Pen Pals.

No, I did not have to use a pencil to correspond with my pen pal. I had only one ever and he came about because of the United States Information Service’s library in Madras in the 1950s. My cousin was a librarian there and she had made me and my siblings members. We used to borrow books from there. One day, she asked me if I would like to be a pen pal to an American of my age, which at that time was 13 and I said sure and so I became friends with a young lad from the USA named Johny Horrigan Jr. We exchanged a few letters, and both of us got bored of it and so the pen pal activity tapered off to an unceremonious end.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and I have made a great many online/blogger pals who I suppose are the modern equivalent of pen pals. We use computers and the internet instead of paper, pen and the postal services. The process is much faster too.

Like all pen pals do, I too hope that I will get to meet some of my online pals as they assure me they do too. Without personally meeting however, I have been able to establish many good long distance friendships thanks to the internet and blogging and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Shackman has suggested the topic for this week’s LBC Friday post. You can see what the other writers of the LBC have to say in their respective blogs.  Maria, Pravin and Shackman.

Return To Chaos.

When I returned from my sabbatical, the dust had settled down somewhat but my bedroom was still used to store many things that could not be shifted for a few more days due to some more work, essentially finishing coats of paint being applied in the drawing room.

Since I could not use the bedroom, I moved into a Serviced Apartment hotel facility just behind our home which we use to accommodate visiting guests. I spent day times at home or doing other things, but spent five nights at the hotel. Since the facility offered free breakfast, I had to just have lunch at home and it was quite an adventure for those five days to have kind of picnic lunches at home. Since I do not have cooked meals for dinner, eating fruits in the evenings at the hotel was quite simple and so, for simply the cost of the rental, I was able to spend five nights in that facility.

It was however quite a relief to be able to return home after those five days despite the kitchen still not having been equipped with windows. The windows and the exhaust fan for the kitchen were finally installed last Friday/Saturday and now we have to wait for a couple of weeks before the modular furniture for the kitchen can be installed. In the meanwhile make do storage arrangements for utensils and other kitchen material is the order of the day but Mangal, our resident expert is quite cheerfully adapting to such ad hoc arrangements on the belief that eventually she would get a dream kitchen.

In the process of redoing the drawing dining area, Ranjan has moved the inverter to below the staircase and I find that the existing console housing it is not sturdy enough for pulling out and pushing back into to its assigned space. I have therefore designed a wooden unit which will be made to my specifications tomorrow by a carpenter specially hired for the job. The material has been ordered and the carpenter is on call to arrive as soon as the material is delivered.

In the meanwhile, Manjiree’s family has a wedding coming up in Kolkata and so she and Ranjan left earlier this afternoon for Kolkata and will return only on Friday late evening. So, after many years, yours truly is living in solitary splendour in his own palace with only Chutki for company in the nights.

My old library has been removed and a brand new more accessible shelving system has been put in place. I am using the opportunity of re -shelving my collection to cull it to reduce the number to be more manageable. Ranjan’s colleague Rahul will come in the day time to help me cull tomorrow and the day after and we have lined up two interested people to take away the books that I will be discarding.

Other bits and pieces of work keep cropping up and coming Saturday will also see some fabricators come to instal overhangs on top of the windows of the kitchen on the outside. A new shelving system for the TV/DVD unit is also on the drawing board and all in all the first half of March also would appear to offer quite a bit of work to be managed before we can say “phew!”


I hope that you enjoy reading another post of the Friday Loose Bloggers’ Consortium when eleven of us post on the same topic chosen by one of us. Today’s topic has been chosen by Gaelikaa.

Please do visit Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Maria, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy, Anu and Ginger to see ten other views on the same topic. Some of these bloggers may be preoccupied with vacations, examinations, family problems and/or romance, so be a little indulgent in case they do not post or post late.

As I write this, my father is sitting on his rocking chair, completely lost in a book and since he is hard of hearing, nothing disturbs him from that passionate pastime. Reading and his daily dose of watching television for two to three hours every evening, is more or less his raison d’être.

My raison d’être differs slightly in that instead of the television, I have blogging and crossword puzzles, but both take lesser importance to my passion for books and reading in general. My three siblings too are huge readers as was our late mother. So, I can safely blame my genes for my spending a lot of money on books that would have otherwise gone into my son’s inheritance.

From childhood, my siblings and I were encouraged to read and in any case, the entertainment that is now available was not available then, and one had to read to keep oneself occupied. I also traveled a great deal in my working life, and books were my companions bought at airport and railway shops all over India and some parts of the UK and Europe. Since I retired from active service, I have become a compulsive book buyer and I am not complaining!

Apart from purchasing books, which is something that I started much later in life, I depended on many lending libraries but, of late, libraries are few and far between and it is difficult to keep going to them to borrow forcing me to buy the books that I wish to read.

My home is full of books. They are everywhere. Their alloted place at the library which is over flowing, on the side shelves in the bedrooms, on either side of the pillows I sleep on, next to my favourite chair, next to where I sit and solve crossword puzzles and also in the sideboard near the dining table. Here is the library from which I have removed some books to show that the books are shelved three deep with a kind of mezzanine arrangement at the back.

I however know where I can locate any book that I want without too much searching. Occasionally I need help from my son, whose friends keep disturbing the arrangements in the library.

At any given time I read three books simultaneously, unless I am totally engrossed in one. Sometimes, it does happen that one book will keep me fully engaged but it is rare.

I need to read each book at least twice. I rarely read fiction and the matters that interest me are usually heavy stuff and it takes at least two readings to understand them.

I seldom go to a bookshop to buy books. I mostly buy them online as I find this convenient and economical too. Reviews normally influence my purchases as well as some reference to a book in some other book that I happen to be reading. Lest I forget, I immediately go online to purchase such books. For instance, the latest book that I have ordered for is “The Art Of Choosing” by Sheena Iyengar.. I heard Sheena Iyengar on Video from a TED talk. No sooner I finished listening to her, I went to my favourite online bookshop and ordered the book. I have just begun to read it.

As an interesting aside, I request my readers to learn something about Sheena Iyengar who is blind, and also listen to her talk, both for which I have provided links above. She is a fascinating personality who handles her disability with panache and one can’t help admire her.

Collecting Or Collections.

This post is the Loose Consortium Bloggers’ Friday post when Ashok, Conrad, Grannymar, Magpie11, Marianna, Maria, Gaelikaa, Helen, Judy the latest addition, and I write one post each on the same topic. Please visit the other blogs too to have different views on this fascinating subject.


I am a compulsive buyer of books and can thus qualify for possessing a library conisisting of over 300 books. This after having got rid of over 200 books just six months ago! I have read almost all of them and those that are yet to be fully read are normally where I sit to read on my easy chair, or near my bed where I read before sleeping every afternoon and night. The subjects that you will find in my eclectic collection will be, History, Philosophy, Economics, Religion, and many other odd subjects. While most visitors will find it difficult to locate a particular book that they know I have, it will be no problem for me and within a couple of minutes I can locate any book in my, rather, haphazardly arranged library.

Usually, reviews in magazines and newspapers or references from friends will trigger off a hunt for a book and I normally buy online from an Indian bookseller who is highly competitive in his pricing and offers free delivery by courier to one’s doorstep.


The other tangible things that I collect are Recipes. I have them in the form of books, print-outs, handwritten notes, typed notes, pages removed from magazines and books etc. These are in reasonably good order and I can easily locate what I want without spending too much time searching for any particular recipe.


Before illness felled Urmeela, she was an avid collector of curios, wooden carvings of all kinds and Tanjore mirror paintings. Apart from her own works, these are treasured and stored away. Some are used as wall decoration, but most of them are simply wrapped and stored away. A couple of years ago, on an impulse, Urmeela took down all her collection and chose only those that she thought would be right for Ranjan, to be stored and had a bonfire with the rest of the stuff including many of her own paintings. A kind of spring cleaning as it were.


Old memories of people, events and places collected over a rather eventful life are the intangible collections that I cherish too. Many things trigger them and with modern access to all kinds of information and thanks to google, I can revisit many of them. Some times it gets to be quite maudlin and I do not often indulge in such reveries. It is however quite rich and at least for me, worth visiting every now and then.


From June of last year, I have started a new collection and that is priceless. I have made a collection of friends via my blog and many other blogs, and though except for a couple of them, I have not met any, I feel as though they have been my friends for long. Blogging enables people to be more open than they normally would be on face to face situations and perhaps that is why, the friendships made in the blog-world are more informal and shall we say, interesting!

For all my Blog Friends in general and my fellow Loose Consortium Bloggers in particular, this is to wish you a very Happy Diwali. By the time this gets published, I would be out of Pune for two nights and shall return only on Sunday evening. My comments on the other LCB posts will have to wait till either late Sunday night or Monday morning my time. Please however leave your comments for me to peruse on my return. I shall be eagerly looking forward to them.

Maintaining A Library.

Post retirement, my one indulgence is reading. I am a prodigious reader and buy books all the time. Every time I come across a reference to some book in something that I read, even some comment or a post in a blog, I immediately send for it. Mostly, I buy online as, the book is delivered at my doorstep and I find that the cost including the shipping costs comes to be lower than if I were to go into town to buy the book.

My collection, sizable as it was when I retired has been building up at a nice clip. Since I stay in an apartment however, space to store is a problem. I therefore have a periodic clean up and get rid of books that I do not intend reading or referring to again. These are mostly novels and short stories.

I have a mini library near my bed, where all the new unread books are kept till I move them one at a time to the drawing room where I read during the daytime. From there, the books move to the actual library, which is located at the landing of the first floor. A space had originally been created for a wardrobe, where I have made a library.

To add to my own collection, my son too is an avid reader and since he too buys books, mostly fiction, the library is quite a substantial one.

The problem with the library however is the need to keep the books dusted and clean and the shelves too cleaned and aired. Once in every few months I remove all the books from the shelves, rearrange them by subject and after dusting and wiping them, arrange them in a systematic manner all over again. With frequent removal, replacement and additions, it gets disorganized all over again in a few months and so the exercise has to be repeated.

In carrying out this exercise, I inevitably take the help of our handyman Yakob, about who I have already written in one of my earlier posts. He removes all the books in stacks, to the floor of one of the bedrooms upstairs, and cleans each book without disturbing the stack. This helps in rearranging the books back on the shelves as mostly the stacks are in a logical order.

The forenoon of yesterday was our day for carrying out this exercise. All went well, with a couple of breaks for tea and after about three hours, we completed the task.

This was when, for the first time in twenty years, Yakob decided to ask me about the library. He asked me, if I had read all the books. I answered in the affirmative. He asked, if I read them more than once. I answered, yes, some and mostly, only to refer to some passage or the other. Very few books were read fully the second time. He then asked me whether, it would be possible that most of the books now rearranged in the library would never be touched by me again. In all honesty, I had to answer yes. He then asked me, why in that case, I don’t give them away to someone who will read them, as I had given away many of the books on Management and Economics, and like some of the books that I had discarded during the current exercise too to be given away.

I am yet to come up with an answer. I have promised him that I shall give him an answer after careful reflection.

I am sure that many of you, my dear readers are also avid readers who collect books. How would you answer Yakob, if you had been asked this question?