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.

Friday, September 08, 2017

The Sunday Haul (03-09-2017)


The haul last Sunday at Abids was only three titles. It was the day after the festival of Bakrid and I thought there wouldn’t be many sellers as almost all of them happen Muslims. However I was surprised to see that save for just one seller all of them were present at Abids with their books. It was another wonderful morning, bright and sunny albeit a bit too warm. I did not mind it as I went along with two of my friends looking for the books. Another friend joined midway so there were four of us.
The first find happened to be two cookbooks. One was by Sanjeev Kapoor titled ‘Khana Khazana- Celebration of Indian Cookery’ that had more than a hundred recipes of dishes across the country. The other title was a Parsi cookbook titled ‘Jamva Chaloji’ by Katy Dalal that someone had wrapped the covers lovingly in a plastic jacket. This 124 page book had more than two hundred and ten recipes of Paris dishes with names like ‘Bapaiji Ni Dhansakh Ni Dar’, ‘Sali Ne Jardaloo Ma Gos’ ‘Govarsing-Ne-Gharab No-Patio’ that sounded both wonderful and mouth-watering at the same time. Both were in good condition and the Sanjeev Kapoor was a hardcover copy that I got cheap. I got them both for a total of hundred and thirty rupees. I don’t know why I picked up the Parsi cookbook but I bought it nevertheless.
The third find was in a pile of books selling for only ten rupees. I remember reading the name Emma Lathen somewhere so when I saw the name on the cover of a book in that heap I picked it up. On the cover Emma Lathen was described as ‘America’s Agatha Christie’ so knowing how Agatha Christie books are I picked up ‘Pick Up Sticks’ by Emma Lathen. The book was in a very good condition and I couldn’t believe one can find good books at such a throwaway price.

Friday, September 01, 2017

A Midweek Haul


If I am not at Abids on Sunday it could be because of three reasons. Either I am sick, or I am out of town or it is raining heavily. So, last Sunday I couldn’t go to Abids for my weekly fix of books because I was recovering from a bout of fever and too weak to go outdoors. But I was in a better shape by Monday and even went to work. If I don’t go to Abids on Sunday to look at the books the entire week I am in a grumpy mood. The only cure for it is to drop in at a second hand bookstore and smell the books. On Tuesday I dropped in again at the MR Books store opposite Lifestyle just to feel normal again.
Sometime back I had picked up a book at Akshara bookstore in Jubilee Hills that I entirely forgot to write about here. I will write about it in another post but briefly it was a compilation of the 100 best crime novels. It featured so titles that I already have and many I don’t even know. One of the titles was a title I seemed to have come across at Abids but hadn’t thought much about it. At MR Books on Tuesday I came across this book which was ‘Savages’ by Don Winslow. I saw on the back cover that it was made into a movie directed by Oliver Stone, and starred Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek among others. It was a good copy so I picked it up and I was glad I found it.
A long time ago I came across a list of half a dozen title that not many know about but are supposed to be very good. One of the titles happened to be Dodie Smith’s ‘I Capture the Castle’ that I had found at the Hyderabad Book Fair a couple of years ago. It wasn’t a very good copy but I bought it since I thought I’d not be able to find the title again anywhere. I was so wrong since I came across a beautiful copy at MR Bookstore a little later but I did not buy it because the price was too high and moreover I already owned a copy. But when I saw the same copy again on Tuesday in the ‘Rs 120 per kilo’ section I decided to pick it up. I knew from experience that just two books won’t weigh a kilo so I went looking for two more books to make up for a kilo which was the minimum quantity one had to buy.
Luckily I found another good title by an author I had read only recently- Alan Paton. I had read his autobiography, ‘Towards the Mountain,’ first before reading ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ and had regretted not reading him earlier. At MR on Tuesday I came across a beautiful copy of ‘Ah, But Your Land is Beautiful’ that I instantly picked up without thinking twice. It is the first title in a projected trilogy.
The next find was by an author I had been looking for since a long time. Recently I found Lorrie Moore’s ‘Birds of America’ and also ‘Self Help’ both collections of short stories that I was waiting to read since I had read high praise about Lorrie Moore’s writing somewhere. This time I found a copy of ‘A Gate at the Stairs’ by Lorrie Moore which is a novel. I haven’t read anything other than short stories by Lorrie Moore so I was excited to find her novel.

I got all four books that made up a little less than a kilo and they cost me just a hundred and ten rupees which means I got each book for something around thirty rupees.

Friday, August 25, 2017

DOUBLE POST FRIDAY / POST -2: A Super Midweek/Independence Day Haul

Last weekend was a pretty long one that lasted four days and ended with the Independence Day on the fifteenth of August. Though I had been to Abids on Sunday and picked up six good books I felt restless. On Monday I dropped in at the MR Books store opposite Lifestyle in Begumpet just to look at the books and pass the time. In no time I found a good book that I immediately wanted to buy. I found a copy of ‘Ah, Treachery’ by Ross Thomas. It was entirely by chance that I had stumbled across Ross Thomas. I had first come across a Ross Thomas title a couple of years back when I found ‘The Yellow Dog Contract’. After reading it I wanted to buy all the books Ross Thomas had written. Over the years I found ‘Twilight At Mac’s Place,’ ‘The Fools in Town Are On Our Side’ and ‘The Mordida Man’ only the previous Sunday. There are many other titles of his that I want to read especially ‘Briarpatch’ and ‘The Missionary Stew’ that are said to be very good. So when I found ‘Ah, Treachery’ I grabbed it right away.
Then on Tuesday I had been to the flag hoisting at my workplace in the morning. On the way back I decided to stop at MR Books once again since I had not checked the books on the landing of the stairs to the cellar and the books by kilo section in the cellar. I consider myself to be lucky in the matter of finding good titles since I manage to find some really good titles regularly. But on some days I get super lucky and Tuesday was one such super lucky day. Sometime last year or so I had started reading Business Line on Saturday that comes with a supplement called ‘Blink’ that carries some really good stuff. I think it was in some article about food that I read about James Salter and how good his writing was especially ‘Life is Meals’ and his memoirs ‘Burning the Days.’ Little did I know then that I would find his books soon. Sometime recently I found a copy of ‘A Sport and A Pastime’ at Abids and did not expect to find another James Salter title very soon.
I’ve learnt that it pays to look at each and every title in piles of books wherever they are. There’s a large, irregular pile of books in some kind of a shelf besides the steps in MR Books that lead down to the cellar. On my last visit I had seen a nice copy of ‘The Foreigner’ by Arun Joshi in the pile that was still there but at a different place. There were other titles that I had seen earlier but there seemed to be some new titles that I started checking carefully on the spines. Then I spotted the name James Salter but couldn’t read the title because light was reflecting off it. I pulled out the book and got a wonderful shock to find that it was ‘Burning the Days.’ I was ecstatic on finding it and wondered if it had been there in the same pile that I had checked out on my earlier visit. I wondered if I had failed to notice this wonderful title and thanked my stars that no one had bought it. I marvelled at my exceptional good luck finding this book that I got for just a hundred rupees.

DOUBLE POST FRIDAY / POST-1: The Sunday Haul (on 20-8-2017)


Though I had a haul of eight books, six on Sunday and two more during the week, I could not stop myself from going to Abids on Sunday. The total haul of books that I had bought so far this year is somewhere around a hundred and twenty which looks like I am on the way to create new records. I was not in the mood to add any more books to this number, at least this Sunday or so I thought as I reached Abids. It was another cloudy, overcast morning and it looked like it would rain later in the day. Since I was alone I thought I’d be able to do the rounds quickly but it wasn’t so. I browsed until it was one in the afternoon and left with two books in the haul.
Of late I am getting drawn to books with mysterious sounding titles by writers I haven’t heard of. All such titles that I found so far turned out to be good books and one such title is ‘An Exile’ by Madison Jones that was a wonderful read. On Sunday I spotted a copy of ‘By Starlight’ by Thomas Sancton with one of the sellers. I leafed through the pages and read some passages at random and decided to buy it. It is a lengthy book running into four hundred pages but cost me only thirty rupees. I am not going to start reading it right away but will come to it sometime in the future.
I really do not remember if I had found ‘Dakshin’ by Chandra Padmanabhan and I am too lazy to check my blog. However, I spotted a beautiful copy of her other book ‘Southern Spice’ that I picked up right away. It was in mint condition without any blemishes or damage to it and I was glad to have found this copy that I got for a hundred rupees. It is one more addition to my large collection of cookbooks that is growing by the week. These two books were the only finds last Sunday.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 13-08-2017)


The weather gods are being too kind to me on Sunday mornings when I set out for Abids to look for books. Once again the weather was quite clear on Sunday morning at Abids. It was cloudy alright but it did not look like it would rain. I was glad the weather was just perfect for going around looking at the hundreds of titles laid out on the pavements of Abids. Another couple of weeks and the festival season would begin and the second hand booksellers would disappear for weeks altogether. So, with the idea of making hay while the sun shines, I decided to look really closely and try to find good titles. Somehow despite my reluctance to take more books home and general wish about not finding anything I end up finding more books than expected. Last Sunday the haul turned out to be good as well as a large one with six titles in the bag.
A couple of weeks ago I had finished reading ‘Here Lies Eric Ambler,’ Eric Ambler’s autobiography that I had found a long time back. I haven’t read anything by Ambler till then. After reading it I had in my mind to read one of his fiction titles. Usually I come across a lot of Eric Ambler titles out there at Abids but I hadn’t seen ‘The Levanter’ even once. So when I saw a copy of Eric Ambler’s ‘The Levanter’ first thing in the morning at Abids I picked it up. I got it for only twenty rupees. I plan to read it one of these days since it appears not too lengthy.
Then the next find was a multiple haul. One of the sellers I like is a deferential young man who gives the books to me at whatever price I ask. Since I do not want to abuse his respect for me I pay whatever price he quotes. Last Sunday I saw him sorting out books from a pile of books. I came closer to take a better look and saw two VS Naipaul titles that I had been trying to find. I saw ‘Beyond Belief’ and also ‘Among the Believers’ that I decided to take whatever be the price. I took them out and then another title fell out of the pile. It was a nice copy of ‘Chikaveera Rajendra’ by Masti Venkatesa Iyengar. I thought he’d ask more than three hundred and fifty rupees for these three books. But I was quite surprised when he quoted only two hundred rupees for these three titles. I was quite taken aback since I had seen the VS Naipaul titles at a second hand book store in the past and found that each title was priced at more than two hundred rupees. For the price of one VS Naipaul title in the second hand bookstore I got two of his books along with another good one by another author on the pavement.
Since the past couple of weeks I have been finding at least one good title among the piles of books that three sellers sell for twenty rupees. On Sunday with one of the three sellers I found a Penguin title that looked interesting. It was ‘the Night of Wenceslas’ by Lionel Davidson. I had never heard of this author so I hesitated for a while. On the cover it said it was made into a movie and that piqued my interest and I bought it. In another pile of twenty rupee books with another seller I found a book by one of my favourite authors-Ross Thomas. I found a copy of ‘The Mordida Man’ that had a battle worn cover with a lot of scratches but otherwise in good condition.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 06-08-2017)


For the past four continuous weeks it hasn’t rained on Sunday and last Sunday too was no exception. It was sunny and bright last Sunday too and I was a bit confused whether to be happy or be worried. If it hasn’t rained for so long there will be a lot of problems in the countryside, and on the other hand if it doesn’t rain I won’t have any problem at Abids. I hoped it would rain soon and set out for Abids to look for good titles to pick from the thousands of books laid out on the pavements. After a long time I had just one title in the haul and I was pleased with what I found.

Ages ago I came across William Blake’s ‘The Auguries of Innocence’ by William Blake and was spell bound by the four lines I read. I thought the entire poem had only these four lines:

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour


But I was surprised to know that ‘The Auguries of Innocence’ is a long poem with 132 lines. Before writing this post about the book on William Blake that I found at Abids last Sunday I thought I’d check out the poem online. All these years I had the stupid idea that it was a four line poem. How wrong I was, and how dumb of me not to have tried to read the rest of the poem. However, it was only those four lines that I came across somewhere and it is not my fault that I was unaware of the rest of the lines. Anyway, the only book I found at Abids and that too at the fag end of the hunt was a copy of ‘William Blake’ by Arthur Symons. It was a textbook, something I keep away from but since it was on a poet I like I bought it. Looking at it I thought it must have been published abroad. I was quite surprised to see on the back cover that it was published in Kolkata. I got it for fifty rupees.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 30-07-2017)


This Sunday too it was bright and sunny which was good weather but at the same time it had me a bit worried. It means that there hasn’t been any rain for almost two weeks. Out there in the countryside farmers will suffer if there is such a long gap since freshly sown crops would suffer from moisture stress. I hope it would rain in the next few days or else we could be in real trouble.
The Sunday book bazaar at Abids never fails to amaze me with the kind of books it sends into my haul. It is truly something wonderful since I’ve managed to maintain a blog for ten long years just writing about the books I find here. Imagine how many books I must have found here! I must have bought a couple of thousand books in the ten years I’ve had this blog up here. Someday I am going to pay a wonderful tribute to the Abids Sunday book bazaar. Wait for it.
Last Sunday too I ended up with another good haul of four wonderful titles. I had thought of taking a break and not buying anything but as usual I couldn’t resist. The first title I found was ‘A Town Like Alice’ by Nevil Shute. I see several copies of this book at Abids all the time but never thought of picking it up for some reason. Last Sunday however I saw a copy with an attractive cover and picked it just to look at it. I read the back cover and realized I was missing something good so I bought it. I got it for only thirty rupees.
There are some books I buy on impulse. Sometimes they turn out to be well known titles that I was ignorant about. I saw ‘Anya’ by Susan Fromberg Schaffer, a fat volume with a battered appearance. I hesitated for some time wondering whether if it was worth buying. I couldn’t decide but ended up buying it anyway. It seemed a good book though very lengthy that sometimes puts me off. I got it for fifty rupees.
Then there was another book that had a dull, worn out cover that I spotted in a heap of books being sold for twenty rupees. It was ‘Katherine Mansfield- A Secret Life’ by Claire Tomalin. Normally I do not go for biographies as I prefer autobiographies by writers. But this title was different since the subject was a writer and the biographer was a name I had read somewhere recently. The title sounded interesting and I was really curious to know what the secret was. The book on the whole was in a good condition except that the back cover was missing altogether. Despite the missing back cover I bought the book, another fat volume of … pages. I have no idea when I am going to begin reading this book.
The last find was a real treasure. The Sunday before in a heap of ten rupee books with a seller near Bata I had found a wonderful title, ‘A Sand County Almanac’ by Aldo Leopold. Last Sunday again in the same heap I found ‘Crazy Salad’ by Nora Ephron. I haven’t read anything by Nora Ephron but know enough that she is a good writer and so I picked it up. I have already started going through this collection of twenty five essays reading one every day .

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ten Years of the Blog


Ten years ago, I started this blog by putting up the first two posts in the last week of July, 2007. The idea of beginning a blog had taken hold sometime in January in 2007. It took me six months to overcome the hesitation, nerves and also a bit of laziness to finally begin the blog. Since I had decided to start the blog no matter what I hadn’t really thought about what the blog was going to be about. I had a vague idea that I would write about books, a bit of work and a lot about Hyderabad, and whatever that would result whenever I travelled. In the rush to begin the blog it did not occur to me that I should begin with a good post and ended up posting something about the Bata stores not stocking shoe horn and about Bonalu in the very first posts! As the months and years rolled by I realized writing about the books I found at Abids is the safest thing to do along with occasional posts on other issues. Regular readers of the blog would notice that in the past couple of months I have been posting only about The Sunday Haul. It is because I am not finding the time to write about anything else though there is a lot I have to write about. I actually think one can have a blog writing exclusively about the potholes on the roads in Hyderabad.

As the countdown to the completion of ten years of the blog began sometime in May this year or so I thought I’d be overwhelmed when the end of July came around. Now, however I am not experiencing any overwhelming feeling except for a vague sort of question that is buzzing around in my mind about how I could manage to persevere with it week after week. There aren’t many people following my blog and despite this I kept on with the blog posting every Friday with unfailing regularity. I still feel that I am not writing the blog for the sake of the followers but for myself, to get something off my mind. But I am glad there are people following my blog, occasionally leaving comments and I do think of them when I do not feel like writing the Friday’s post. Anyway, I’ve just realized why I have managed to keep the blog alive for a decade.

The only reason why I have been able to sustain the blog for so long is my passion for books. There is no other reason. It helped that my passion was so strong that I wanted to share it with others. I like to think that I have been modestly successful in revealing my love for books and reading in the blog. It has been a long journey but it has been rewarding. I have made a few friends along the way, wonderful people I meet regularly. The only thing I can say is that as long as the passion burns in my heart the blog will continue. The good news is that the passion seems to be growing stronger the older I become.

Thanks, everyone and especially the forty six people following my blog.

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Sunday Haul (on 23-7-2017)

Weatherwise, last Sunday it was exactly opposite to how it was the Sunday before last. If it was cloudy, gloomy with the threat of rain looming all day the Sunday before last, it was sunny and bright last Sunday. Naturally it put me in a good mood when I set out for my weekly visit to the book bazaar at Abids. I wasn’t disappointed that none of my friends had turned up to join me on the hunt for books. Whether it was the weather or the absence of my friends I ended up with six books in the haul, one of the biggest hauls of this year so far. Of these six books four happen to be cookbooks.

The number of cookbooks I have managed to buy so far is far, far more than the number of times I’ve actually cooked anything. There must be around thirty or forty cookbooks on my shelves but so far I’ve cooked something for myself just two or three times. I do not understand why I am picking up cookbooks like they are going out of fashion but every time I see a cookbook at Abids I pick it up. Last Sunday I happened to come across four cookbooks and I bought each and every title I saw.
The first was ‘Indian Food Made Easy’ by Anjum Anand, the graceful and lovely chef. I got this title for a hundred rupees which was too expensive by my standards but somehow I did not want to let it go so I bought it. It was in a good condition and seemed totally unused. Another cookbook title I found also had a simple but beautiful cover. It was ‘Beyond Vegetarian Cooking’ which seemed to be an ISKCON title. The slim volume that I bought for only ten rupees had nearly a hundred and twenty recipes of vegetarian dishes.
The third cookbook I picked up was ‘Vegetarian Indian Cookbook’ by Kaushi N. Bhatia published sometime in the early eighties. As is usual in cookbooks this book too was divided into different sections like rice dishes, breads, sweets, vegetable dishes, salads and so on. It is a simple book of a hundred and eighty pages containing many recipes interspersed with half a dozen thick pages containing colour photographs of some dishes. Somehow I was attracted by the cover and so I picked it up paying just thirty rupees for it. The last cookbook was one I found at Chikkadpally on the way back home. It was ‘Spice & Soul’ by Shakuntala Chamala. It had such a bright and attractive cover that it stood out among the books displayed on the pavement. It seemed brand new and the seller asked for a hundred rupees for it. I hesitated for some time but in the end bought it. I felt glad picking up all these cookbooks though I don’t see any occasion in the near future of trying out some of the recipes in them.
Apart from the cookbooks I managed to find two other titles too. In the spot near Bata one of the sellers has a pile of books that he sells at ten rupees only. Normally I just glance through the titles and walk away but last Sunday for some reason I decided to sift through the haphazardly piled books. I am glad I did it because I fished out a fantastic title. I found Aldo Leopold’s ‘A Sand County Almanac’ which is a nature conservation classic. I was thrilled to find it and dumbstruck that I got it for a mere ten rupees.
The next find was with the same seller but not in the ten rupee pile. I found ‘Girl, Interrupted’ by Susanna Kaysen on a shelf. I’ve come across mention of this book but haven’t really bothered to find out more about it. The book, a memoir actually, about the author spending some time in a mental institution was published in the early nineties. I got it for forty rupees only which isn’t much.