Note to Rana Dasgupta: dude if you ever get around to reading this, a thousand apologies for laughing so much during the book discussion at the BCL last evening. Needless to say, Samit and I weren’t laughing at you - you know who we were laughing at.
In fact, for much of the proceedings in the British Council where Tokyo Cancelled had its Delhi launch, Samit Basu and I were giggling away like wombats locked in a cupboard listening to the Bulla song. It had nothing to do with Rana Dasgupta, who read well and said interesting things, but with a Certain Lady Who Shall Remain Unnamed, who kept interspersing the discussion with what we agreed were sex sounds. It got so we began to see sexual innuedoes in everything that was said (it helps enormously when the discussion includes never-before-heard terms like “pragmatic probing”). I thank my lucky stars that Shougat and Samyukta weren’t sitting next to me too, because when we met up after the event was over we automatically doubled up with laughter. Four people chortling loudly in just the third row would’ve been very noticeable.
Rana’s reading was nice - he was visibly and charmingly nervous, though not enough for it to screw up his performance - even if it went on longer than we’d expected. He made the point one hears so often from writers, but which is always worth hearing again, about how real life can make even the most improbable-seeming fiction seem mundane. This was said in the context of the fantastical stories in Tokyo Cancelled that were alarmingly mirrored by real-life events subsequently. (“Real life sometimes provides not just more interesting material but better literature too,” said Rana dryly; when his story about a secret organisation that stores and edits people’s memories found a parallel in the real world, the name of the real company was “LifeLog”, as opposed to the less dramatic “Memory Mine” in Rana’s story.) About the book discussion and the question-and-answer session that followed I will speak naught more than I have already spoke, except to say that the “jerking off in public” analogy can never be overused for literary events.
At any rate, the last hour was spent productively doing what most of us had come to do - sipping wine (I gulped,a little) and accosting kebab-bearing waiters (Shougat’s photographer, the redoubtable Manpreet Romana, intelligently stationed us very near the kitchen door whence the waiters would emerge with their loaded trays). Leaving, I learnt from Samit that we’ve been invited to Ruchir Joshi’s budday party on Sunday. Not sure I can make it but will try.