Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A thousand books and more

Patu Keswani's appetite for reading seems endless, in quantity and variety. In spite of my familiarity with several people who proudly wear the tag of 'voracious reader', no one comes close to the prodigious amount that Keswani, chairman, Lemon Tree Hotels, manages to devour every day.

By his own reckoning, he pores over 30-40 books a month and reads four-five books at any given time. If this hasn't made you choke on your coffee already, consider this: he possesses some 200-300 books on the world wars and a few thousand on science fiction alone.

That though is just the tip of the iceberg. Other books transcend genres like history, fantasy, architecture, painting and science fiction.

Books on history and warfare top the list, with The Art of War by Chinese master Sun Tzu the reigning favourite. While he is not very enthusiastic about Indian writers (his wife likes them), Samit Basu's fantasy books, The Simoqin Prophecies and The Manticore's Secret impressed him.

Keswani also liked Ashok Banker's series on the Ramayana, and proceeds to narrate a Guru Dronacharya quotation from the book, "The truth of today becomes the history of tomorrow, the legend of next month and the myth of next year." The statement is inspirational because "it presents a philosophical spin on the passage of time".

Despite being one of the pioneers of mid-market hotels in India, Keswani is not really a management buff. He does, however, find himself picking up a few finance tomes just to break the monotony. Lewis Carroll and T S Eliot find favour when it comes to poetry while the hotelier in him ends up picking books on tiles and stained glass.

Did I mention painting? Never mind. Patu Keswani's reading ambitions certainly stretch far beyond the scope of this column.

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This appeared in the Business Standard, here.

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