We, Shruti, Mamoon, and I, had planned this visit, some time back and yesterday, the 26th of January was a sort of ¾ holiday, and so all of us went to NTR Stadium in the afternoon. Vinod had already visited the fair many times and his blogposts and messages were making me envious. I was looking forward to the secondhand books stalls from where Vinod had made his hauls.
I went looking for the second-hand book stall that had a ‘3-for-100’ section, that Vinod had mentioned. Shruti and Mamoon drifted off elsewhere. It was quite a while later that I found the stall with the ‘3-for-100’ section and it was overcrowded. I hesitated a bit and then waded in. The first few minutes I found nothing interesting, and then this book caught my eye ….
The only reason I picked up this book was because I saw the name of one of my favourite crime writers, Peter Robinson, on the cover. This book had a story by him. I had no idea about the other writers, but the idea of noir stories based on one city sound good to me and the book looked good too. And then I saw this book …
Waah ... another noir!! And why not Paris too … Paris noir sounded good too …
After I reached home, I discovered that there is whole series on this city-based noir anthologies … San Francisco, Los Angeles, Stockholm, Rio, New Orleans, London, Brussels, Baltimore, Memphis, Belfast, Brooklyn … hmmm … now I have a new mission … visit all these cities … and see what noir has to say …
One particular book kept cropping up here and there among the piles, I knew about the book and had read about the author and I remember there was a flurry of articles in papers and magazines when some of his books were translated into English some years ago. I kept temptation aside and continued my search and saw this book. I picked it up and read the blurb on the back …
“He is a brilliant math Professor with a peculiar problem―ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory … She is an astute young Housekeeper―with a ten-year-old son―who is hired to care for the Professor. And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor's mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities―like the Housekeeper's shoe size―and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.”
This was more than enough for me to pick up Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor.
Now that I had three books, I went back to the book that was tempting me. I picked it up and further searches gave me two more from the same series. Aah … this is good … yeh hui na baat … ab baat bani.
Ibne Safi was a prolific India-Pakistani Urdu fiction writer, very popular in the 1960s-70s-80s, who wrote the 125-book series Jasoosi Dunya (The Spy World) and the 120-book Imran Series and … “his novels were characterised by a blend of mystery, adventure, suspense, violence, romance and comedy, achieving massive popularity across a broad readership in South Asia.” I noticed Ibne Safi’s books when they appeared in English translation published by Blaft, translated from the Urdu by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi. The original cover images look smashing … all pulpy and massy and lurid(?). Blaft has so far published four books of the Jasusi Dunya series and I got three of them yesterday. I should have looked harder, I might have found the fourth too.
While all this was going on, Mamoon and Shruti were busy too. Shruti was guiding Mamoon to select books and finally Mamoon ended up with five books, two different sets of pen-pencils, a large map of the world, a reusable notebook, and god knows what else.
Shruti is now seriously into kitchen-gardening and found a stall selling vegetable seeds and picked up some and she saw a mini sewing gadget that looked like a stapler. She was actually looking for something of this kind. I asked her if she found some books, she said she wouldn’t find the sort of academic books she wanted here and that she had made peace with this fact.
They had apparently finished their shopping and left towards the exit and I wanted to visit the remaining stalls. I quickly went towards the last two rows and saw a stall that had a ‘Rs.30’ board. Lots of good-looking books and I wanted to make the best use of the offer. I managed to find one that interested me. The last one turned out to be a gem.
The book-fair ground was heavily crowded and I was pleased to see that and there were lots of children and young adults too. Chalo, despite doomsday predictions about the demise of the physical book and exasperated hand-wringing about indifferent reading habits among the youth and children, the future did look bright at the Hyderabad Book Fair this year.