Posts Tagged ‘books’

Food, and food for thought, 250418

April 26, 2018

Sometimes, the juxtaposition of two things strikes the eye, as it did when I saw this gentleman, along with a book that a young lady had left open on another table. The caption occurred to me at once.

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As he got up, the gentleman called the attention of yet another man to the glasses he’d left behind when moving to another table. Such casual helpfulness, somehow, made me feel very happy!

So much to see and observe even on a short visit to a Darshini (this one was Coffee Thindi in Jayangar 4th T Block)

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Book review: The Last White Hunter, Reminiscences of a Colonial Shikari

April 26, 2018

The Last White Hunter, Reminiscences of a Colonial Shikari

By Donald Anderson, as told to Joshua Mathew
265 pp.
Rs.650

Indus Source Books
PO Box 6194
Malabar Hill PO
Mumbai 400 006
INDIA
Email: info@indussource.com
http://www.indussource.com

Readers who are interested in the wildlife history of India, and in particular, of the Melagiri and Bannerghatta forests near Bangalore, will be familiar with the name of Kenneth Anderson, a “shikari” (hunter) of the old school. The series of books that he wrote, on his various wildlife encounters, were very popular reading at one time.

His son, Donald Anderson, was brought up in the same tradition as his father, and grew up to be a hunter. But he differed from his father in two important respects: Kenneth Anderson, even in those days, slowly turned from hunting to conservation, and was also a widely celebrated author. Donald, by his own admission in this book, says that he could not hold the interest of a reader.

But since Joshua Mathew found that the life of Donald Anderson (with the line of Scotsmen dying with him when he passed away in 2014) was interesting enough for him to write this book, giving a voice and a narrative to Donald.

This task was no easy one. As Joshua recounts at the end of the book, Donald had become a recluse, not wanting to meet anyone; or he would agree to meet them only if they would take him on a “hunt” (or at least, to the locations where he used to hunt.) A parsimonious nature and a spendthrift tendency combined to make Donald perpetually hard up, depending on others’ help and scorning it at the same time.

Joshua got past these defences and allowed Donald to talk about his life. He also sifted through unimaginable amounts of pack-rat junk to sort out photographsand other material that he could use for the book.

This biography is not a linear book; Depending on what is being talked about,the book jumps backward and forward over the span of Donald’s life, However, the narrative is always clear, and as one moves through the pages, one learns of Donald’s life and times…his education, the places he stayed in, his family, friends, his own leanings and beliefs (or lack of them), his great love for the outdoors, the jungles, and for shikar.

It is not easy to adopt the voice of another person (especially one whose views one may not share) but Joshua does this with remarkable felicity. There is an absolute lack of a judgemental attitude throughout the book. When Donald himself repents something, that is conveyed; but there is no moralistic tone adopted about Donald’s actions, whether it is his extensive hunting, or his varied love life.

The book is like a bamboo basket; various incidents and interludes are woven together loosely, without the need to make a close-knit whole. In this way, a reader can dip into the book at odd points, and not have to “follow the narrative” as one would have to do with conventional books.

The language of the book is lucid and simple. Very often,Joshua uses Donald’s own words;at other times, words are carefully chosen so that the writer’s thoughts and opinions do not colour the character’s, in the narration. At the same time, descriptions of jungles, of the homes that Donald lived and grew up in, are detailed and extremely interesting. it takes one back to days when the culture, the mores and the lifestyles of those in Bangalore were very different from those of today.

And the differences are striking indeed. “There was no concept of traffic”, says Donald, and adds that he could travere across the length and breadth of what is today’s Bangalore, travel up to Ramnagara or to other parts of Bannerghatta. The life of the white (and “Anglo-Indian” _communities were very different from the Indian communities made up on the people who served them. Indeed, the book underscores a fact that holds true even today; there are two discrete Bangalores; the one of the Cantonment area, and the one of the traditional Kannadigas, and they rarely touch each other. Dances, drinking parties, convent schools and excursions..these constitute a life far different from that of the Kannadiga communities.

The incidents and anecdotes are neatly docketed into eight chapters, and they make very interesting reading. As a person who lived in the Cantonment area (Convent Road in Richmond Town) before moving to Kannadiga Bangalore, and seen the city transform from a sleepy, leisurely hamlet to today’s frenetic, groaning-at-the-seams metropolis, I can relate to a lot of things and places that Joshua mentions, in Donald’s voice. The amazing thing is that some of these places, and customs are there, in that part of Bangalore, even today.

Remarkable though Joshua’s achievement is, I do have apprehensions that the times, and values, that are described in Donald’s voice, have completely passed away, and there exist, now, at least two generations who think very differently. Since our wildlife is now decimated, today’s values make it a crime to hunt our wild creatures; and a resurgence of prudish Victorian morality would make several readers click their tongues over the accounts of Donald’s prolific romatic encounters, which were all short-termed, by his own admission.We certainly seem to be less tolerant of what we perceive to be aberrations, today, and an account of how to skin and animal and stuff it, I am afraid, will not be very popular with the majority of today’s reading public.

But if one is willing to look into history without being judgemental, and read details about how life was lived in this city in the days around the time of Indian Independence, both in terms of wildlife and lifestyles, then this book would be a great read….which is what I found it to be. I salute Joshua Mathew on a job very well done; it is Donald Anderson, and Donald alone, who speaks from the book. It is only at the end that we hear Joshua’s voice, and even then, he sets down the quirks of the shikari’s personality, warts and all, allowing us to see the man as he was..a product of his times, with unique talents….a person who was true to himself, and did not whitewash his own shortcomings. On another level, anyone interested in how the wildlife scenario was in Bangalore and its environs, nearly a century ago, would find this both a fascinating (seeing the abundance of wildlife) and depressing (seeing the hunting/shooting culture) read…but a compelling one in any case.

A good job well done, Joshua..and I wish you would reconsider your decision to make this your last book!

The weight of words…

November 20, 2014

A few days ago, Amith Kumar introduced me to a rather unusual bookshop in Jayanagar…”Book Bonanza”.

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Tipu Pasha, Book Bonanza. Pic: Amith Kumar

I have always been a lover of second-hand books, Somehow, these, to me, have the lustre of the previous owner, in addition to their contents, and so are greater treasures than usual.

When I walked into the bookstore, I was quite thrilled to see books stacked up along all the walls, and piled up along bookshelves, too.

All sorts of books, fiction and non-fiction, best-sellers as well as arcane treatises, jostled each other, and in front of it all sat the young man who owns the store, and has been running it since 2006 (and at the present location for the past two years.)

A passion for books made Tipu Pasha give up his job with a multi-national company, and set up shop with an investment of Rs. 2 lakhs, which he used to import books from Europe and the US. He bought 40 tons of books, which might have retailed for 22-25 lakhs!

He still continues this practice, and so the bookstore deals only in English titles.

The unusual part of the bookstore is that 95% of the books are sold by weight. The other 5%, are the brand new books, which are still sold at about 50% discount over their retail prices.

“The response has been quite good from the beginning,” says a smiling Tipu, nodding to several people who, starting as customers and browsers, have now become friends. “I have quite a group of regulars, and the people who come in to browse and buy are a very heterogeneous lot– scientists looking for reference books, artists, writers, ad designers, children, parents…”

What he enjoys is the personal interaction with all these people, as well as being able to help them with their requirements as he knows exactly what books are where.

Apart from this, he says, several lending libraries also come here to source books. “I am also called in as a consultant by many schools to design and stock their libraries,” he adds.

How has he, as the owner of a bookstore, felt the impact of e-books and online reading? “There has been an impact, no doubt,” he remarks, “But people still seem to like the actual feel of a book in their hands, and I have no complaints!” Many people, he says, often also come and exchange books at the store…a facility not offered anywhere else.

If you would like to go to a store where you can browse around, find some books that you like, and buy them by weight, go to

Book Bonanza,
532, 32nd Cross, 11th Main Road,
Jayanagar 4th Block
Bangalore 560011.
(Landmarks: KFC and Metro Footwear are right opposite the shop, which is close to the Jayanagar 4th Block signal.)

Proprietor: Tipu Pasha, Mobile no: 97413 25687
Email: bookbonanza86@gmail.com

here

is my post in Citizen Matters.

Bees and flowers….

May 21, 2013

I went to the U City Library, and was waiting..it was 8.45am and the library opens at 9am. I looked at the flowers along the wall of the building..and found the bees active…

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Here’s another bee on a Columbine:

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I had to finally (er, after half an hour!) leave the bees and the flowers, and go off…

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The Innovation Trap

March 29, 2012

Harish Bhat, who is a friend on Facebook, and posts a lot of interesting stuff, posted about

the flexible e-paper display launch .

Though I am impressed by the innovation in terms of material use and invention, I still feel that products like this fall into what I call the classic Innovation Trap.

The Innovation Trap is the phenomenon of designers being blinkered and hobbled by designs and forms that they are familiar with. In the case of the product above, it seems to be the goal to get as close in appearance as possible to laminated paper..to resemble some form of actual paper. But one wonders why that resemblance is needed at all.

The classic example of the Innovation Trap was when automobiles started being designed. Being familiar only with horse-drawn carriages, early cars looked boxy and square, exactly like the old carriages. It took a while to realize that though it was irrelevant for horse-drawn carriages, for cars, aerodynamics would improve the efficiency, and that the shape of the automobile must be very different from that of a carriage.

This problem was once again demonstrated when, in the era of tailfins and long lines, with the cars looking like ships, the VW Beetle was introduced. It was pronounced an ugly car…when it was actually very functional in design, and hence very beautiful.

In similar fashion, there is no need for outer-space-only spacecraft to have the sleek, aerodynamic, cigar-shaped look of the rockets that lift off from the Earth’s atmosphere. Since they operate in a vacuum, and there is no resistance from the atmosphere, outer-space-only craft (I am sure there is a technical name, very scientific) for such vehicles), they can look as clunky as they want to be, with antennae, and solar panels, and such, sticking out in all directions. Maybe design has to take into account the possibility of an aerial snapping when hit by a passing meteor, but in general, it does not need the shape that a craft that needs to enter the Earth’s atmosphere should have, to reduce the friction and heat of re-entry.

Another example of this is the “qwerty” keyboard, that is still widely in use. I know that many computer techies (like ) use

the Dvorak keyboard

and many mobile phones and keyboards have an “abcd” keyboard; but the majority of all keyboards still use the “qwerty”, which does have many problems. But…it’s as if we, when used to something, are often unwilling to conceive of

something different .

This applies also when someone has made a true innovation. When Sony built the Walkman, for years, we saw me-too’s flooding the market. Now the iPad and the iPhone are cool things to imitate…even when their drawbacks are quite apparent.

I suppose one may also call it “design fashion”. One particular design becomes the “norm” and other designs, even if better, fall by the wayside sometimes, and are not commercial successes. The cathedral of “That’s the way things are always done” seems to loom large on the skyline of design, and sometimes real creativity is sacrificed at its altar.

How long it took for the no. of camera exposures to be counted downwards, or the fuel guage on cars to show how many miles the fuel available was good for (varying with the speed of the car) rather than just showing how much petrol was in the tank! With the innovation, one could get the actual information one really wants…how many exposures are left, and how many miles one can drive the car for. (Most cars in India still have only the old-fashioned petrol guages.)

But in spite of the Innovation Trap, true innovation and creativity continues to happen, and that’s the great thing about the human mind….!

Animation…

February 28, 2012

The irony is that this story is not out of a book…but it does show how a book can show movement!

 

After a long time, a book review…

November 25, 2011

I used to review books for the Indian Review of Books, long ago, in Chennai. Then I gave it up, for what reason, I still do not know…but after a very long time, another book review of mine, which I had put up in Citizen Matters, earlier,made it into print in the Deccan Herald,

here

Sadhana’s book is a very handy guide for those who want to know the names of common urban trees…and all that surrounds them!

Another KTB Post

July 13, 2011

We have at home, a reader of books…

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Who likes her own little corners and nooks….

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who loves to say,through the curtains… “Peek a boo”….

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Followed by the usual “I see you!”

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“Just Look Up…” Book Review

May 11, 2011

It’s rare to find a book written for one city, that can be used as a ready reckoner for several others! But that’s the case with “Just Look Up….to see the magic in the trees around you”, a very handy booklet written by Sadhana Ramchander, and published by Blue Pencil Creative.

The book may be aimed at children…but it is very useful for adults, too, who’d like to look around them at the common trees in the cities.

Many “handbooks” or field guides are rather unwieldy to take along with one on one’s outings; especially if they are hardbound. Sadhana’s book is a slim volume…and it lists the common trees that can be found, not only in Hyderabad, where she lives, but in almost any Indian city or metro.

The book starts with a foreword by Bittu Sahgal, the editor of Sanctuary Asia, which makes the very important point that trees are not “things” but a form of life.

An introduction suggests that apart from the usual children’s occupation of going on the internet or using cellphones, they could also look at the trees around them…and segues neatly into introducing the first tree on Sadhana’s list, the Kadamba.

A list of twenty-two trees….with scientific names, and lovely, clear photographs, not only of the trees themselves, but of the leaves, the flowers, and sometimes, objects and jewellery made from them (as, for example, ear drops made with the seeds of the Coral Bead tree)..makes very interesting reading indeed.

Set in at intervals in the list, is the “Poetry and craft” section. Children do love to create things with their own hands, and suggestions as diverse as little models made from Gulmohar buds and broomsticks, or a mustard-sprout “smiley”, are given with clear instructions on “how to”.

Towards the end of the book is yet another unusual page, which says, “Before you look up, you actually look down”…and shows photographs of the petals of various flowers from the trees, that spread out in a carpet on the ground, prompting you to look up into the trees themselves. And in addition, are some illustrations of the other interesting things one sees when one looks down, a and here, and there…and observes!

The illustrations and artwork by Kobita Das Kohli, Aiman Eshana, Malini, Poojitha, and Rahel are delightful and add value to the book.

There is a very good bibliography and “further reading” and “things to do” section, too, for those who would like to take their interest further.

The book ends with a graphic “calendar” of the flowering of the trees. This particularly resonated with me, as I live in Banglaore, where the “serial flowering” of the trees, planted with forethought by the Dewan of Mysore State, Sir Mirza Ismail, and a team of eminent horticulturists (including
Gustav Krumbiegel and Marigowda) is a great feature of the city.

What I liked about the book was the fact that it is printed on such good quality paper. This will ensure that though taken on frequent outings, the book will last. The typeface and fonts chosen,too, and clear and easy to read. The proof-reading of the book has been excellent.

This kind of quality of publication, of course, comes at a cost, and the book is priced at Rs. 175. But I feel that this is a small price to pay, to give into a child’s, or adult’s hands, a book that they will find very useful indeed, and will awaken their interest in the wonderful beings who are, as Sadhana says, ” give us something or the other all the time, but ask for nothing in return.”

Another thing I particularly liked was the author’s freely-given permission to reproduce any part of the book for non-profit educational purposes as long as the author is properly credited.

I would strongly recommend that all Bangaloreans buy this book for their children…and for themselves! Perhaps, with more awareness, the present Bangalore craze to cut down trees in their thousands to create broader roads for more polluting traffic to go through, will ease off….!

“Just Look Up…to see the magic in the trees around you “

By Sadhana Ramchander

sadhana@bluepencil.in

with a foreword by Bittu Sahgal.

Photographs, unless otherwise credited, by the author.

Published by Bluepencil Infodesign

http://www.bluepencil.in

Price: Rs.175, 60 pages.
Printed at Pragati Offset, Hyderabad

http://www.pragati.com

Available online

here

(though it says the book is out of stock, it is available)

HUH…

October 5, 2007

I joined something called Shelfari and had added a few books, including R K Narayan’s Swami and Friends , which is one of my all-time favourites. So today I tried to add The Guide to my list and lo and behold (or rather, low and don’t behold), it wasn’t listed at all!

HUH…that’s the last of Shelfari!