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I love books, their heft, feel and smell, and book collections…always envied the collections my uncles had, and when I was in class 5 or 6 put together my first collection in a wall-mounted shelf in my room – Balaramas, a few Amar Chitra Kathas, a dozen paperbacks…Arabian Nights, Bible stories, etc. – all numbered and stacked heightwise.

In a couple of years I moved all the embarrassing age-inappropriate stuff to the store, decided my collection would have to wait, focused on reading…started raiding the Rajagiri library, joined Ernakulam Public Library, Chavara, Eloor, started hanging out at Paico, touching and feeling books, righting crooked stacks – those days my biggest fantasy was to marry Paico swami’s daughter.

BTW, Jojo Jose, been so long…and thanks for all the books.

I discovered magazines during pre-degree. Was a sucker for anything billed as a special issue, bought a huge pile of stuff – India Today, Sportstar, Sunday, Illustrated Weekly, Sun…and once, from a paper mart, 20 years’ worth of Reader’s Digest.

My book-buying spree really picked up steam while at REC (enhanced cash flow)…couple of years and I had to get an old kitchen shelf refurbished to house the collection. After engineering I took a break and went to Delhi, spent most of the vacation bargain-hunting at CP and Darya Ganj, and came back fully loaded – Portnoy’s Complaint, Catcher in the Rye, Bell Jar…   

Next chapter, Chennai. Bought a huge stack of books from the roadside bhais between GPO and LIC – classics, best-sellers, books-not-available-at-the-shop-around-the-corner (Henry Miller, Anais Nin, HHGG, books on art, aircrafts), and lucky finds (Johnny Got His Gun, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, Illustrated Beatles Lyrics).

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Perambur. Chacko’s stuff on the left side. Meri Junk on the right…the beginning of the Chennai collection.

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Besant Nagar

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Thiruvanmiyur 

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Mylapore

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Home. Complete works of Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, John Irwing, Tom Robbins, Tom Wolf…RDs from 1965 to 1995 in the shelf on the left. Peace.

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My desert island collection…My people always found it a little strange, the way I used to take pics of my books and bookshelves, but think there is hardly anything as beautiful as a stack of books…

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…and i am not alone. Check out John Mark Gleadow

Epilogue. Part of my bookshelf on goodreads.commy-books-5k
…to be continued.

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A few months ago, at Spencer junction, I witnessed an amazing sight – an accidental collage created by a tree, spotlit by sunshine, its rain-cleansed leaves glowing green, and the image of a man on the Jet Airways hoarding in the background, the guy staring up, ecstatic, as if enthralled by the beauty of the tree. I tried to capture the scene on my N72, but then the signal turned green and I had to get going.

Few minutes later…ping, the irony-meter redlined, this was so Ogden Nash…

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.

 

Gotta get that pic for the blog, Gotta…Day 2. I managed to stop the car at just the right place, grabbed my phone, but before I could get the shot, I noticed the girl in the car ahead leaning across to the boy driving the car. Wow! Valentine’s Day…the tree can wait. The girl pulled out her dupatta from underneath her, returned to vertical position and got busy patting out the wrinkles, and the signal turned green.

 

Day 3. I finally managed a shot, but the camera position, shot composition and lighting were all wrong. I guess you can’t recreate a kaleidoscope pattern… 

 

Day 4. Jet Airways had a new hoarding at the site.

 

Then last week, the billboards fell. The trees emerged from the shadows, and reclaimed their territory. Kind of like the end of The Mansion of Gods…


By nightfall, the forest has taken over once again. Only a few Roman remains show that the Mansion of Gods
ever stood there…

 

…which reminds me of the first business venture I was a part of: The Four Star Lending Library, started by Biju, Keeshan, Sridharan and I, when we were in high school. The business plan was Biju’s – enter the market with Keeshan’s Kottayam Pushpanath novels and Sridharan’s Indrajal Comics, buy Tintin/Asterix comics using the revenue, plough back profits to buy more comics…The Mansion of Gods was the first book we bought. We had a great run and build a huge collection of Tintin/Asterix comics till John Sir busted us. Those were the days…

 

Vaal Kashnam: Too bad our underground library experience didn’t inspire a multi-million dollar enterprise. Snigger, snigger.

 

Empire of the Sun is a top-ten book in my list. The book, which I started reading while travelling to Lonavala for a training programme, kept me occupied through the journey and through the training programme. Unputdownable. (Read the book. The Spielberg movie is too feel good, but I have to admit it, a visual treat)

 

I bought The Kindness of Women because the blurb claimed it was a sequel to Empire of the Sun. It is actually a novel ‘tightly’ based on the author’s life. Great narrative structure – His story (history?) revealed through accounts of his interactions with the women in his life – mother, nanny, girlfriend, wife, wife’s sister, neighbour, girlfriend, girlfriend…

 

I am an expert on the kindness of women. Through my adult life I always had around me women who played the role of best friend, confidante, agony aunt, punching bag, anchor, inspiration…but this post is not about them, this post is about blog stats. Last week my page-views crossed 8000, thanks largely to the on-screen and off-screen adventures of Meera Nandan, Vimala Raman, Arya Menon, Anaitha Nair. The kindness of women!

 

 

That is a mnemonic to help you remember the spelling of Mnemonic. Mnemonics are words or phrases which are difficult to forget, used to remember things that are difficult to remember. (That, OK, reminds me of my fav intro line: Name is Babu Kuriakose, the first name is easy to remember, the second, difficult to forget. BHH)

Through the word mnemonic was never used, in school we imbibed a lot of them:

  • Geography: HOMES – Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior; LONGitudes
  • History: SPA – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
  • Physics: VIBGYOR; V = IR (Iyer!, Voltage = Current x Resistance, Ohm’s Law)

(Remember Ohm’s Law. Vinu Joseph Cherian – any idea where he is? – invented the Ohm’s Law chant. Here’s how you do it – start saying ‘Ohm’s Law’ over and over again, first at normal pace, then fast, then slow, then very slow, then very fast…When 48 guys do this in harmony, at the top of the voice, the effect is awesome)

  • English: Ass Ass I Nation – Spelling help

(Remember ‘To Get Her’: Mathew Sir had completed a session on syllables, he asked the class to suggest words for him to demo and Joe Antony shouted ‘Together’. Mathew Sir fell for it…to-get-her, the class was ecstatic, and Joe got thrashed)

  • Guitar class: Every Good Boy Does Fine – EBGDF, Treble Clef Lines (I Googled!)

We also developed mnemonics for a lot of schoolboy stuff:

  • ‘APES WIN’ – The Test Playing Nations: Australia, Pakistan, England, Sri Lanka, West Indies, India, New Zealand
  • ‘Pascoe Bowls And Misses Stumps’ – Australian Test Venues: Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney
  • Clockwise – CLOSEwise

I remember the first time I came across the word mnemonics – in Popular Mechanics, in REC Reading Room, 1984 – and also some of the mnemonics mentioned in the article (the power of mnemonics!)

  • ‘My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles’ – The Nine Planets (Pluto was not just a dog in those days)
  • ‘Sohcahtoa, Indian Chief’ – Trigonometry : Sin = Opposite/Hypotenuse, Cos = Adjacent /Hypotenuse, Tan = Opposite/Adjacent
  • ‘Washington And Jefferson Made Many A Joke’…(American Presidents, in order: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Munroe, Adams, Jackson)…I cant remember (!) the middle portion of the verse, but it ends with ‘Ran To Every Kitchen Jar Nook. Ford Capitulated Readily’ (Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan).

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Thanks Judy. Your book on mnemonics took me on a major nostalgia trip…

I woke up at 3:00 in the morning, could not go back to sleep, stood on the balcony staring at the morning star – till I realised it was some flight coming in. Revelation, truth, epiphany…things are not what they seem to be, airplanes and pop philosophy, a Richard Bach moment. “Remember that this world is not reality. It’s a playground of appearances on which you practice overcoming seems-to-be with your knowing of what is”.

That is from Bach’s latest, a collection of quotes packaged as the Messiah’s Handbook. A quickie, but I bought it for old time’s sake, and who knows, perhaps he needs the money – divorcing your soulmate is expensive business.

My first Bach was Nothing by Chance. Barnstorming in the Midwest, “Come up with us where only birds and angels fly!”. Biplane, Gift of Wings, Illusions…wow! fan to follower to convert before you can say “Everything in this book may be wrong”. Then came The Bridge across Forever, which I read when I myself was on a soulmate quest. Of course, then it sounded very profound and all that, and not like some teen fantasy – working his way across the country, sampling women…Then came the divorce, and I never forgave him for that.

But I stood by Dick, I bought all the books he wrote. And I hope he will one day realise “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however”.

Tailpiece: My cousin’s non-mallu girlfriend used to call him “Wookie”, and for a long time she didn’t get it why his friends greeted him with “wookie?

1976-77. Class VI or VII. We had a Malayalam text book called ‘Bharathapuzha allenkil Nila Devi’ (I am not very sure about the ‘Devi’ part). It was a travelogue, about a trip down Bharathapuzha, with stop overs at Lakkadi, Cheruthuruthy, Thirunavaya, etc.

I would like to buy a copy of the book. Can you help?

Click here for The Hindu Magazine article on the river.

Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup, The Hindu


I love books on bands and have over the years acquired many Rock histories, encyclopaedias, biographies, guides and a big collection on The Beatles.

Biju’s Oldies (from Connection Mathai) kicked off my Beatlemania 27 years ago. And as my love for the Beatles sound increased so did my passion for everything Beatles – I read the authorised biography as well as books that proudly proclaimed ‘No Beatle was interviewed in the writing of this book’ – and everything in between; I read the interviews & gossip, hagiographies & hatchet jobs, analysis, reviews, critiques; I collected photographs, album artworks, commemorative stamps…

Been a magical mystery tour, and I loved it.
I guess, “the love you take is equal to the love you make”…

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Manassariyum Yanthram, the first book that i borrowed from Rajagiri library, started off a romance with books and libraries that continues to the day.

Last month i saw the book in DC Books, Cochin, and it was like running into a long-lost friend…

I was a big fan of Raju Nair’s Mavelinadu cartoon in Deepika. That was a good 20 years ago. Then a few months ago, i bought ‘Raju Nair Cartoon Kathakal’. Great cocktail of cartoons and stories – a must buy…

(Available at indulekha.com)

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I first read Garp when I was 17. By then I had run through most of – chronologically – James Hadley Chase, Arthur Hailey, Irving Wallace, Leon Uris, Wilbur Smith, must-reads like Godfather, Omen, Exorcist, Summer of ’42, Love Story, and sampled Harold Robbins, Robert Ludlum, Louis L’Amour…(I was blessed, I am blessed)

Garp was quite different from anything I had read till then – funny, sad, heartbreaking and uplifting. I so loved the characters that I remember slowing down as the book was nearing its end so that I could spend some more time in Garp’s world.

At the core of Garp is a horrible auto accident (I have always wanted to do a story on the recurring motifs in John Irving’s books – car crashes/accidents, Vienna, bears, kids, prostitutes, breasts, transvestites, deformities, writers, wrestlers, extra-marital affairs, death – oh, all the things that make life interesting).

Irving builds up the car crash scene so perfectly, positioning all players for maximum impact (ugh! no pun). I remember the rush when I first read the passage, when I – along with Garp – was rushing at full speed, up a slippery ramp, in the dark…

Cut to The World according to Garp, by John Irving
‘Garp hit the bottom of his driveway at about forty miles per hour he came of the downhill road in third gear and accelerated just as he exited; he glimpsed how the driveway was glazed with frozen slush, and worried momentarily that the Volvo might slip on the short uphill curve. He held the car in gear until he felt what grip he had of the road; it was good enough, and he popped the sharp stick shift into neutral – a second before he killed the engine and flicked out the headlights.

The car coasted up, into the black rain. It was like that moment when you feel an airplane lift off the runway; the children both cried out in excitement. Garp could feel the children at his elbow, crowding each other for the one favoured position in the gap between the bucket seats.

‘How can you see now?’ Duncan asked.

‘He doesn’t have to see,’ Walt said. There wad a high thrill in Walt’s voice, which suggested to Garp that Walt wished to reassure himself.

‘I know this by heart,’ Garp assured them.

‘It’s like being underwater!’ cried Duncan; he held his breath.

‘It’s like a dream!’ said Walt; he reached for his brother’s hand.’

Spoiler Warning!
Generally not required for Irving’s books; he gives away the end on page 1 itself.

At the top of the driveway, in a parked car, Garp’s wife is giving her student-boyfriend a farewell BJ. Garp’s car crashes into the, let us call it the BJ car, at full clip (Remember, night, raining, lights switched off). Garp survives, Walt dies, Garp’s wife survives, her boyfriend’s dick gets bitten off, Garp’s marriage survives.

So what if Garp didn’t make the TIME 100, it scores 100 outa 100 for the perfect set up.

For me this story is very special. And if I have shared this story with you, you are special…

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