Wasn’t planning to blog about the Rushdie-Dalrymple book reading at the Oxford Bookstore on Tuesday evening, but after reading Hurree Babu and Putu the Cat I thought I’d fling in my three rupees’ worth. Not that I have much of substance to say. Salman Rushdie, who I’m unashamedly in awe of, read out a whole short story ("The Firebird’s Nest") and I missed most of it, because I was more interested in roaming the store. Does that make me a Bad Bookster? Dunno, maybe book readings are an acquired taste, like scotch, but I just couldn’t get into this one.
Shougat, who’s as dedicated a reader as anyone I know, once sniffed that most of the book readings/discussions he’s been to had the feel of public masturbation. ("Look at us, we’re the Few Who Read.") I wouldn’t go that far, but yes, there’s something so personal about reading and something so impersonal about events like this one. And I’m not talking about the pretenders -- the high-society hacks and gadflies, the types who go up to Rushdie and coo "I loved The God of Small Things. Those are the soft targets; we poke fun at them all the time and I have no intention of stopping. But I’m talking here about the genuine book-lovers. Oh, sure, I know those who write reviews/do author profiles on a professional basis have to go for such events, and so it makes sense to find a way to have a good time at them. But still, but still still still... (Had a terrible headache at the time, so think I’ll use that as a temporary excuse while I’m searching for the larger answers.)
Oh well, the good bits now. Met Putu, who’s back in Delhi. We’re all such dour creatures behind our Internet identities. Think Putu the Cat encountering Jabberwock and you’d at the very least expect some hissing, snarling, gurgling, calloo-callaying, perhaps even bookshelves being hurled from one end of the store to another. But no, we just walked about, murmuring in undertone, exchanging reading recommendations, making half-hearted attempts at wisecracking.
Finally met Hurree Babu, whose presence always reminds me of how much reading I have yet to do before I can call myself a "books person". Strange to come face to face for the first time with someone you’ve had long, thoughtful mail exchanges with. (I was never a part of the online chat fraternity when the Internet first took off, so this was a completely new experience for me.) And when it’s someone you admire, well... Was unnerved, tried not to show it though.
Briefly met Rana Dasgupta, whose book Tokyo Cancelled is out in January, and who is being hailed as the next big thing. Putu assures me that he won’t be The Next Big Thing in the same way that Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi (of "the air was bursting with tension like the belly of a pregnant male sea-horse" fame) was last year’s Next Big Thing, so that’s encouraging.
And of course, had the always-delightful company of Shrabonti, who, refreshingly, is just a real person, with no blogging alter ego attached (though she was mistaken for Putu’s Forebrain by some at the do). The cakes and quiches were good too. So I probably will give the next book reading a go after all.
P.S. As Putu pointed out, no Padma Lakshmi cleavage. She did look hot though, and surprisingly elegant. Rushdie (all shaven) was surprisingly White.