It's been ten days since my last post but I feel as if a couple of months have passed ...
22nd: departure for Bombay -- SAW ECLIPSE (partial) FROM THE AIRCRAFT!! Wanted to stand up and scream "Look! Look! We can see the eclipse!" -- but immediately thought better of it, not wanting to be responsible for the simultaneously blinding of half the passengers on the flight, as they would all then have turned and stared, which is exactly what one must NOT do. Still. Spent the rest of the flight feeling violently thrilled, all to myself. In Bom, was whisked away to a delightful boutique hotel just behind the Taj, GORDON HOUSE. Was excellently looked after by event management group SEVENTY. Loved my room. Tried to do nothing, but failed and instead called a dear friend, Caveh Munshi, and had a wonderful tea as his guest at the United Services Club at the southern tip of Colaba. It was sprinkling with rain and the waves were gray and grimy but I was awash with memories of all the many, many hours spent with friends just a hop-skip-jump further along the very same sea-front, at the TIFR all those years ago, in the early eighties.
23rd: Vodafone/Crossword Book Awards event, good fun. Met Basharat Peer at Gordon House, and also Nayantara Sehgal, who was the chief guest. At the event, my sister G was present and also Caveh. The fiction prize went to AMITAV GHOSH for Sea of Poppies and to NEEL MUKHERJEE for Past Continuous. Non-fiction to BASHARAT PEER for Curfewed Night. Translation to IRA PANDE's translation of MANOHAR SHYAM JOSHI's T'ta Professor. Was delighted to meet Usha K.R., last year's fiction prize winner, who with Mukund Padmanabhan (no relation!!) was one of the three jury members for the fiction prize this year. Was also delighted to meet Nilroy -- who was the compere for the event -- and Zigzackly at the dinner. Nayantara Sehgal joined G and Caveh and me at our table for dinner, which was very pleasant and a bit nostalgic: G had been a little girl in Paris when my parents were posted there (before I was born) and remembered meeting NS in her youth, when she and her sister Chandralekha were the reigning beauties of their era
24th: left Gordon House, had a very pleasant morning and lunch with my friend T on Warden Rd, returning to my cousin S's lovely home in Cumballa Hill for the evening and night-spend. G and V (nephew) come over for dinner and a very convivial evening is enjoyed by all, even though my cousin, a busy paediatrician has had malaria all week. She is absolutely amazing. AND she has time to be an avid and passionate reader, with a group of friends whom she meets for a monthly book-club -- now ten years old and still very lively
25th: night-spend with my friends G & J in north Bom, culminating in an extremely lively party at night, complete with tons of food and great guests, including my friend A, who lives in an apartment building literally two minutes away.
26th: lunch with A at his house and departure for Madras, with my sister G. Glad to be home with my Mom, niece, niecelet and (alas) demented hound S, who had spent all four days of G's absence pining/starving/vengeance-peeing wherever possible
27th: meeting with Tulika to hand over the original artworks of WHERE'S THAT CAT? In the evening, niece leaves for short stay in Surat; I start work on the final image in a five-page "essay" for the Indian edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul -- it's called CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE INDIAN SPIRITUAL SOUL, published by Westland and edited by VEENA SESHADRI. I've been using my tiny little drawing tablet and mostly on the mini-laptop, so that it's been a bit of an ordeal at the purely eye-strain level. But it seems to be working out, and in Madras, I am able to do some of the finishing up on G's laptop, which has a much bigger screen. But the tablet only works with the li'l fella so the last few frames still had to be fiddled with on that miniature screen
28th: attend the Madras launch of Githa Hariharan's "Fugitive Histories". The evening is almost flooded out by a sudden downpour but the conference room at the Taj Coromandel is nevertheless packed to the rafters and Githa reading goes very well, followed by an interview with Ranvir. After the launch, a few friends and I go to dinner at Ranvir and Nandi Shah's wonderful home -- it's structured like a live-in museum cum art gallery, but is amazingly user-friendly and comfortable too. Great fun. Dinner is a five-course bhel-puri extravaganza and all of us stuff ourselves to the gills
29th: finally finish the Chicken Soup piece. Struggle to post it, net not cooperating, succeed only late at night.
30th: return to Tulika to wrestle with the artwork -- fixing small glitches, deciding on the title page -- there's still a number of little things to do. Great delight to catch a glimpse of the text and titles in eight other languages -- Malayalam, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada. Chicken Soup piece is accepted, a great relief for me. Return to work on short story for ... never mind! Bad juju to discuss unfinished work
31st: immediately begin working on NEXT book for Tulika. Just preliminary ideas and sketches. Meanwhile, alongside everything else, there are chats with Mum over meals and in the evenings, just around the time I normally call her (8.30 pm, every evening on the phone) when I am NOT in Mad, chats with G all through the day, chats with niecelet whenever time permits. Frequent furtive visits to the French Loaf bakery and chocolaterie down the road. In the middle of the night, I lie awake listening to the koels, babble-screaming in their musical way -- I have NO idea why they make such a racket at dead of night -- they break out at regular intervals, even at three and four a.m. What goes on? Avian politics.
1st: back to Tulika to do the title-banner artwork. Tea at Amethyst with G and niecelet. The heavens open while we are there, sitting at one of the tables set in the garden. While the rest of us run indoors, G stands in the open saying, "Oh it's just a little drizzle!" -- even as the rain barrels down with increased force until she is forced to sprint to the verandah where the rest of us are taking shelter. We grab a table at one of the ringside seats and have a good old tuck in, while the thunder booms overhead and the niecelet gives in to a momentary panic about maybe having to spend the night "under this table" -- an idea suggested to her by her cruelly unsympathetic grandmother (G!).
2nd: visit to a young cousin's very charming apartment. Otherwise, day spent lazing a little -- haven't actually done much of that so far. Go to airport with G to collect niece returning from Surat, accompanied by niecelet dressed in green dragon costume, complete with spikes and tail. A few people noticed, the rest behaved as if it were completely normal for a four-year-old to be attired thus. Other children in particular paid close attention, as if unsure whether to be wild with envy or withering with contempt. Mostly, their eyeballs are just trailing on the floor with sheer surprise
3rd: back to Tulika for a final visit, this time laden with cookies. Delighted to wrap the project completely. Chicken Soup is also complete now and needs only to be posted. But the in-house computers -- ALL THREE -- are not quite up to the task. I decide to return to Del for the wrap up. Still working on short story.
4th: discovered that my ticket was for the 3rd. Eek. Decide not to tell anyone, but just go ahead and buy a ticket for the same flight, same afternoon, same airline (Kingfisher). Am astonished to find that it costs less than the Jet Airways Bom/Mad fare -- really, it is beyond bizarre, judge for yourselves: Rs 5000+ for Bom/Mad, and Rs 3000+ for Mad/Del. Does it make sense? Nope. *shrug* Whatever! I buy the ticket, print it out on the upstairs computer, say goodbye to G, niece and niecelet who leave in the afternoon for a night-spend at Fisherman's Cove, where there's a weekday half-price package deal in place and then wish my Mom goodbye before leaving for the airport myself, at 3 pm, via Madras's excellent cab-hire service, FastTrack (their number is: 044-24732020). Arrive in Del at 8.30 pm, get into a pre-paid cab and am stuck in traffic for almost two hours -- i.e., just half an hour short of the flying time from Mad -- in a gigantic traffic jam that extends almost right up to Friends Colony
4th (night): grateful to be home, YOW! Continue working on short story ...
And so it goes.