I hate to travel. I feel displaced and lost, and find myself wanting a particular thing — a sweater, a book, the ability to buy cake at a place that I know for sure sells nice cake — that I don’t have in the new place. Recently I went to Hyderabad for all of two days, which arguably isn’t ‘travelling’ but I have to say I had the best time. And not simply for obvious reasons that I’ll come to later.
I didn’t see much of Hyderabad, except for the lake. And the AIR office, strangely. For the most part I was at the University of Hyderabad, which is sprawling and beautiful.
It’s weird how Bangalore and Hyderabad are seen as competitors, more than say Bangalore and Chennai. Particularly during the IT boom, one city was always claiming a victory over the other like children on a playing field. When I came home yesterday one of the first things I was asked was, ‘Which airport is better?’ (Context: both Bangalore and Hyderabad recently built new airports to meet international standards or some such thing. Answer: Hyderabad.)
Of course Bangalore is home, but I really liked what I saw of Hyderabad. Especially the people. Also, most of the people I met were were academicians and/or artists, so I was in heaven.
And what a haul of books. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’d be tired of how I complain about the book ban I’m on. I buy too many, don’t read them all, and this is supposed to be wasteful. So I’m not allowed.
But see, I didn’t buy any books. They were all presents. Have a look:
Insomniac, Amit Chaudhuri, 2004
Countries of the Body, Tishani Doshi, 2006
Lost and certain of it, Bryce Milligan, 2006
Early Women’s Writings in Orissa, 1898 – 1950: A Lost Tradition, edited by Sachidananda Mohanty, 2005
Divers: The Poetry Workshop Anthology, edited by Sudeep Sen, 2008
Apocalypso, Jeet Thayil, 1997
The Blue Bag, Stephen Watts, 2004
Neat, huh? Now I can’t complaining about not being able to find poetry here.
I also got a copy of Atlas and The Literary Review. Both are book-length journals, so I really should include them in the above list. Atlas (ed. Sudeep Sen) works with a massive and varied masthead from across the globe; very interesting how it works. The second issue that I have focusses on Canadian writers.
The Literary Review is edited by Minna Proctor, but the Spring 2009 issue that I’ve been given is guest edited by Sudeep Sen and is titled ‘Unmapped: The Indian Poetry Issue.’ So along with Jeet Thayil‘s 60 Indian Poets, I have a lot a lot Indian poetry to read!
Right, so all the books I got weren’t presents. I reached the airport too early and naturally I headed straight for the Landmark outlet here. No poetry section, but it had an impressive collection of classics, I thought. After much inner turmoil (the pomposity of that expression should be neglected in favour of its absolute truth) I bought only two books, one of them for a friend of mine.
The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster, 1987
The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles, 1949
The Bowles is for Sumant. I know he wants it because I was on the phone with him, saying, OK now what do you want tell me quick? And the sweetheart that he is, he’s letting me read it before I give it to him. I didn’t even suggest such a thing. But he knows me and he knows I want to read Paul Bowles. And there was only one copy.
The Auster is for me. He’s someone I’ve been meaning to read, plus it’s very hard to resist a cover like this:
There were several other books that I seriously considered buying but managed to convince myself not to:
Fictions (Borges), because it was killing me how huge the book was and how I wouldn’t be able to carry it without significant damage to the cover
Electric Feather (ed. Joshi), because the book was wrapped in plastic and this I do not like
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Larsson), because even though I desperately need to read good crime fiction and Larsson comes highly recommended, I can get the book from my library
The Call of Cthulu and Other Weird Stories (Lovecraft), because I’m not certain I will like it
Eunuch Park (Mehrotra — that’s Mehrotra Jr), because, well, this is a hard one, but I figured I could borrow it from someone before buying
Lolita (Nabokov), because even though I love those orange-and-cream Penguin books, these were a little damaged for some reason and I might as well get a really nice looking copy somewhere; plus I’ve read Lolita and don’t need to re-read it urgently
The Bell Jar (Plath), because it can wait
Finally I suppose I should say why I was in Hyderabad in the first place, and it’s because I was awarded the Inaugural Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize. It’s weird having to say that, but anyway, I might as well say it. I’m afraid I upset certain people by not informing them beforehand; for that I’m sorry, but seriously, how’re you supposed to tell people such things? I get very excited about having a poem appear in a magazine, but this is completely overwhelming, especially after having met all of the people involved in instituting the prize.
For those who don’t know, the prize was instituted by the Rayaprol Trust in association with the University of Hyderabad, to which the trust has donated the poet’s collection of books. I met a large number of the Rayaprol family, and what a family. Srinivas Rayaprol’s sister, an elderly woman who has difficulty walking, was so wonderful and grandmotherly to me. And she has the softest hands.
I could mention all the people I met and it would make for a long and distinguished list, but let’s not go there. I just feel really happy.