‘Fasting, Feasting’

The title, readers among you might recognize, as the title of an Anita Desai novel, a finalist for the 1999 Booker Prize. I’ve borrowed it because, having just got back from a magical reading of passages from the same by Anita herself, I’m absolutely ‘floored’! Sorry, wanted to be very literary and use elegant language, but ‘floored’ just best describes how I feel right now, not delighted or fascinated or awestruck – although I feel all that too!

My dear friend J (to whom I am eternally grateful!) had an extra invite to the event and since we’re both bookworms, she took me along. I haven’t read Anita Desai, so I had no expectations. I googled her to get a bit of background and not be the only entirely ignorant reader at the event! (God Bless Google!) That was the extent of my preparation.

The event was held at the Pod on the 16th storey of The Singapore National Library, a venue that was stunningly appropriate for the evening as it turned out. A wide circular room, with glass walls that allowed expansive vistas of the Singapore skyline and river. For once, I was glad for the rain that had thankfully petered to a light misty drizzle and as the evening progressed and the lights came on, contributed to the magical aura of the setting.

There were a few speeches to begin the evening, that I happily pass over and then at last she began to read. As I write, I can still hear her quietly forceful voice in my head. Not particularly loud, yet effectively nuanced and incisive. She transported me and the rest of the attentive audience, straight into Uma’s world, minutes into the reading. When she read the passage where the protagonist Uma is on display to a prospective bridegroom – the whole audience was laughing! When she told how the same bridegroom asked for Uma’s younger sister Aruna’s hand instead of hers, we empathized with Uma’s pain and disappointment, felt her mother’s anger. Poignantly funny, I think we all recognized the Uma in ourselves, deeply hidden yet strangely familiar. I wanted her never to stop and I could see many around me similarly affected!

I will always remember her in black and white. A striking persona resulting from an elegantly dignified blend of her mixed parentage and wisdom, in a beautiful black and white mekhla, long silver earrings, with her silvery gray hair in a large bun and the glasses perched on her nose. I could gush on and on, about her simple yet emphatic language, her clarity of thought, her dry wit and her general poise and grace – but I think you get the picture!

I was ‘floored’ by the reading, borrowed my friend’s copy of the book instantly and am off to read it right now!

“Happy Reading” fellow bookworms!

3 thoughts on “‘Fasting, Feasting’

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