Prashad’ by Jiggs Kalra. I had also read about this book sometime in the past and had vaguely wondered if I would be able to find it at Abids. It did not occur to me to buy it online because the price was somewhere around three hundred rupees. Last Sunday one of the titles I found happened to be ‘Prashad.’ It looked like an ancient copy though it was intact in all respects except for some minor tears on the jacket. The best part was that I got this hardcover book for only fifty rupees which I thought was a steal.