So, I set out to hunt books at Abids on Sunday after a gap of almost 6 months. During these 6 months, the thought of going to Abids occurred several times, but most of the times it was the ‘spirit willing, flesh weak’ syndrome that made me stay put at home, and other times there was something or the other at home that required my presence or attention. Vinod had also enquired why I had not been Abid-ing all these days. This time, Shruti also pushed me into going to Abids. And so, I went this last Sunday to Abids to hunt books and to meet Vinod, Umashankar, and Srikanth.
I reached at around 11 o’ clock and rang up Vinod, and I got a ‘switched off’ message. I started wondering and then stopped wondering. There was a heap of books where I was standing and I dove in. In the same place earlier, the heap used to be very small, but now there were lots of books. There were many that I wanted to buy, but hesitated and continued looking. I found an Adam Dalgliesh mystery by P D James. I haven’t read any Adam Dalgliesh mystery so far and not because of lack of opportunities. You’ll finds lots of P D James at Abids on any given Sunday. So, let me make a beginning I thought and picked up Original Sin.
I then saw a good copy of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. I had read this novel earlier in 2005 when it was released in India. Anyway, I had thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The novel belongs to a sub-genre of crime fiction which is now being called ‘Bibliomysteries.’ The Shadow of the Wind is set in Spain and begins with the ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books,’ hidden in the heart of the old city of Barcelona. This was a good copy and I didn’t have the heart to leave it behind. Vinod usually picks up good copies of novels that he already has and read, and gifts them to his friends. I had emulated this ‘good habit’ earlier and had gifted a couple of ‘Abids’ books to a student of mine. I picked The Shadow of the Wind and hope to find an interested reader for this!
Then I saw a Peter Robinson novel. Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks novels are a favourite of mine, more so because I had picked up a couple of Inspector Banks novels on a hunch at a Best Books sale a couple of years ago and found them to be really good. So, Peter Robinson was ‘my discovery.’ And happily enough, the Peter Robinson novel that I saw and picked up turned out to be an ‘omnibus,’ two novels in one volume – Dry Bones that Dream and The Hanging Valley. I quickly scanned my memory bank to check if I had already read these titles. The results were hazy, and there was still a chance that I hadn’t read these two titles. It is quite possible I thought, that I had read some other police procedural novel, possibly Ian Rankin’s, which also had ‘hanging’ or ‘bones’ in the title. Either way, no loss I thought, if not, I could always gift it away.
I paid for the three books (Rs.80!) and put them in my bag. I then turned around to check the smaller pile, and lo and behold (!), I saw Vinod, Uma, and Srikanth, walking towards the same stall. After all the ‘hi-s’ and ‘hello-s,’ I told Vinod that I had received a ‘switched off’ message when I had called him. He said he had changed his number now that he is in Nalagonda. This was news to me. He said he had gone back to his earlier department and now transferred to Nalagonda. Uma and Srikanth were searching among the pile of books and each found a different edition of the well-known chef Anthony Bourdain’s book. I think it was Kitchen Confidential, I am not sure though. I continued my search in the smaller pile and picked up a book I felt I had read about and I am sure it was in the news when it came out – A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. The title itself was intriguing enough and the blurbs all over the front and back and inside told me that the novel had won a couple of prizes (Bollinger Everyman and SAGA) and was longlisted (Booker) and shortlisted (Orange), and that it has been translated into 27 languages. There were lots of excerpts from reviews and the most common adjective used, among the many, to describe it was, ‘funny.’ That sort of settled the matter for me.
I saw another book with an arresting green, black, and red cover with an outline (silhouette!) of a donkey in the centre. I had never heard of the author (Patricia Lynch) or the title (The Turf-Cutter’s Donkey) before. A small blurb on the back cover informed me that this story is a classic of children’s literature and ‘remains one of the most magical and exciting of Irish fantasies’ and also that it was ‘for readers aged 8-12.’ Mamoon is seven now and she would be ready to be able to read it in a couple of years’ time. I picked it up for Mamoon’s fledgling library, but I will read it too.
I had got 5 books from one stall, and that too the first stall I visited. I was sated and happy. We all trooped into the nearest Irani and in between slurps of chai and bites of biscuit, we talked about books and films, with the Marathi film, Sairat, dominating the conversation. We then trooped out and continued with our hunt. My bag was full and I was too satisfied to carry on. But carry on I did and did the whole round and somewhere I lost the other three. I remembered that Shruti had asked me to pick up a few colouring and art books for Mamoon. I found a seller with a whole heap of such books and bought around 10 books for Mamoon.
On my way back, I saw Uma and Srikanth walking towards me and asked me if I had seen Vinod. I told them I saw his head somewhere and by the time I reached the spot, he had disappeared and that he was probably engulfed by the books. They moved on and I moved on.