Friday, February 23, 2018

Double Post Sunday: Post- 2 : Ngugi in Hyderabad

Though I possess four titles by him I haven’t read anything by Ngugi wa Thiong’O until last Sunday. I have a good idea how African writers can touch you with their vivid imagery and beautiful language after reading Chinua Achebe. Achebe’s writing had given me ideas about visiting Nigeria and other African countries to see for myself those lands and those people that these writers have brought alive in the pages of their wonderful books.

Sometime last week Kurmanath of Businessline had tweeted about Ngugi wa Thiong’ O’s visit to Hyderabad. I had read in the papers about Ngugi’s events in Delhi and also Kolkata but I never knew that he was coming to Hyderabad on Sunday. He would be in Hyderabad to launch a Telugu translation of his ‘Dreams in the Time of War’ that I had a copy of! I decided I would go to the event and get the book signed by Thiong’O. It is not every day that a writer who is on the Nobel shortlist comes to Hyderabad. In fact I realized I had another title by him- Petals of Blood- that I had found somewhere. I looked for it in my various bookshelves and found the book.
It was a wonderful evening last Sunday at the NTR Auditorium in Potti Sreeramulu Telugu University in Nampally where Ngugi launched the Telugu translation of ‘Dreams in the Time of War’ and also read out a few passages from it. It was an unforgettable evening for a couple of hundred people who filled up the hall and also spilled outside. However, it became chaotic after the reading since there was a clamour to take selfies with him and also get his signature on books. Everyone crowded around him and people had to be shooed off so he could get some breathing space. Someone decided it would be better if Ngugi signed the books outside. So the queue I was in broke off and began anew at a spot outside the auditorium.
I waited patiently while the others stood in line. One person made Ngugi sign on a thesis. A youngster standing in line before me noticed that I had two books in hand. He offered to get Ngugi’s signature on one of the books and took ‘Petals of Blood’ from me. Somehow I got his signature on the book in my hand. Afters sometime the youngster returned ‘Petals of Blood’ to me and said he got Ngugi to sign twice! I looked inside and found two pages on which Ngugi had signed!
Now after the event I checked my blog once more and found that I had found copies of ‘Devil on the Cross,’ Ngugi’s most famous novel perhaps, and also ‘Secret Lives’ a collection of short stories. I have never felt so dumb before failing to take these books along to get them signed by Ngugi. No wonder I work for the government.

Double Post Sunday: Post-1: The Sunday Haul (on 18-02-2018)

Quite often I find myself all alone at Abids when my usual friends do not turn up for our Sunday morning ritual. On such occasions I’m a bit disappointed but it helps me to look at the titles on display on the pavements without much distraction. The first title I found was a nice copy of ‘Meals with Vegetables’ published by the Radhasaomi Satsang Beas organisation. Though it had recipes of all sorts of dishes from all over the world there were some recipes of Indian dishes too. It was too good let go and so I bought it for seventy rupees which was a bit on the higher side.
The next find too was another cookbook that I spotted in a heap of books selling for twenty rupees. I saw a tattered copy of ‘Pure Vegetarian Indian Cookery’ by Pritam Uberoi. Leafing through it I found a few interesting recipes which I thought I would want to try out someday when the missus would let me enter the kitchen.
Then in another heap of books selling for only twenty rupees I saw a nice copy of ‘A Touch of Danger’ by James Jones. Now I haven’t yet read anything by James Jones though there is a copy of his ‘From Here to Eternity’ that I look at now and then and balk at reading such a thick tome. I thought this smaller book would be a good way to get started on James Jones and what’s more it was a thriller so I picked it up.
After finishing at Abids I stopped at Chikkadpally on the way home and right away spotted a copy of ’84, Charing Cross Road’ by Helene Hanff that had a cover different from the covers of the three copies I had at home. This would be my fourth copy and I bought it since I was getting it for only thirty rupees. It was a Penguin edition and had such a lovely cover you could say I bought it for the cover alone.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Sunday Haul (on 11-02-2018)

On some Sundays I am compelled to a brief visit lasting less than an hour at Abids. On such occasions I do a sort of whirlwind tour of some of the sellers where there is the possibility of finding something new. Last Sunday I had a function to attend and though I had decided in the morning not to go to Abids I changed my mind at the last minute and went. Even before I could go to the café at Abids to have chai with my friends I had already found two titles.
A long time back I had found a copy of Chandra Padmanabhan’s ‘Dakshin: Vegetarian Delicacies from South India’ that I had got quite cheap. Last Sunday I came across another copy but with a different cover. It was ina good condition and after some initial hesitation I bought it.
The second find too was another cookbook. I had bought a copy of Thangam Philip’s ‘Modern Cookery’ somewhere and so the name was familiar. I came across a copy of ‘A Touch of Spice’ that was in a good condition. It was a small, attractive book that I bought right away for just thirty rupees.
Though I wanted to check out other sellers I was running late to a function I had to attend so I left after just a little under an hour’s browsing at Abids that yielded two titles.

Friday, February 09, 2018

The Sunday Haul (on 04-02-2018)

Until I reached Abids last Sunday I was of a firm resolve in mind. I had decided not to buy any books at Abids since I had picked up twenty six books at the Hyderabad Book Fair less than a week ago. It would be madness to add more books to the large haul or so I thought until I saw a mouth-watering title on the shelf with one of the sellers at Abids. I saw a nice copy of ‘The East Indian Kitchen’ by Michael Swamy that had the sort of cover that mades me go weak at the knees. I had come across the name ‘Michael Swamy’ only the previous week somewhere. I decided I would buy just one title and temporarily put my resolve on hold. I got this wonderful title for seventy rupees.
A week before my birthday a dear friend asks me which title I would like to get as a present. This year I decided to ask for a cookbook and while searching for something good I came across ‘The Complete Vegetable Cookbook’ by Vasantha Moorthy that looked good but the price was too, too high. So I opted for something different and got it only today. The second title I found at Abids last Sunday was a copy of ‘The Complete Vegetable Cookbook’ by Vasantha Moorthy. I did not hesitate because I was getting it for just a hundred rupees whereas the online price was over five thousand rupees. However the copy I found was in a good condition except that the bound pages were detached from the spine on the inside. It was a big disappointment since everything else was in good shape. But I bought it since it wasn’t something that couldn’t be fixed. I could glue together the cover and the rest of the book.
Then just as I was thinking that there was no chance I would find another title I would be tempted to buy I came across a fat book with a cover I couldn’t take my eyes off from. It was a copy of ‘The Portable Plato’ edited by Scott Buchanan. Inside it said ‘Protagoras, Symosium, Phaedo, and the Republic, complete, in the English Translation by Benjamin Jowett.’ It was no small book but was a nearly 700 pages tome. I got it for just fifty rupees. With these three titles the number of books I bought in 2018 so far adds up to thirty six.

Friday, February 02, 2018

The Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Day 5

On all the four days I have been to the Book Fair I haven’t even looked at a regular book stall since there were too many second hand book stalls I wanted to check out. But on my fifth visit to the Book Fair I decided to check out a stall for something I’ve been telling myself I would do since a long, long time. Hindi was my second language at school so it means I can read and write in Hindi. But I have never read anything in Hindi since passing out of school. I loved all the stories and poems I read in the text books in school. I have always wanted to read a Hindi novel since it makes no sense knowing a language pretty well and not reading good books in that language. It seemed pretty dumb to me so I promised myself I would read a classic novel in Hindi. I made this promise about four or five years ago and on my fifth visit to the book fair I came closer to keeping this promise. I saw the stall of Milind Prakashan and looked around. I had written down a few titles and a few authors I wanted to find at the book fair and one of them was ‘Gunahon ka Devta’ by Dharam Vir Bharti. I found a nice copy of ‘Gunahon ka Devta’ by Dharam Vir Bharti and picked it up. I hope to start reading it someday soon.
In the book stall where there was as a heap of books selling three for hundred rupees I looked for good titles. Ever since I’ve read ‘The Gathering’ by Anne Enright I have been a huge fan of her writing. Sometime back I had found a copy of ‘The Pleasures of Eliza Lynch’ and I looked forward to reading other Anne Enright titles. Only last month I found a copy of 'The Green Road' too but I haven't yet started reading it. At one of the second hand book stalls I found a copy of ‘The Forgotten Waltz’ by Anne Enright and picked it up as the first of the set of three books I could buy for hundred rupees.
Another writer I enjoyed reading is William Trevor. I already have a copy of ‘Love and Summer’ by William Trevor but when I saw another copy of the same title I picked it up as the second book of the set. I want to give it to anyone who asks me to recommend a good book to read. I couldn’t find a third book to make up the set of three so I decided to buy a different book. I think it was my friend Jai who told me that Carl Muller’s books were funny. I saw a copy of ‘The Jam Fruit Tree’ by Carl Muller and bought it thinking of what Jai had told me. I hope I enjoy reading it.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Day 4

When the Hyderabad Book Fair begins in Hyderabad excitement builds up in my life. I cannot help thinking about the books in the stalls all the time. The excitement is so intense that I tell myself that I would just visit the stalls and only look at the books. But I end up buying all those titles I happen to spot. On the fourth day’s visit to the Hyderabad Book Fair I ended up buying three more wonderful titles adding to the dozen or more titles that I had already bought in the previous visits.
In a second hand book stall by a Hyderabad based seller I happened to look closely at each and every title though I had already gone through the stall a couple of times before. I spotted ‘Matchbox; Stories’ by Ashapurna Debi, an almost new book that I immediately grabbed it. There were too many people poking around in the rows of books laid out on the table and grabbing is the only way you can prevent a book from being snapped up by someone else. I have read about Ashapurna Debi and had not expected to find her stories in English. There are twenty one stories in it translated into English from the original Bengali by Prasenjit Gupta. There’s also a lengthy introduction (33 pages long!) by Jhumpa Lahiri that turned out to be an extract from her thesis on Ashapurna Debi. I got the book for only fifty rupees.
The next find was in the same stall. I spotted a nice copy of ‘All About H. Hatterr’ by GV Dessani. I already have three copies of this title but I couldn’t resist picking up another copy because I am not able to put into words how wonderful and unique this book is. This book is a real rare treasure and I am truly lucky to find my fourth copy.
I had seen copies of ‘The Wandering Falcon’ by Jamil Ahmed in the earlier book fairs too and elsewhere also. Though I wanted to read this book the price prevented me from buying it. I was excited to find another good copy in a book stall of a Mumbai based seller. I thought he'd ask for two hundred rupees or more. But I was lucky this time as the seller said I could have the hardcover book for just a hundred rupees. I took it and am now planning to begin it right away.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Day 3

Not quite content with the ten titles I picked up at the Hyderabad Book Fair on my two visits I went there again on the fourth day. There were several stores I hadn’t looked in so in the short time I had before the fair closed for the day I managed to look at two stalls, carefully combing through the racks I found two good titles. I spotted a nice copy of ‘Collected Short Stories’ by Kingsley Amis. There’s an interesting introduction by Amis in this along with the following sixteen stories:

My Enemy’s Enemy; Court of Enquiry; I Spy Strangers; Moral Fibre; All the Blood Within Me; Dear Illusion; Something Strange; The 2003 Claret; The Friends of Plonk; Too Much Trouble; Hemingway in Space; Who or What Was It?; The Darkwater Hall Mystery; The House on the Headland; To See the Sun; and Mason’s Life
Then in a stall I had already been to and picked up several titles I was surprised to find another title that I love-‘The Groaning Shelf’ by Pradeep Sebastian. I do not know how I had missed this title on my previous visits but I thanked the heavens for having found it. I know I already have two copies of this same title but this was a used copy but it didn’t look like it because it was so pristine and almost new. I would have been stupid not to have bought it and so picked it up. I got both these books for three hundred rupees.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Sunday Haul (on 21-1-2018)

On the last Sunday of July last year I had found a nice copy of ‘Crazy Salad’ by Nora Ephron and had got it for just ten rupees. ‘Crazy Salad’ was a collection of personal essays that I enjoyed reading very much for their wit and language. Then last Sunday before going to the Hyderabad Book Fair that was going on I decided to go to Abids and take a quick look around. I was lucky and found another title by Nora Ephron- ‘I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts On Being a Woman’ that is again another collection of personal essays. But I did not get it as cheap as ‘Crazy Salad’ and had to pay sixty rupees for it.
These are the essays in it:

I Feel Bad About My Neck
I Hate My Purse
Serial Monogamy: A Memoir
On Maintenance
Blind as a Bat
Parenting in Three Stages
Moving On
Me and JFK: Now It Can Be Told
Me and Bill: The End of Love
Where I Live
The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less
The Lost Strudel or Le Strudel Perdu
On Rapture
What I Wish I’d Known
Considering the Alternative

After finding this I rushed to the Hyderabad Book Fair at NTR Stadium along with my friends. However I couldn’t find anything and returned home with Nora Ephron’s book.

The 31st Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Day 2

Not content with the haul of five books I made on my visit to the book fair on the first day I went again the next day.
A long time ago I had read a review of Veena Venugopal’s ‘Would You Like Some Bread with that Book?’ but managed to get it only a year ago. It is a slim title containing about a dozen delightful essays on books and reading. If you love books and reading then you have to get hold of this book and read it and feel good. I then got to know that Veena Venugopal (until recently editor of ‘Blink’ the Saturday supplement of Business Line) had written another book- ‘The Mother-in-Law’ that I forgot about. At one stall in the book fair I came across a copy of ‘The Mother-in-Law’, a Penguin title. In the same stall I also saw a nice copy of ‘On a Clear Day You can See India’ by C. Balagopal that a friend had told me I should read and so I took both these books.
In another stall there was an offer of three titles for a hundred rupees. The first title I saw in that heap was a copy of ‘Woman in the Dark’ by Dashiell Hammett that I did not have. I was thrilled to find another Hammett title but I had to find two more titles. Then I saw a copy of ‘Atlas of Impossible Longing’ by Anuradha Roy that I already have but nevertheless decided to hold it until I found another title to replace it. I couldn’t find anything else and so to make up for the third book I picked up a copy of ‘Somebody Owes Me Money’ by Donald E. Westlake that appeared like a thriller.
So these were the five books I found at the 31st Hyderabad National Book Fair on my second visit on the second day of the fair. I still haven’t covered all the second hand book stall in the fair completely so it meant that I had to make a couple more visits.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The 31st Hyderabad Book Fair Haul- Day 1

The most impatient person in the world last Thursday was yours truly. Last Thursday the 31st Hyderabad National Book Fair was going to begin in the evening and all day since waking up I was feeling restless for it to be evening. I think I broke some speed records as well as some traffic rules last Thursday rushing from my office at Jubilee Hills to NTR Stadium in a little more than half hour, which is half the time I take to reach home. On Thursday I wouldn’t have stopped for anything, not even for a free biryani. By the time I parked the bike, bought a ticket and rushed in there was a huge crowd inside like it was the last day of the book fair and they were offering free books to all visitors. Every year the crowd seems to be growing bigger and bigger. I rushed straight to the stalls of the second hand booksellers and ended up with a haul of five books.
The first find was in a stall which had a separate table where the offer was of ‘three books for 100 rupees. ‘I saw Hitch 22’ by Christopher Hitchens and grabbed it. The next find was ‘Mr Naipaul’s Round Trip and Other Essays’ by TGA Vaidyanathan which I picked up after I saw that one of the essays inside was ‘Memoirs of a Bibliophile’ and that alone was worth buying the book for. There was another book to make up for three books so after a search I decided to buy ‘The Best of Betjeman’ Selected by John Guest, which was a collection of poetry, prose and also a television script. I’ve read about John Betjeman but haven’t found anything by him so coming across this book was a lucky thing.
I never got to read ‘The Broom of the System’ by David Foster Wallace that I had found somewhere because a good friend of mine asked for it. I gave it to her because though we have never met I consider a really good friend. She is the sort of good friend who always gives me books as gifts for my birthday. I saw a good copy of ‘A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again’ by David Foster Wallace, a collection of just seven essays that I bought along with another book for two hundred and fifty rupees. Somehow this year the sellers are not selling their books cheap and there isn’t the usual 10% discount this year which is adding to the misery of letting some books go because you cannot afford to buy them.
Sometime ago I found a copy of ‘They Came Like Swallows’ by William Maxwell that I had picked up on a hunch. I haven’t read it yet. I had also found a nice copy of 'Time Will Darken It' that I haven't yet read either. But at the book fair another book I found was a nice copy of ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ by William Maxwell again. This title is chosen by Ann Patchett (who won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2002) as a book that she would pass on to the next generation. In the introduction to the book Ann Patchett also writes about reading ‘They Came Like Swallows’ also. I felt glad that I now have both titles to read since she praises William Maxwell very highly calling him a genius. By the way, I haven’t read anything by Ann Patchett but plan to do so after reading this wonderful introduction.

By the time I had looked into only a handful of second hand book stalls it was closing time. There were still many I have to check out so I left feeling disappointed. I decided to make another visit the following day.