Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Fountain Pen Haul at Pune- 3 FPs from Kale Pens

There are many cities in the country I haven’t been to and Pune happens to be one of them. After a long time I got the chance to travel on office work, only this time it happened to be to attend a training program at Pune. Actually, I volunteered to go since I wasn’t feeling very cheery being cooped up at the Secretariat here for months together. It had become so tedious and boring this chance to go to Pune came like a heaven sent opportunity. One of the things I do before I visit any place is to check if there are any places where I can get second hand books or fountain pens that are locally made.

As it happened it rained the two days I was at Pune. I can withstand anything, intense heat, or even low temperatures, anything like that except rain. In fact, I hate it when it rains. Others may find it romantic to be out in the rain but if I get wet it triggers my sinus problems. It is one reason why I hate rain. Another reason is that it puts me in a bad mood. So I was in a bad mood when I reached Pune late in the night. It got worse when two friends I was supposed to meet changed plans literally at the last minute. I decided to venture out to look for Kale Pens which I had read about on a blog.
Kale Pens was near the Dadgu Seth Temple and I stopped it quite easily. It is a very small store with the air of a shop that had been around for quite a long time. Everything in it seemed ancient, the shelves, the pens (which weren’t many) and a few photographs. I spotted the fountain pens in the counter and the person took them out to show them to me. The pens were of plastic and did not seem very attractive but nevertheless I bought three of them. Each pen was just thirty rupees. Though not very attractive, the pens seemed simple and functional, just the type I prefer. The person pressed the nib on the corner of the table and dipped it in ink and scribbled to test how it wrote. He did it with all the three pens I chose before giving them to me.
After buying the three fountain pens at Kale Pens my mood improved a little despite the rain. I walked around for a while on the slushy roads of the buzzing market place. There wasn’t much traffic around which was quite a change for me from the mad traffic in Hyderabad. The drivers of the cars and other two wheelers did not seem to be in any hurry to get anywhere unlike those in Hyderabad who drive as if they are in a tearing hurry to reach their destinations. I had missal-pav in a small eatery near the temple and a tumbler of tea at another joint behind the temple before heading to the institute. I spent the day with suppressed anticipation, wondering when I would get back to Hyderabad, fill the pens with ink and try them out.

Back at home in Hyderabad I filled ink in one of the pens and tried it out. The nib was smooth and the pen was light in the hand. However the ink dried up after writing a couple of lines. It was not unexpected but I disappointed with the performance fountain pen. I am hesitant to fill up ink in the other two pens and try them out.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Haul at Pune- Two Books

Last week I was in Pune on office work. Pune did not seem to have any place where second hand books were available. Of course there were posts on the net about some places but I wasn’t sure I would be able to check them out. As it happened it rained the two days I was at Pune. On the first day the training session I was attending went on until five in the evening. It was still raining but it was a light drizzle so I decided to check out one of the main streets of Pune and look for the fountain pen store I had read about on a blog. Kale Pens was the store I was looking for.
Later on the way back to the institute where I was staying the autorickshaw I was in was caught in a traffic jam. I happened to look around and saw a shop dealing in newspaper scrap. Even from that distance I could see that there were books on the shelves on the walls of the shop and I realized I might find something there. I decided to come the next day to check them out at leisure. I had the sense to find out the name of the location and I also noted a few names of stores. The store was somewhere in a place called Deepbungalow, Gokhalenagar. Luckily for me the training program ended quite early and I was able to get out of the institute. It wasn’t raining though there were dark clouds hovering above.
I managed to locate the store (Gyaneshwar Raddi, beside Canara Bank, Model Colony Branch) quite easily. There were a few dozen books and I quickly glanced at the titles feverish with anticipation. I hoped to find something good like a title I was looking for since a long time. Though I did not find what I was looking for I found a nice copy of a rare Pearl S Buck title. I hadn’t heard of ‘Mandala’ by Pearl S Buck but I picked it up anyway since it was in good condition. Next I found a nice Penguin copy of ‘Metamorphosis and Other Stories’ by Franz Kafka. I got these two titles for a hundred and fifty rupees which seemed to be not too high a price. I asked the person if there were any other stores around selling second hand books but he said he did not know. But later on I went to Pune camp and somewhere I came across another raddi store which had books on the shelves. But the shopkeeper’s assistant said it was too crowded with piles of newspaper bundles and other stuff and I couldn’t check right away. The elderly storekeeper told me to come the next day. I said I was leaving early in the morning. He checked with his assistant again but he said it was impossible. So I walked on. I guess it is in such stores in Pune that one is likely to find second hand books.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 19-07-2015)

Occasionally the haul consists entirely of titles belonging to one specific genre. Last Sunday at Abids out of my haul of three books two were short story collections. I am always in search of good short story collections and last Sunday I was happy to find a collection of stories by various writers such as Katherine Mansfield, William Faulkner, Ted Hughes and other well known names including two or three names I am not familiar with.
The first book I picked up was a collection of short stories titled ‘Modern Short Stories’ edited by Jim Hunter. I bought this book for only thirty rupees.

This nice title has the following fifteen stories:
The Peaches by Dylan Thomas
The Wedge-Tailed Eagle by Geoffrey Dutton
Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield
Ha’penny by Alan Paton
The Rain Horse by Ted Hughes
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber
The Road by James Hanley
Growing Up by Joyce Carey
Lie Thee Down, Oddity by T.F.Powys
Samphire by Patrick OBrian
Tickets, Please by D.H.Lawrence
Indian Camp by Ernest Hemingway
The Ice Palace by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner
The Wharf by Walter De La Mare
The other short story collection I found shortly afterwards was ‘The Matisse Stories’ by A.S. Byatt that I got for only fifty rupees. The book is in a wonderful condition and looks quite new. It has a signature and a date 20 April 95 which means that it is twenty years old. But it looks quite new. It has only three stories: Medusa’s Ankles, Art Work, and The Chinese Lobster.
The third and last book in the haul was by a writer I like immensely for the way he writes. I found ‘My Years with BOSS at Gemini Studios’ by Ashokamitran. It is a slim volume, as all his books are, with just forty four pages. I got this for only twenty rupees. It was a great find I guess.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 12-07-2015)


Most Sundays I am in luck while looking for books at Abids and regularly land some good titles. But on some Sundays I am extra-lucky. Last Sunday turned out to be one such Sunday. Though I found only two books they were titles by authors normally difficult to find, especially an author not many had heard of until last year. When it was announced in November last that he had won the Nobel Prize in Literature no one seemed to know much about Patrick Modiano. At that time I had thought that it would be tough, if not impossible, to find any book by Patrick Modiano since he happened to write in French. Of course, I had forgotten about it all until last Sunday.
It was at Chikkadpally, on the way back home that I spotted a copy of ‘The Search Warrant’ by Patrick Modiano. I would have missed finding it had I not looked at the name a second time after retrieving the book from under another bulky book where it was almost hidden. ‘The Search Warrant’ is a slim volume, just 137 pages long and the copy I found was in beautiful condition and appeared to be almost new. However, there was a small bit missing from a few pages and it looked like a termite job. I did not mind it because it is impossible to find a secondhand copy of a book by someone like Patrick Modiano. I felt lucky finding it and luckier still that I had paid only fifty rupees for it.
At Abids, before I found ‘The Search Warrant’ I had picked up another copy by another writer who is likely to win the Nobel in the near future, maybe this year. I found a good copy of Haruki Murakami’s ‘Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman’ that I managed to buy for only fifty rupees. It is a collection of 24 short stories and this is the second copy I have with me. Long back I had found a hard cover copy of this same title at Abids and I had got it at a much cheaper price. I paid only twenty rupees for this wonderful collection of short stories by Murakami.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Sunday Haul

Three weeks into the month of Ramzan some of the shops in Abids opened their doors on Sunday to let in the surging crowds of shoppers. This meant that the sellers of second hand books who normally set shop on the piece of pavement before these stores had to shift to other places. This was a displaced Abids book bazaar that I saw last Sunday. Another Sunday and things would be normal with each seller sitting at his usual place on the pavement. The clear day seemed to bring in more Ramzan shoppers outnumbering those who had come to look at the second hand books.
Ever since I got the idea to rebuild my Len Deighton collection I have been finding one or the other title in the trilogies. The other Sunday I had found a good copy of ‘Spy Line’ by Len Deighton, the second of the Hook, Line, and Sinker trilogies. Earlier I had found ‘Faith’ in the Faith, Hope, and Charity trilogy. This Sunday I found the first title ‘Spy Game’ of the Game, Set, and Match Trilogies. I found this title in the thirty rupee heap. At this rate it won’t be long before I rebuild the three trilogies.
About a month ago or so I had seen two travel books, both by Indian authors. I had spotted ‘Roadrunner’ by Dilip D’Souza and also ‘Looking for America’ by Avirook Sen. Coincidentally, they happened to be accounts of the author’s visits to the USA. As usual I thought I would pick them up later and went on. Then when I looked for them a week later I couldn’t find them. I couldn’t spot them the next Sunday too. So I thought some smart soul must have picked them up. I had seen a copy of ‘Roadrunner’ at another second hand bookstore and I didn’t regret missing this copy at Abids but I realized I wouldn’t be able to find ‘Looking for America’ again. But I was wrong. I found the copy at a different seller and bought it before I changed my mind.
Shortly after finding these two titles I came across a good copy of ‘The Famished Road’ by Ben Okri that I have been trying to find since a long time. Ever since I found and read Chinua Achebe’s wonderful books I have been on the lookout for books by African writers. I have books by Ngugi, Chimamanda Adichie, Binyavanga Wainaina, and others which I have found to be fantastic reads. So when I found this copy of ‘The Famished Road,’ I bought it even though I had to shell out a hundred rupees for it.
With these three books the total tally of books I picked up this year comes to 96. It won’t be very long before it reaches hundred books. I haven’t read half as many so far this year.

Friday, July 03, 2015

The Sunday Haul

Two weeks into the month of Ramzan and the crowds of shoppers doesn't seem to have made many stores at Abids open their shops on Sunday also. It meant that many of the second hand book sellers at Abids could be found at their old places before the store fronts at Abids. Maybe next week things would be different I thought as I began the search for books along with my friends last Sunday at Abids. It was a sunny morning and quite a pleasant day to look for books.
In my continuing bid to read books by Indian writers of the early nineties I keep an eye out for such titles. Last Sunday I found 'Whirlwind' by NS Phadke. 'Whirlwind' is the English translation of the author's original novel written in Marathi. I read that the novel was also serialized in the Çaravan magazine in 1951. The novel is published by Jaico Books and the copy I found was in a good condition. I got it for just twenty rupees.
Recently I had thought of resurrecting my Len Deighton collection when I found 'Faith' a couple of weeks back. This Sunday I found 'Spy Line' in a heap of books selling for thirty rupees. It was in good condition and I think not very soon I will be able to find the other seven titles that make up the three trilogies.
The other day while browsing at a second hand bookstore in Punjagutta I came across a nice copy of Joseph Conrad's 'The Heart of Darkness' that I got quite cheap at fifty rupees only. Sometime back I had found a copy of this title but since it is difficult to find I thought I would buy it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Mid-week Haul

Last Sunday it was pure agony. I was confined at home all day because it was raining since the previous night. On Saturday night I had gone to sleep hoping the skies would clear up by morning so I could go to Abids. Unfortunately my hope did not stand a chance. I experience a kind of deprivation or withdrawal symptoms if I do not go to Abids on Sunday. I manage to get over that feeling by dropping in at a second hand bookstore but it doesn’t feel the same as looking at the books spread out on the pavement. Sometime last week I had dropped in at the Best Books branch at Abids where I saw a book of travel essays and one of which was by Moritz Thomsen. I did not buy it right away which is one fatal mistake I commit quite regularly. Yesterday when I dropped in at the store I couldn’t locate the book. It made me sick.

However, looking around at the books stacked from floor to ceiling in the cramped store I found a book that I had been looking for since quite a long time. I found ‘Fresh-Air Fiend’ by Paul Theroux that I had missed buying the first time I saw it ages ago. Since then I have had my eyes peeled for this book and at last I found it. It made me forget the travel collection I had missed buying. I was ready to spend any amount for this title but fortunately it was only less than two hundred rupees which, still, is quite a high price. But then prices of second hand books in Abids and in second hand book stores aren’t the same.

The copy of ‘Fresh-Air Fiend’ by Paul Theroux that I found was a beautiful copy with a blue cover and it looked quite new. The book is divided into eight parts with a total of more than fifty pieces, all of them related to travel, needless to say. This is a collection of his travel writings during the period 1985-2000. I am interested in reading the pieces in Part Six of the book which deals with Books of Travel- his and others’. I am terribly pleased with myself that I could find this book instead of the book I was looking for.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Blogger in the news


I read therefor I am in the news. I list my five favorite books on books and writing here


Friday, June 19, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 14-06-2015)

After watching the heavy rains last Saturday I felt that the rain would continue on Sunday too. In fact, it rained until early in the morning on Sunday and for sometime it looked like I may have to skip the visit to Abids. I was secretly relieved that I would not have to go to Abids. In the past two weeks I had bought several books and I did not want to buy any more for a while. If I went to Abids I wouldn’t return empty handed. However, the sky cleared up by the time it was ready to go to Abids.
The first book I bought at Abids was ‘The Tennis Partner’ by Abraham Verghese that I bought for only twenty rupees. There were scores of copies stacked on the ground as if someone had decided to dump them all. Almost all the copies were in good condition and I was lucky I got a good copy cheap.
While at Goa in April I had been to a bookstore called Literati where in a room filled with second hand books I found a beautiful hardbound copy of ‘A Summer of Tigers’ by Keki N. Daruwala. I paid seventy five rupees for it since I thought I would not be able to get another copy of this rare title. However, last Sunday I came across another beautiful paperback copy that was almost new. The seller asked for only twenty rupees for it.
On the way back home, I stopped at Chikkadpally where I found two more books. I found ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ and also ‘Cat’s Cradle’ both by Kurt Vonnegut. The copies I found were in good condition and appeared almost new. Unlike the sellers at Abids the guys at Chikkadpally don’t bring down the price much. I had to pay hundred and fifty rupees for these two books.
At another seller at Chikkadpally I found ‘The Art of Dramatic Writing’ by Lajos Egri. I have a similar copy with me that I found years ago in a second hand bookstore in Hyderabad. I paid half of the two hundred rupees I had paid for my first copy. I returned home with this five book haul and spent the rest of the afternoon rearranging the books on the shelves at home to accommodate the latest arrivals.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Sunday Haul (on 07-06-2015)

Three days after landing a great midweek haul at Best Books at Lakdikapul, I found three more books at Abids on Sunday. I found yet another Orient Paperbacks title with that sort of cover that they had sometime in the seventies. I am thinking of collecting these titles published in the sixties and seventies because there is something about these covers that’s appealing. The first book I found, the Orient Paperback title was a classic in Indian Writing in English. I had seen several copies of Raja Raj’s ‘The Serpent and the Rope’ but never could find a good enough copy to buy. Last Sunday I found a good copy of ‘The Serpent and the Rope’ by Raja Rao that had a quaint cover. Inside I saw that the print was in one of those fonts that suggest simplicity and elegance.
My second find was a title that I decided I would give to a friend. I found ‘The Penguin Book of Hymns’ edited by Ian Bradley that I thought would be an ideal gift for Daniel. After I took this home I saw that it had a hundred and fifty hymns including those I had only read about- Amazing Grace, and Lead Kindly Light. The book had a lengthy but interesting note about each Hymn- who wrote it, when, and such interesting details. I read that Lead Kindly Light was the second great hymn by John Henry Newman. It was interesting to read that Newman’s verses were a particular favorite of Queen Victoria and were read out to her as she lay dying in 1901. It gives one how deeply some verses/hymns/poems affect individuals. I will ask Daniel to let me keep the book for some time until I finish reading all the hymns.
The next find was a title by one of my favorite writers- Len Deighton. My collection of his titles has dwindled and so when I saw ‘Faith’ in a heap selling for only ten rupees I picked it up. I plan to rebuild my collection of Len Deighton titles, especially the trilogies- Game, Set, Match; Hook, Line, Sinker; and Faith, Hope, Charity. I see many Len Deighton titles at Abids all the time so it won’t be long before I have them all on my bookshelf.
Apart from these books, the really interesting finds were three volumes of some old Indian poetry magazines that I found at one place. I found ‘Indian Verse’ Vol 2, No. 3 of Summer 74 and Vol 3, No. 1 of Winter 1975. The third volume was Vol. 1 No. 1 of ‘Poetry’ edited by Niranjan Mohanty. In these three volumes were poems by some of the early poets in Indian writing in English such as Pritish Nandy, Nissim Ezekiel, Jayanta Mahapatra, Sitakanta Mohapatra, Shiv K. Kumar and many new names I haven’t heard before.

These three fragile volumes are perhaps reminders of how seriously poetry was taken in those times. I felt glad I found these books and these add to the collections of verse that I am unconsciously collecting these days.