I was told that we were to attend a book reading that evening. Usually I asked questions ….sometimes just for the heck of it. But this time I didn’t not even ask the customary “What book reading?’ Just nodded my head , I suspect that my mind was elsewhere. So that was how I was at the Taj. First we barged into a book reading like two school children really late for class. Three seconds later, we realize every body else was really old, like almost everybody was sporting silvery hair. It was a reading and a small enactment of RK Narayanan. So we were in the wrong room. We rush again impenitently. I forget that at one point in my life, I read RK Narayanan avidly . In college I had won a masquerade playing a obscure character called Shanthi from Narayanan novel. How soon one forgets things.
We enter the ballroom and though we were technically late, it looked like we didn’t interrupt anything. I stared brazenly at people because this was the first time that I was seeing so many people with garish make up under one roof. Stark white patchy faces and brown throats. Atrocious antique like accessories with big , bigger and biggest stones in all hues. Clinking glasses and inane intellectual conversations. A far cry from the RK Narayanan crowd. Amidst all this was Kiran Desai obscured by photographers of all sizes. She had an easy smile and nice hair, the kind that looked natural and never had a bad hair day. Someone introduced her ….booker prize…..quote …..compliments ….ended in a flourish with a “over to Kiran”.
There stood the woman who wrote a book that won the Booker Prize. A woman who is a successful writer, a celebrity, someone who made a good photo op. Then Kiran Desai squeaked and squeaked and squeaked. She had a squeaky schoolgirl voice. I liked her instantly though I have not as yet read any of her writings. I mentally decide to pick up her “Inheritance of Loss’. An excerpt from her book later, people started asking her questions. And I think of something smart to ask. I curse myself for not reading any of her works.
She answers to someone’s question that her favourite character is Biju from her “Inheritance of Loss”. My husband’s name is Biju too. The name I openly hated as it was the name of my childhood bully too. For once in my life, it felt nice being associated with the name Biju. I also try not to look at the gravity defying cleavage of a woman sitting one seat away from me. I succeed to some extent. ( I assure you that I am straight).
I stand in the long queue waiting to get her autograph with my newly bought IOL, I tell a photographer from my office to click us. I tell her that one day I want to write a book and I hope I am half as good as her. She asks me what I was writing on. I say stupidly “nothing”.
To Namita…My warmest wishes and good luck in your writing.
And I feel good. So does a drunk socialite who makes a spectacle of herself. But I was sober.