Friday, February 20, 2009

Desperately Seeking Scrappy

This is Scrappy and he belongs to Amfrid Sequeira. He's been missing since the 14th of February (a fine day to go missing!) and as you can see, he's not in very good shape right now. His left ear has been operated upon and bandaged, which is why he's wearing the scratch guard. He might still be wearing it too.

If you're in Bombay, please look out for Scrappy and mail me at once for Amfrid's number if you see him. And please let as many people know as you can — there's someone waiting for Scrappy to come home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

On a Maiden Voyage...

... to Empyrean Isles is where I'm headed.

In two hours, I will be watching a concert that I cannot believe I'm actually going for. In two hours, as part of the Living Dream Concert (to celebrate 50 years of Martin Luther King's visit to India), Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan, and I will be sharing the same general breathing space. Don't ask how I got that lucky — I try not to think about it.

And if they do some kind, any kind, of version of I Feel for You, I'm telling you, I will have no regrets about a sudden death. Hopefully, the NCPA will let me take my camera in. More when I'm back and coherent — until then, you enjoy this video.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thank God for the Competition!

You have no idea how I've fantasized of something like this ever since I read this post. Being out of Hyderabad, I asked the beloved ex-professor to keep her eyes open for any whisper of such riches. Two years have passed in vain. But one lazy Sunday not one month ago, all my fantasies abruptly came true. The competition, you see, has been on an unimaginably massive spring cleaning drive. Ergo, quite unfortunately, some the best deals I've EVER got on books have not been at my store. (If you're counting second-hand bookstores in Hyderabad whence come most of my books, nowhere else is really a good deal but that's another post.) Sample the kind of discount I mean — on a cover price of 735, flat 80% discount. The least discount on anything I bought was 70%!

As you'll see, most of these books are the stuff my salacious forays into bookstores, mine or not, are made of. The question might then arise — why, Extempore, would you never give me deals like these at your store? The reason's simple, dearie. We never have to get rid of books. Enough said though — it's not quite right to be ungrateful for unexpected generosity. I'm resisting the urge to list the books under neat sub-headings the way I normally would but I cannot resist organizing them category-wise any way!

Ted Hughes selected by Simon Armitage

Wilfred Owen selected by Jon Stallworthy

Alfred, Lord Tennyson selected by Mick Imlah

George Herbert selected by Jo Shapcott

(All four part of the fabulous Faber and Faber Poet-to-Poet series)

A choice of Kipling's Verse selected by T.S Eliot

Out of Fashion ed. by Carol Ann Duffy

The Universal Home Doctor - Simon Armitage

North - Seamus Heaney

Moortown Diary - Ted Hughes

The Elder Statesman - T S Eliot

Ape and Essence - Aldous Huxley

Laughter in the Dark - Vladimir Nabokov

The Final Solution - Michael Chabon

Soldiers of Salamis - Javier Cercas

On Green Dolphin Street - Sebastian Faulkes

First Love and Other Shorts - Samuel Beckett

Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates - Tom Robbins

The Vintage Book of War Fiction
ed. by Sebastian Faulks and Jorg Hensgen

Beckett Remembering, Remembering Beckett - a completely yummy collection of unpublished interviews with Beckett and memories of his friends/colleagues.

The New Cut Gang: The Gas-Fitter's Ball - Philip Pullman

Wanted! The Hundred-Mile-An-Hour Dog - Jeremy Strong

But of course, reviews/observations/poems will follow — I'm currently in a graphic novel and children's literature (more on that sooner) phase though.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Hyderabad Days

Eight years ago, for a lost 21 year old, a hesitant, lukewarm romance began in the cold distance of an unknown city. I was far removed from the roaring of a life in Bombay that was waiting to be dealt with maturely. I came of age on the Hyderabad University Campus. From the first hidden drag of a cigarette on campus, university and in a larger sense, Hyderabad, became about knowing that it was okay — or that at least in time, it would be. It is where dogs were chased by calves while I picked my way carefully through the cow dung of my life. It is where I was invited to shove off from classrooms and a pokey office in the back of the English department was refuge from the maelstrom. It is where I was steadied by bangles, biryani, and best friends.

Most people laugh when I still speak of Hyderabad as home. This is mainly because every time I'm asked if I know the new places in Hyderabad, I shake my head. You see, I never have the time for new places. There are too many old haunts to pay my respects to. For one, there's Amfah Hotel in Mehdipatnam for its fragrant kalyani biryani. Of all the holes-in-the-wall in Hyderabad, this be the favourite. When Chachaji sees me come down the steps, there's no stopping the smile on either of our faces. The instructions are always simple - whatever I order, double the quantities of meat and salan! Then there's Famous Ice-cream at Mozamjahi Market. S and I have sat here afternoons, ordering one cup after another of the most delicious, non-creamy kharbhooza and chickoo ice-cream. The cup is always a double scoop and its price — the princely sum of 7 bucks!

But a rambling, pointless nostalgia is not why I am writing this. This is a function of an ability to let go. All things must change and in the eight years since I've called Hyderabad home, much has changed in the city's geography. And the altered face of this city seems to reflect the shift in my relationship with it. For years together, Hyderabad was primarily about people and the campus. Abruptly the city shifted. Or people shifted. Or time shifted. Or something shifted and I was suddenly a stranger. Where I would make up to six visits a year, I have made only two in the last three and I wouldn't have had the courage unless I could go to Road No 10. Or if there wasn't always a window ledge to perch on in a pokey little office at the back of the English Department — or a place at a table in Mehdipatnam.

This visit I have wondered if I delude myself by calling it home. The rickshaw wallahs aren't as friendly (or honest!) as they used to be and the malls are everywhere, replacing dilapidated petrol pumps and small little buildings, clogging up Road No 1. Coffee house chains have sprouted through old rambling bungalows on winding roads in Jubilee Hills. My favourite drive through the city — from the University, through Hi-Tech City, and then finally down to KBR Park — is now lost in a never ending maze of huge and ugly apartment blocks and office buildings.

But somehow, somewhere I've discovered that I love Hyderabad differently now because I have known what it is to be a stranger here. I've known the old city with cheeky young men driving me around in their rickshaws, showing me its ashurkhanas and khilwats. I've known what it is to stand on the other side of the desk at my alma mater, awestruck at the affection of my betters. I've known what it is to finally let go, picking a rather late way back to Bombay. Today, I have an independent paramour in the romance that wafts through every hot breeze and in the crisp winter night air.

Today, thankfully, Hyderabad is still home.