Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bangalore - Article Three : The Bookshops

Bookshops must be on par with the weather and the greenery in Bangalore as amongst the most endearing reasons to love Bangalore. The following are my favourite haunts.

Premier Book Shop (PBS): Tucked away in a little lane, parallel to Brigade Road and located next to the NightWatchman (between MG Road and Church Street), this is the pocket version of bibliophile’s paradise. The owner is a genial, bald, fair gentleman who is extremely sweet. And PBS has been around since I was a kid and began reading. I bought some of my first books from here, when I realized that he gave away discounts of atleast 10%, unlike another large book shop for which my school used to give coupons for. The shop is a bare bones place and has columns of books stacked higher than 6 feet in all corners. There’s just enough space for one person to walk in the two aisles. You cannot pick most books by yourself, unless you have two men in catching positions. But then, there are only so many advantages of running a fabulous bookshop with such classics in such a prime location with such little space. The quality of the books more than makes up for the rather cramped décor. It has a lot of old books that you can pick for a killing. For example, I picked Oscar and Lucinda above for Rs 100! Once, when I was a school kid and found a book which was priced at around Rs 200, even after some 15% discount (since I was a student!) I walked up to the good old man and told him that I had no money for the bus. He gave me a further discount to ensure that I could get home happily. And in those days I didn’t even have a wallet! So how can one not love this place?! Contact:91-80-25091220 for the latest Harry Potter at Rs 640 amongst other things on July 16th.

Blossom (B): Located within a stone’s throw of PBS is B, the newest kid on the block, run by an engineer turned bookseller, Mayigowda, who’s been profiled in the newspapers. Blossom has an astonishing number of good books which are arranged in the order of first names of the authors.However if you know the name of the author, the resourceful ladies will find all the books by the author in an instant, but they can’t recommend perhaps. The USP of the place is the price of the books. Almost all books are priced at around Rs 100-150. So you can get fantastic deals. They do sell new books also. The range of books is extremely tempting and can ruin someone with a light pocket like yours truly. They have a separate section of classics in addition to popular fiction and a section of books by Indian authors (which seems to be a trend these days in some of the upmarket bookshops). Contact: 91-80-25320400

Strand Book Shop: Before the days of Landmark and Crossword, this was the most sophisticated bookshop in Bangalore. The place is run by the Shanbag family who started their first store in Mumbai. And the bookshop was air conditioned. So if one went bookshop surfing as a kid, this was the place to be. And they have a monster sale every year where the discerning reader can pick up fantastic bargains on an extremely wide variety of books from volumes on aviation to ikebana. www.strandbookstall.com

Bookworm: This is another bookshop which is run by someone who has about 80000 books at home since he doesn’t have space in the shop. The books were stacked in separate shelves according to whether they were classics, award winners etc, until the owner had this insane notion that they need to be rearranged. This is part of the Shringar Complex, which is a circular lane of shops on the left - just before Barton Centre when you are walking from the Brigade Road junction and just after Indian Coffee House.

By the way, here’s a new term ‘Indian paperbacks’ - a euphemism for pirate editions of popular books sold by someone whose roadside stall is very close to BW.

Nagasri Book Shop: This is located in the Jayanagar 4th block Complex and is the only bookshop worth its name in the south of Bangalore. The owner is another well read, genial old man, whom you can ask for recommendations if you can’t make up your mind, just like in Premier. However the number of books is less than that in Premier, although the bookshop is much well maintained. You can also pick a few books in Kannada, unlike in Premier. The owner would atleast know that Albert Camus and John Le Carre will appeal to vastly different kinds of people. And in the heydays of the new economy when I asked the man about the discounts offered by Fabmall, an online store, he had asked me to wait and watch if that could be sustained by selling books alone. He said he couldn’t. And time has shown that he was right.

Landmark: Landmark is so humongous that it can easily overwhelm someone on his first visit. It has every kind of book, though not always the best books. You could be more likely to find Dan Brown’s volumes rather than Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451! The sheer scale is awesome and there is the benefit of the computer with a search facility, although on occasions that I have been to Landmark in the recent past, it has been running some other search or is down. There is also the benefit of a large number of service staff, although the number of footfalls makes you fend for yourself. The enormity of the number of books should ensure that you should get what you are looking for 9 times out of 10. And the plastic carry bags they pack your books in have nice trivia on them. www.landmarkonthnet.com

Crossword: Crossword has a store that is smaller in comparison to Landmark although it must be the second largest in Bangalore and has a nice airy feel to it. And unlike Landmark, there are less number of people and more places to sit and read books. I know friends who just go there and read entire books on the weekend! It also has a café run by a popular chain. How I wish it had been a Barista like at the Ahmedabad outlet. And the search facility works well although popularity seems to guide the selection rather than quality, here too. So don’t be disappointed if the frequent result is “Not Found.” And any bookshop with a coffeeshop is worth a visit if you ask me. And they have a free home delivery, which must be a first in Bangalore, atleast. Contact: 91-80-25582411

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To be fair, I guess one can’t make money with such large stalls without the numbers.

As an aside, I am surprised that Amazon is yet to start Indian operations. One would expect that it made sound business sense in the country whose population is supposed to be the most voracious in the world, in addition to having the most number of illiterates! Years ago, I wrote to them asking whether they would deliver in India. They didn’t. I expect that they should in the next year or so.

A nice touch at Crossword is the free bookmarks that they give out with witty quotes on books, including one by Groucho Marx, “Outside of a dog, a book is man;s best friend. Inside of a dog, its too dark to read!”

“Book”ings Now Open

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Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey - Booker Winner 1988

Last Orders by Graham Swift - Booker Winner 1996

Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner - Booker Winner 1984

The Ghost Road by Pat Barker - Booker Winner 1995

Rites of Passage by William Golding - Booker Winner 1980

I bought the first two of the above courtesy a book coupon for Premier Book Shop and the remaining from Blossom (see my next blog in the Bangalore series for more info on these two).

Considering Sweety’s target for us for this year to read as many books as possible, I can say that atleast one half of the task is well on its way – the one of having enough stuff to read. Now the task is to read them! I am currently reading The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck, a book that created a flutter in the cash registers a few years ago. I had kept away from it for precisely that reason. However a comment I made recently on someone’s blog triggered a desire to go and check the book out. So far, the book’s been good to read. There’s no blinding insight in the book. However it does a good job of articulating the process of how one’s character is influenced by parenting, the company one keeps, etc. It also talks about how one’s work ethic can be changed by some simple resolutions, to bring greater satisfaction to one’s life.

For someone who comes from a culture where psychologists do not abound and where seeing the therapist is not exactly like seeing the doctor, this is unusual. Especially some of the advice seems simplistic or obvious for people who have read some of the teachings of the Gita. But then like most good things in our country, the Gita itself is vastly unknown to our people.

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So much for the good stuff.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Bangalore - Article Two: 3 places one must eat at

Vidyarthi Bhavan: If there’s one thing that you had to eat when you were in Bangalore and that’s the last thing you did on earth, then order a masala dosa at this place. Nestled in Gandhi Bazaar, right in the heart of Basavanagudi, is this awesome restaurant. They make a host of other stuff, but the masala dosa is the outstanding item. They had a generous helping of butter on the dosa to add to the taste. And they have survived for decades under the onslaught of several wannabees.

MTR: What’s the one thing that young South Indian housewives and fresh Indian graduates turn to, when they can’t cook – MTR ready mixes which make preparation of sambar, rasam, etc a walk, not to forget the outstanding range of pickles they make. To get to the heart of this establishment, one must get to the place at 9 am in the morning (not earlier or later) and order Rava Idli – the USP of the place. They built their business on the item. By the way, MTR expands to a rather modest sounding Mavalli Tiffin Rooms. This is located within a stone’s throw of Lalbagh, where thousands of people complete their morning walk and then walk across to reclaim their body fat to MTR!

Dwaraka: Yet another Basavangudi establishment. This is located on Bull Temple Road and makes the best ‘khaali’ dosas I have ever eaten. These are the normal, puffed dosas which are non oily and hence ‘plain’ or khaali, and are distinguished from plain dosas in that - these are neither long, nor folded or roasted. They are soft, and delicious.

If you didn’t have much time to visit the above 3, then you must drink the filter coffee my mom makes. I keep telling her that amongst the several reasons she must go to heaven, this one is her bullet point number one!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

You are practical, romantic, a perfectionist and 72 kilos!

was what the ticket from the weighing machine at Jammu station said, when I deposited a brand new Re.1 coin into the slot after the striped disc stopped rotating (I have spent so much time on these machines as a kid)!
It also had Yukta Mukhi's pic on it. (these days she spells her second name as Mookhey)
Found it infinitely amusing. And it sounds more appealing than a fortune cookie.

In fact, this time round, I paid attention to why one has to wait for the disc to stop rotating. The disc is connected thru some kind of a pulley arrangement wherein the string is connected to a common balance kind of setup where the two sides balance off, until the disc stabilizes till a point, which would be your weight.

Since then, I have dropped 3-4 kilos while running every week. Not sure whether I will be less practical, less romantic and less of a perfectionist now! And don't know whose photo will accompany the combo :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Running Demon

After quite some effort at running 10 km consistently below an hr, I finally found my rhythm on Sunday and came 5th in a 10 km race by RFL in 52 mins 37 secs (Last Sunday I had done 12 km in a road race in 1 hr 4 mins). As I told someone, I have exorcised (exercised :) ) my running demon! Hope I can extend it to Mumbai. News is that the Mumbai Marathon the next year is on the 2nd Sunday of January – 14th Jan 2006.

Had a great weekend. Saw Master and Commander. It was long over due. Saw Michael Schumacher return to some form and the podium. Saw Ferrari get some constructor’s points. Saw Top Drive on BBC after a long time and a magnificent car – the new Merc CLS in action. Also saw a funny but daring contest between a Land Rover and a tank in Salisbury as part of the show!

Went thru a rather humbling experience in KQA’s annual solo quiz across 5 cities. Scored miserably on 150 questions. The winner scored 60.

Bought the entire Rabbit series by John Updike for about Rs 300! I love Bangalore.

When you wake up at 5 am to run on a Sunday, you must be crazy or me.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Bangalore - Article One

I intend to write a series of articles on Bangalore, starting today. In the tradition of being a good listener, I thought it is best, if I started with an article by someone else - a new piece by Thomas Friedman

Read on.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Tag

Total Number of Books I Own:
About five hundred or more (growing at a book a week)

Last book I bought:
Its not about the Bike by Lance Armstrong

Last Book I Read:
Currently reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe & Its not about the Bike by Lance Armstrong (I like to read more than a book at a time, unless I am aiming to finish a book in one sitting, which I rarely do these days). Finished Maximum City by Suketu Mehta (If you like Bombay like I do, you’ll like it)

Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me:
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (helped me get through an important phase in life),
Calvin & Hobbes’ Snowman Collection - Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons (This one is linked to an important memory in life) ,
Mahabharatha by Veda Vyasa – incl The Bhagavad Gita (doesn’t matter if it is just the Amar Chitra Katha version, although one must read the Radhakrishnan version),
Practical Vedanta by Swami Vivekananda (part of the The Complete Works - Vol II),
Ramayana by Valmiki (the characters of Sri Rama & Hanuman are obviously characters that touch our lives)

Tag five people and have them do this on their blogs:
Anti, Sivani (on record saying that she dislikes these memes/tags, etc), Krishna Hegde, Sweety & Megha (the last two haven’t blogged for more than a month and I am eager to see both of them do so)

I am a sucker for books and hence am propagating this, as it is always interesting to see what other people have to say, despite having been thru a similar one earlier