I met Vinod quite by chance in the late nineties when I was invited to their creative writing class by JR Jyoti saab to speak about my experience in writing my first novel. Though the experience of speaking wasn't much, I instantly hit it off with Vinod. We enjoy laughing at the same kind of things and he writes brilliant humour articles and would contribute to the Deccan Chronicle then. Since then we keep meeting almost once in a fortnight at Minerva Coffee Shop and down coffee and mirchi bajji and discuss all things literary (mainly cribbing about successful writers and gossiping about the others - its a literary thing.) But we laugh like crazy and that's a good thing.
|Vinod Ekbote and his amazing collection - Pic Jatin Ekbote
Vinod has the largest collection of the most amazing books I have seen. He is a very discerning buyer with an enormous knowledge of writers and their best books and picks them up regularly. He is Hyderabad's biggest name in second-hand book markets and is revered in the second-hand book market at Abids by one and all. Every Sunday he is there buying books by the dozen. He introduced me to many books, many authors - notably Dave Barry, has been a great friend and supporter and one of the first to read my drafts. Even more significantly Vinod got me started on writing blogs so I owe him a lot - like the next coffee and bajji bill to start with.
Here's a peek into the mind of mana who knows his books, his writers and reads voraciously. Vinod works in the state government and is a senior officer with the Agriculture department which is his parent department but he is frequently out on deputation.
Vinod's InterviewHM: How did your reading habit start?
VE: A cousin who lived with us while we were living in a small town took me to a library. I was in the sixth or seventh standard. It was my first visit to a library. There were so many books. I found and read my first book (incidentally it was a Telugu book) I was hooked to reading from then. But it was much later that I really became mad about books, somewhere in my late twenties.
|Books, books, books...
HM. Who influenced you early on to read?
VE: No one in particular. I started to read on my own from the books on my father’s shelf.
HM: What were the books that impacted you most? How?
VE: ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King- it started me on my own writing.
‘The Summing Up’ by Somerset Maugham taught me something about how a writer thinks and much about writing.
I loved ‘The Foreigner’ by Arun Joshi. Until then no book had made such an impression as ‘The Foreigner’ did. I am so crazy about it that I pick up every copy I find!
I also like books by Graham Greene especially ‘The Heart of the Matter,’ and his essay collections. I also like Paul Theroux’s travel writing. His ‘Dark Star Safari’ is a favorite book.
HM: Could you share the list of your top 10-15-25 books?
VE: ‘The Summing Up’ by Somerset Maugham
‘On Writing’ by Stephen King
‘The Foreigner’ by Arun Joshi
‘The Last Labyrinth’ by Arun Joshi
‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie
‘Too Much Happiness’ by Alice Munro
‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe (It made me cry.)
‘The English Patient’ by Michael Ondaatje
‘The Heart of the Matter’ by Graham Greene
‘Felicia’s Journey’ by William Trevor
‘Look at Me’ by Anita Brookner
‘The Great Railway Bazaar’ by Paul Theroux
‘Imperium’ by RyszardKapuscinski
‘The Gathering’ by Anne Enright
‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ by Joan Didion
‘The Snow Leopard’ by Peter Matthiessen
‘Monkey Grip’ by Helen Garner
‘Disgrace’ by J.M. Coetzee
‘Get Carter’ by Ted Lewis
‘An Expensive Place to Die’ by Len Deighton
HM: Who are your favourite authors - top 5?
VE: Somerset Maugham, Chinua Achebe, Alice Munro, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Arun Joshi…
HM: How many books do you read on an average per year these days?
VE: 75-80. Because of the lockdown this year (2020) I’ve read 120 books so far till end of August 2020.
HM: How many books do you own?
VE: Haven’t taken a count. Maybe 3000.
HM: What are the books you are reading currently?
VE: ‘Balkan Ghosts’ by Robert D Kaplan
HM: What's next on your list?
VE: ‘The Razor’s Edge’ by Somerset Maugham
HM: What are the books you have been meaning to read but have kept pending?
VE: ‘War and Peace’ by Leo Tolstoy and the usual classics- Pride and Prejudice, Madame Bovary, Emma and such titles.
HM: What's the one book you value the most?
VE: ‘The Saddest Pleasure’ by Moritz Thomsen. I protect it like a treasure. Don’t ask me to lend it, please.
HM: What the best book-gift you got?
VE: A friend I met through my blog gave me ‘Get Carter’ by Ted Lewis that I was desperately wanted to read.
HM: What's the one book you regret losing?
VE: Endless Love’ by Scott Spencer. My wife gave it away to the raddiwala unknowingly.
HM: What's the favourite book that you gift people?
VE: ‘The Summing Up’ by Somerset Maugham. I must have given more than a dozen copies of this book as well as ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King
HM: Your favourite experience around books, if any?
VE: I made many friends through my blog where I write about books. Two of them live in the neighbourhood and we meet often.
HM: If there's an author you would like to write like, who would it be?
VE: Too many to name here. Somerset Maugham, Alice Munro, Graham Greene, Paul Theroux, Ryszard Kapuscinski…
HM: What's your favorite place to shop for books?
VE: The second-hand book market at Abids in Hyderabad on Sundays. Since the past thirty years I’ve been visiting this place where I’ve found 99% of the books in my collection. It is like visiting a treasure house and getting to pick up some truly wonderful titles.
HM: If there is one author you'd like to meet who would that be?
VE: Dave Barry. He is the funniest writer I’ve read. I want to meet him and shake his hand for writing the sort of books that have made me laugh like crazy. No one else makes me laugh like Dave Barry.
HM: How has reading books changed you?
VE: Reading has made me less dumber.
HM: Any other thoughts around books?
VE: Those who don’t read are losing out on a lot. Books make for the best friends. I’d be lost without books. It is the best way to know about life, people, and a lot of other things one cannot experience directly. Reading makes you empathetic, tolerant, and also broad-minded.
For those who want an insight into Vinod's fabulous collection and his 'Sunday Hauls' in the second-hand book market at Abids, Hyderabad (mainly), do visit his blog http://vinodekbote.blogspot.com/