Ach so – it’s got to be my favourite German phrase in recent times – and here we are. New address and new blog and everything. And there’s so much pressure to be witty and clever and all that sort of thing. The pressure shouldn’t be there. And I should be able to be witty and clever and all that sort of thing because apparently that’s what I am. Only I cannot. I actually feel like I’m about to say something stupid.
So instead I will just tell you about this book launch and reading I went to yesterday. The book was The Pink Sheep by Mahesh Natarajan (now Facebook friend and we all know how intense that sort of relationship is) and I had an absolutely lovely time.
My friend and soon-to-be-published author Rheea Mukherjee (and remember you read about her here first) took me to a book reading in San Francisco. It was my first ever book reading. They served champagne. It was the first time I had champagne as well. And felt damn guilty because Dirkanna, one of my favourite friends had bought me a bottle of some really expensive champagne. Because he said ‘no woman should go through life not having had champagne.’ And when I next went to Pondicherry, there it was, my own bottle of exquisite champagne that I decided to save for the farewell of my little one. Knowing that all my friends live by the motto ‘Carpe Diem’ I shrugged the guilt aside and sipped the champagne and waited for the reading to start.
The writer was a well-read woman. It’s terrible, I know, but I’ve completely forgotten her name. So anyway she read a few excerpts from her work really well and threw the floor open for questions. A guy at the back of the room asked the first question. He introduced himself as a first year creative writing student and rambled on and on making no sense whatsoever about Sartre’s philosophy towards sex (yes, you know what I mean now) and ended his long talk saying, actually saying, ‘Hell, I just wanted to talk and let everyone know I read Sartre. And that’s it. Now you (to the writer) can talk about intimacy in your book.’ Now such idiocy always shocks me. But it didn’t end there. The most memorable question of the evening was when a girl in a beautiful, modulated voice asked in her American accent, ‘So you are an intuitive writer, can you tell us how you write intuitively?’
The writer managed to keep her composure and answer such questions with a lot of dignity. But I was horrified! And after that, no one can blame me if I don’t have too high an opinion on Americans or book-readings.
Yesterday’s was different. I had to go because they were friends of my boy who has become such a man now that I’m actually considering marrying him and to hell with incest. And so I went.
Mahesh has a soft voice and is very unassuming. The text he was reading immediately grabbed my interest and attention. Dr. Sekhar Sheshadri of NIMHANS released the book and added his two bits about what it meant to be gay in conservative Indian society. It was highly intelligent but absolutely not high-brow. Even an eight year old would have understood both the stories and the discussion that ensued.
Dr. SS declared two minutes after I had reached, ‘Marriage is highly over-rated.’ You will understand why I almost wanted to kiss his long beard.
Then Mahesh read this excerpt, ‘Every gay boy deserves a good girl pal, a fag hag; other friendships don’t quite come close to it. I had had my share of women friends, but nothing like the amazing chemistry between Hema and Hemant. Sometimes, when the three of us were together, watching a movie, or walking through a market, they would look at each other and just burst out laughing. When I finally got them to tell me what was so funny, they would fill me in with whole conversations that had happened in that one glance.’
Now whether gay or straight, I’m sure we can all relate to special relationships like that.
And importantly, I’ve finished a few short stories already and they are brilliant. I’d rate the book a 4 on 5. Definitely worth reading. Especially by all those people who go, ‘But what really happens in a gay relationship? What is it that you do? How can you be attracted to a man?’ Mahesh talks about relationship experiences that could happen to anyone irrespective of their orientation.
Yes, it has predominantly gay overtones, but I’m okay with that. Not because I’ve inadvertently become something of an LGBT activist (a term I hate, by the way) but because the persuasion is the same. It’s all about falling in love, dealing with family, and trying desperately not to get hurt or hurt someone in the pursuit of life and love. And I can relate to it so well. I’ve been that woman who had a severe crush on a married man. I’ve been that woman who ruined a perfectly good relationship by saying something stupid like ‘I love you.’ I’ve been that woman who has wished she could marry her best openly gay friend and be done with the whole societal pressure of getting married. Only we didn’t because twin-souls are good only for the soul. And there is a severe possibility that both of us could get attracted to the same cock. I’ve had dinners turn out in unexpected ways. I’ve tried so hard to impress a woman whom I thought was prospective mother-in-law but failed so miserably and realised the error of my ways a little too late.
These stories are our stories. It’s impressive. It’s heart-breaking, funny, tender and beautiful. Hell, if I had half the patience, I could have written them myself and more connection than that you cannot ask for from a book. Mahesh led me to my own space, his thoughts were so akin to my own thoughts. I was at home.
But what really impressed me was that the audience were happy, smiling, and contemplative. And no one asked a question simply because it was question time and they wanted to show off what they knew. There was none of the pseudo-intellectualism one associates with writers and such readings. It was all quiet, peaceful, and actually homely. A group of friends sitting together and listening and speaking about life and relationships – straight or gay.
There was no champagne. But I didn’t miss it.
So when Karthik ended the discussion thanking everyone and calling the audience ‘family’ it didn’t feel corny.
I felt at home.