This is about an evening last December or thereabouts, dug out from 'Drafts' because of a wunnerful time last Wednesday evening.
A non-evening in a
Raj Kamal Jha has written another book. His third, and apparently a good one. His first was such a stylistic miscegenation – Amit Chaudhuri sets up Arundhati Ray (you can already make out I didn’t like Jha’s first, can’t you? Go on, say it, I’m biased!) on a blind date with John Irving. Awful stuff from a good writer. But “Fireproof” has been appreciated by Learned Persons who Understand Literature, so I shall buy it and hope it’s not, as the name suggests, a future Night Shyamalan script.
Said book was launched at the India International Centre, where one rolled up in search of like-minded company. And soothed internal issues about freeloading by sipping only soda. Such restraint. No wait, I had three fish fingers – should I send Picador a cheque? I knew precisely two people there. The Babu, once we were introduced, was the third. (And a bit of a disappointment, because my mental image of somebody plump, squat, square-jawed and shawl-wrapped was totally off the mark.) There was a BYT who led me to the venue, but sadly enough, she did not stop to chit-chat once we were in.
Chatted with the Dilton for a while, while he pointed out in quick succession (a) a poet (b) Ruchir Joshi and (c) Kanika Gehlot. Hysteria-inducing account of the reaction in
In the meantime, one PYT markedly pushed off from DD’s side the moment I hove into view; another rushed up to us and breathlessly asked if she could “borrow a cigarette”. Say what? Borrow? What does she do, hand back the stub? This cigarette thingy was repeated in various versions over the next 20 minutes (which was all I stayed, since I ended up with nobody to talk to). I spent some time in a wicker chair, sipping my soda and watching the fauna of literate
A young lady looked at me, whispered in her swain’s ear, looked at me again. Did I resemble somebody she’d seen on a post-office wall? No, I thought I knew the reason. Sure enough, she came over and asked for a cigarette. What is it with
Then I got tired of it all and went back to my room and slept fitfully, with unpleasant dreams that woke me up but vanished from my memory.