I am not much for author reads and book launches and stuff like that – blasphemous words since I am a writer myself, and hey, I am aware I am axing my own legs! Be that as it may, a couple of years ago I let go of Kiran Desai’s presence at Landmark simply because I did not see why I had to go meet her even though I loved both her books! The only famous author whose book reading I attended was Amitav Ghosh – another one of my favourite writers - but that was because a friend needed company. The smaller (compared to the above two mega stars) book readings/launches that I have attended were to show love and support for my writer/poet friends and acquaintances. And that is something I will always do. So…
When I received an email from Mridula Koshy about her book readings in Chennai and Bangalore, I told myself now here is a writer who takes her profession seriously. I like and respect professionalism in people from the creative disciplines. I shot off an enthusiastic mail and then uploaded her book reading announcement on my blog. What I did not know then was Mridula Koshy was not just going about her writerly business in a professional manner, she was being downright sincere.
I was one of the early birds at the Taj Connemara today. Very early in fact because the members of Madras Book Club the co -hosts of Mridula’s book reading (the other two being Prakriti Foundation and her publisher Westland/Tranquebar Press) always like to enjoy their tiffin of snacks and Kaapi before settling down to attend to the author, the reading gets delayed by a good forty five minutes as a rule. Luckily for me I did not have to sit by myself for long. Mridula was early too and I walked up to introduce myself, wondering if I was doing the right thing. It is always awkward walking up to a published writer; you don’t want to come across as a sycophant or someone who gushes over anyone remotely connected to the media. But I think I did gush at the end!
I might as well have walked up to meet not a school mate, but someone who shared the same institute with me, there was that feeling of instant connect. I also felt instantly protective. She was poised, polite and perfect in every way, so why did I feel protective? I haven’t quite figured that out. All I know is that I also liked her instantly. And then she told me that writing to people who blogged was something she had done on her own and not at the publisher’s behest, because she wanted to get across to real people who read books and would therefore write real reviews. I realized then that she was more than professional, she was genuinely sincere.
As the evening progressed and she went and sat upon the spotlit seats, flanked by K. Srilata the poet and writer and Ranvir Shah founder of Prakriti Foundation, reading an excerpt from her book in her clear voice, responding to Srilata’s questions and discussions, and then taking questions from the audience, I had many glimpses of her genuineness. Her frank, free of any guile responses charmed me. At one point, a member of the audience asked her about the “semiotics” in her work which he preceded with a two minute talk on what I assumed was a pseudo-intellectual take on her writing, and she simply pushed the mike towards Srilata, who teaches Creative Writing at IIT Madras, saying she could answer that. Now most writers are subjected to this kind of literary scrutiny by one or two members of the audience. (I saw it happening to Amitav Ghosh and have heard of similar stories about other writers). Frankly, I think that these people are aspiring writers or worse still, literature students who think that outside of them nobody is truly qualified to analyse this whole literary thingumajig! Since I have a literature background I should know! Anyway, to come to the point, Mridula, did reply to the literary smartaleck, having composed herself in the thirty seconds that Srilata took to respond. What charmed me about her was the absolute simplicity of her answer and the gracious way she handled a person who was being self important.
Straight forward, genuine and gracious, that is how Mridula Koshy the writer came across to me. But there is more; thoughout the evening, begining with her brief interaction with me, right through her reading and question answer session, I got a sense that here was a very intelligent person with an acute sense of observation, and a mind that often detached itself to look over everything, including the self.
Much of what writers are made of seeps into their books, their words, their make believe worlds. I have not yet read the whole book “If It Is Sweet.” Even so, I am certain that I will read stories that have picked into the nooks and crannies of ordinary lives, sifted through the contents and spread them out tarot card fashion between the soft bound covers of her book. And yes, I certainly look forward to this writer’s successful journey into the literary landscape.
PS: A couple of things - sadly my camera battery ditched and I couldn’t take photos! I know I haven’t quoted her at all, but these are my impressions and there were enough journos there taking notes etc. so they will surely quote and misquote Mridula. Oh, and I gushed before I left, (unlike me but couldn’t help it!) ” Stay this way, don’t change!” What I meant really was, “this almost childlike and incisive truthfulness is precious and rare, this is your voice, hold on to it!”