I solemnly swear to become a more regular blogger. For two reasons (and I really hope that you will take this as ‘refreshingly honest’ rather than as ‘extemely lame’):

1) One of my friends said that his only reading – the absolute limit of his reading – is my blog. So if I don’t blog more often, I’ll be causing his brain to atrophy. And I wouldn’t want that, would I? So I literally blog to save lives (alright, ‘life’, but that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive).

2) Readership statistics. I am used to higher statistics than I’m getting right now, and I have pinpointed the reason – the decreasing frequency of blogging. Pinpointing any other reason would just be painful. Actually, this does not really apply, because the number of comments I am getting remains more-or-less the same. So people are reading, but they’re coming around after longer intervals, because I blog less often. But still, numbers, people!

But I’m going to try not to trivialise my blogging just to increase frequency. Therefore, I will begin with this extremely trivial post:

By public demand (one whole request) – the Softy episode. I don’t think it’ll read as funny as it actually happened, because, as sometimes happens, you had to be there. Still.

Picture this – Salil, Chetan and good old Bidi have gone to Mumbai for the express purpose of buying truckloads of books. We are in Churchgate, and have spent about four hours on the street haggling with vendors trying to get them to lower their prices. Every vendor we meet drives a hard bargain, and with each vendor, the conversation goes thus:

Me: How much is this one for?
Him: Rs. 80.
Me: How about giving it for Rs. 40?
Him: No.
Me: How about these three for Rs. 100?

After four hours, we’re kind of washed out. We sit at a corner, wondering what to do.

One of us sees a Softy shop behind us, and suggests we have one.

I dutifully go there, and ask, “How much are the softies for?”

“Rs. 10,” he says. That’s very expensive, obviously, as I expected Rs. 5.

I return to the other two. I tell them what happened. And I add, “I was about to say, ‘How about three for Rs. 15?’”

And that’s basically it. Heh.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 11:44 AM
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This post does not have a point. It starts somewhere and then it rambles. Here it is:

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to second-hand bookshops. In fact, apart from textbooks, I have bought a grand total of three books at full-price. Apart from the limits of my pocket-money, the main reason for this is that you get more interesting books there, and if you get a dud, you don’t regret it that much.

My experience with second-hand bookshops has mostly been very good, and over 60% of my books are good books, which is a very good percentage, considering how many of them I’ve bought. Two of my favourite books, The Essential Calvin & Hobbes and Travels with Charley (which is in fact my very favourite book), were bought for Rs. 5 each. And I certainly wouldn’t have bought books such as The Queen of Air and Darkness, Cassandra: Princess of Troy or Banquets of the Black Widowers had I encountered them in a normal bookshop.

Some might say that the smell of new books is quite something else, and I quite agree, but if you can’t bloody afford it, I don’t think you should bother with spending half your pocket money just for that smell. I can accept old books, however old and grimy they might be, as long as they don’t actively crumble in my hands.

The advantage of buying books second-hand is that you don’t mind taking a risk. The very worst book I ever bought was The Insurrection of Hippolytus Brandenburg, but it was bought for Rs. 20, so, instead of crying over it, I keep it right in front, so that I can be reminded just how bad it is possible for a writer to be. When I’m feeling especially disappointed with my own writing, I look at that book and take heart.

My experience with second-hand bookshops has been long and varied. Currently I frequent two different bookshops, one for the variety that I get there, and the other one for the price, which never exceeds Rs. 40, even for very popular books.

The shop where I bought Travels with Charley had both variety and good prices, but it was torn down a few years ago. And anyway, my frequency of going there had already reduced. This shop was owned by a couple. When I started going there, the husband would be sitting there, chewing tobacco and sitting on a crate with his legs apart. I had to haggle a lot with him, but the final price was always worth it.

Then one day, I went there and his wife was there instead of him. I was browsing for a bit, when she said, “Do you want any magazines?”

I shook my head.

“I have some good women’s magazines here.”

“I don’t read magazines.”

“You’ll like these.”

And she handed me four or five magazines which had women in them, but which were certainly not women’s magazines.

I cut my visit short and beat a hasty retreat, and thenceforth, avoided the shop whenever the woman was there, which, to my distress, was increasingly often.

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I love haggling. I only haggle over books, but I do it not with a sense of inevitability, but with a sense of eager expectancy. I know I’m going to have fun. Every time a bookseller quotes a much-too-expensive yet slightly-in-my-range price, you can almost see my face lighting up (not quite, though – it doesn’t really show up on my skin). Then we go through the rather wonderful ritual of quoting ridiculous prices at each other until we reach a compromise we always knew we’d reach. It never happens any other way. In fact, I have decided that the next time a bookseller quotes an over-the-top price, I’m going to agree to it, just to see the look on his face. I won’t buy the book, of course. I’m not stupid.

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In one very special respect, reading books is just like watching movies. You have to go through a thousand bad ones to be able to identify a good one. I’m still at the very beginning of my book-reading career, so I still like to buy bad novels. I then either give them away or sell them to the raddiwallah.

I recently decided to sell all the useless books I had. Before I embarked on that mission, I started by donating all the Jeffrey Archers, Robin Cooks and related pulp novels to friends who still read them. Then, I put the rest of them in a bag, and asked my dad to take a look through them to see if he wanted to keep any of them. He took about half of them back out. He wanted them, he said. I was at a loss of words. I utterly failed to see why my father would want to read books such as Mission to the Stars, The Memory of Eva Ryker, UFO Abductions in Gulf Breeze (yup, you read that right) and The Power of Positive Thinking or authors like Peter Ustinov and Pearl S. Buck. I now plan to spirit them away slowly without his knowledge. After all, a dollar earned is a dollar saved. Or something of the sort.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 10:34 AM
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At last, the Indian Blogosphere becomes aware of Eddie Izzard.
Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 10:47 AM
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My Darling Readers, you would be glad to know that I am now officially a published writer. This post has been published in the 14th August issue of JAM (available now – published by Rashmi Bansal). My previous literary achievements ranged from a poem published in the school journal at age 11, and two essays submitted to the college magazine for the sole reason that my teacher threatened me with dire consequences if I didn’t submit something. Now, I rate somewhat better. It might not be much, but it’s a start.

Note: The following is a completely personal tirade on a personal topic. People might identify with it, but it remains personal. If that is not to your taste, do not read further.

In spite of the pleasing news of publication, this whole morning has been highly depressing. My DVD player (bought two months ago) went kaput a few days ago. After a disturbingly large number of phone calls to Philips, a technician came last Tuesday and declared that the internal power supply would have to be changed. Since then, till now, even after many more calls, they keep promising me that he’ll return with the new one ‘tomorrow’. I remind them that that’s what they said yesterday, but the operator is always a different one, and does not know anything about yesterday. And then, on Saturday, the DVD-drive on my computer followed the same route, so now I have no way of watching DVDs. The eight DVDs I borrowed on a number of library cards now lie useless on my desk.

Sify is playing an even more fun game with me. I booked a broadband connection on 20th July, and was promised that it would be installed and ready to use by the 28th. Today is the 8th, and still no sign of it. I called thrice today (as on every alternate day before today) and was finally promised a connection by the 12th. The biggest source of irritation is the fact that there are three executives there that I talk to individually, and none of them seem to be in contact with each other, so that I have to remind each of them of the developments since last time, because my last call has always been with a different one of them. Today I berated two of them individually, talking for about half an hour (at their expense) and told them exactly what I thought of their mismanagement, and what I thought of the three of them in particular.

I would have loved to complain about this to a friend, but my friends are sitting in college right now. You probably know how much of a pleasure it is to vent your spleen to a friend. Hearing them agree and say, “the limey bastards,” “the useless pigs,” and perhaps “the fucking idiots” is always a huge relief. Today’s spleen session is set for 3:30. But till then, it is nice to put it up here. Please comment. Three hints have been provided to help you. You’re welcome to include your own epithets.

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 2:08 AM
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Yesterday was my birthday. At 11:52 p.m. (so my mother tells me), I turned twenty. Seems rather pointless, to tell you the truth. I was actually looking forward to it, because the title of my blog has now become valid, but the whole thing doesn’t really seem to make much of a difference, when I think about it.

I have never been a ‘birthday’ kind of person. My family is lucky that I remember their birthdays, and I have forgotten many friends’ birthdays many times. The rest of the time, my sister calls me up in the morning and reminds me to wish so-and-so.

My own birthdays matter even less for me. I’m turning older each and every second of each and every day, so putting aside a day per year has always felt kinda weird. I have told this to almost every person who called me up yesterday, so I guess next year there’ll be fewer calls.

My reasoning for why birthdays exist is this: We feel that each person should have one day that is ‘their own’, so to speak. One day when they feel they’re significant. A day when they can be megalomaniac and nobody alerts them otherwise. A day that is, for them, different from the other 364 days of the year. (This was later confirmed by Varun, who said the exact words of the last sentence.)

I do not much care for that. Have never done. When I was younger, my birthday was a day when I got gifts, and now, it’s a day when I have to treat my friends. For me, the only good thing that happens on this day is that you get to know how many people remember you. Friends you haven’t seen for months call up. Relatives you’d more-or-less forgotten about ring up and wish you. That feels nice.

When I was about to sit down to write this post, Varun recommended that I should write about my previous birthdays. I didn’t think I’d be able to remember more than one, but I found that I remembered two, and had fragments of memories of many in between. The two I remember clearly are the fifth and the nineteenth (or was it the eighteenth?). The fifth birthday memory is in fact, the earliest independent memory I have (independent meaning not based on hearsay or on old faded photos). I am blowing out candles, and I’m surrounded by my family, and about thirty children I am not at all acquainted with, mainly because we have moved in just days before. I think the number of children might be exaggerated. It was fifteen years ago, you know.

The nineteenth (or eighteenth) birthday memory should, logically, be much clearer, but it isn’t. (As you can see, I don’t even remember if it was one or two years ago.) I only remember that I was with Chetan at a rock concert, and it struck twelve just as we left. He gave me a hug and wished me happy birthday. I had forgotten it was my birthday. Typical me.

The birthdays in between are mere flashes, but they usually included being at school – sitting in class dressed differently from the other kids (the only day when we were allowed to do that), and distributing toffees, always making sure to buy too many, so that I could keep some for myself.

But, as I said, they never really excited me much, and I wrote this post only because I couldn’t think of something else right now. It seems rather petty to write so much on something I don’t care about while there is so much to write about that actually matters.

However, in other news, you, my dear readers, have read to the end a post in which a twenty-year-old, single, mildly geeky individual talks about how he doesn’t like birthdays.

How sad are you?

Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 11:18 AM
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