Saturday, August 14, 2010

Russian books in Bangalore

Russian books in Bangalore: I was born and brought up in Bangalore.I spent 5 years of my life (Puc & BA) i.e. between 1981-1986 travelling daily to the Home Science College and Maharani’s Arts College. I enjoyed my college and more so my visits to the used book stalls by the roadside near Avenue road and on Mysore Bank Road. I bought a huge number of books at really really low rates from those sellers . The books were usually dog-eared, dirty from being exposed to the dust of the heavy city traffic and faded from the sun and age. I also bought books from sellers near Majestic theatre and the Upparpet police station.

I also discovered the NavaKarnataka publications which sold tons of new Russian books (English translations) at ridiculously low prices. I cannot remember how many times I bought copies of Leo Tolstoy’s short stories for children with beautiful pencil sketches,(here is the image of the book cover) to give as gifts at children’s birthday parties.


The Russian  books had glossy pages and I always wondered how the hell the Russians could make a profit by selling books at such low rates ! I had to pay more than 100 rupees for a paperback book by James Hadley Chase printed on cheap paper while hard bound Russian classics like a book by Anton Chekov printed on glossy paper were less than 15 rupees each!

My dad was subscribing to the magzines from USSR since I was a little kid. I still remember the Kannada USSR magzines we had at home and also the Sputnik magazine from USSR. I loved the lovely photos and the glossy pages. The photos of women in their colourful skirts, golden hair and long plaits wound round their heads were a pleasure to see. I loved the photos of the snow covered forests and mountains, the farm land and massive farm machines. I remember fantasizing owning a farm and living on it like in Russia. (It was only later I learnt of the lies behind the photos…that there were huge problems in Russian agriculture and their economy and so on). I did not really find the Russian cartoons as funny as the ones in the SPAN magazine coming from USA. The SPAN was another lovely magazine which was inexpensive and informed about things in USA. Though I bought a lot of Russian books I read very few of them. I did love having them though ! I went through a phase in my teens and twenties when I wanted to have read all the classics and study literature and become a  famous writer ! I did read the short stories by Leo Tolstoy for children, started War and Peace and could not finish ( I did manage to sit through the complete movie which came on 2 or three days in parts. We had a black and white television then and it was a time in the 80s in Bangalore when award-winning foreign movies were broadcast by the Indian government who ran the television stations. I did read a huge chunk of Crime and Punishment (my dad had a lovely leather bound copy by Heron publications) but it was so depressing that  I stopped mid-way.
Why are all Russian classics so depressing? At least the ones I buy?

I do have plans of reading these books some time and right now I  have them all in my tiny house, eating up valuable space.  I have War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, The brothers Karamazov, Anna Kareena and some books  by Anton Chekov.

The only Russia based books I have really enjoyed are the short stories for children by Leo Tolstoy and the Martin Cruz Smith books of the fictional Moscow detective Arkady Renko. And the Rostnikov series by Stuart Kaminsky and the triology of books by Tom Rob Smith.

Oh My God. I almost forgot ! I have bought tons of the Russian science books for my little sister (there is a 20 year age gap between us) …books on maths, chemistry, machines, physics. She recently said she did enjoy those books and they did help her learn a lot. She remembered a book about the periodic table with stories in it. I also remember that I got a few Russian books as prizes in school. We had B.Ed students (i.e. students studying education to become teachers)who would take classes for us in school and at the end of their term they held competitions for the school-students. I had won a few Russian books, given away as  prizes;  the B.Ed students probably chose Russian books as prizes as they were dirt cheap and also educational.

Now that the USSR no longer exists, I cant find the cheap Russian books in India any more. I miss some of them, especially the children’s books.

2 comments:

Just thinking said...

For the past year I have also gone back in time and recollected reading lots of Russian books as a child. They were fantastic ! The illustrations were great ! I have bought a few of them doing intense searches on the web and I think I must have paid like nearly $12-$15 on an average. If you have some from your childhood days do [reserve them, they have all become collectibles now ! http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/. Here is a website that has PDF formats of many USSR children's books.

Just thinking said...

For the past year I have also gone back in time and recollected reading lots of Russian books as a child. They were fantastic ! The illustrations were great ! I have bought a few of them doing intense searches on the web and I think I must have paid like nearly $12-$15 on an average. If you have some from your childhood days do [reserve them, they have all become collectibles now ! http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/. Here is a website that has PDF formats of many USSR children's books.