Saturday evening, I attended my first literary event in Goa! It was the book launch of Kishwar Desai’s, ‘Witness the Night’ and the author was in conversation with Dr. Sudhir Kakar.
I was a little nervous because that’s how I am when I step out in gatherings where I don’t know anyone and am unsure of myself. Small talk is not my thing nor can I feign interest in the proceedings if they are boring and i’m generally uninterested in and unimpressed by celebrities, so where does that leave me…rather anxious but determined. I needed this evening like a fish needs water and I wasn’t disappointed!
The venue, Literati, my favorite book haunt, in sleepy Candolim, run by a friend, was perfect. The tables and chairs set in the garden were adorned with frangipani blossoms and there were fairy lights on trees that were quite charming! Tea was set out and of course, the requisite mosquito-repelling agarbattis were hidden innocuously among bushes and under chairs, lending their fragrance to another humid Goan evening.
There was a decent crowd, which surprised me! For some reason, I’ve never thought of Goans as very literary and I was quite right, cause most of the crowd was made up of local foreigners, who had variously made Goa their temporary or permanent home and non-goans settled here. The local press was there and a photographer, who, I am childishly delighted to say, has taken my picture for the local edition of the Times of India! What a hoot! I’m nobody in particular, I’m just me, but I might end up on Page 3! Even though it’s just a local edition and being on Page 3 is really no big deal. Since coming to Goa, I’ve realized that most of my family and friends are regularly featured there – that’s how small a place this is!! But Woohoo all the same 😉
Now to the important part – the book and the reading. I read a few pages while waiting for the evening to get underway. (Yes, this is Goa people and time has its own rhythm! Still, we did start off only 20 or so minutes late which is wonderful!). The book, is promising…it reads like a crime thriller, but as the author explained, she wrote it with a lot of rage towards the general lot of Indian women in society, even or rather, especially in the context of the allegedly progressive India of today. And that was the focus of our discussion, because most of us had just bought our copies. It was interesting, if rather feminist. I’m never quite sure about feminism. I believe that all human beings are equal and I understand and accept that women have been largely abused and ignored by men in our history. I also however feel that women do more harm to women than men can sometimes, and that women need to accept responsibility for their actions as well, and that I gather, is not a very popular view to have in feminism, where ‘Men’ are villains and women the innocent victims. I just think that while painting everything in black and white is neat and convenient, reality is a myriad shades of grey.
The discussion also touched on the whole ‘India Shining’ theme. How India is the ‘talk of the town’, ‘the flavor of the moment’! While we all like to concentrate and flaunt the double-digit growth and rising affluence of the burgeoning Indian middle-class amongst ourselves and to those that care to listen, ground realities, especially in the realm of social and humanitarian issues are ignored, hidden or swept away in the tide of self-congratulation. I do agree that while it is important to showcase the good, it is vital to remember the ugly, the broken, that which needs healing, and there is a lot of that in India. One just need take a good look around to know what I’m talking about. Most of us know, we just each choose to live in our own bubbles, see what we want, think thoughts that fit in with our views of what the world should be like rather than what it is, conform. I hate that word conform…but its taken me a while to get here myself.
I thought the author poised, intelligent and eloquent, but didn’t enjoy her reading. She was too quick and the seriousness of her subject matter, didn’t come through, at least to me. Perhaps it was the fact, that after 7.30 pm, the mosquitoes and rain flies descended on us in droves, and the function had to be hurriedly wrapped up, so we could eat and mingle. All in all, a wonderfully stimulating evening that I enjoyed. Made a few new acquaintances and even managed small talk! Met a senior journalist of a local newspaper, who is also a librarian at Central Library, the oldest library in Goa! Met fellow book lovers, from varied backgrounds, a trainer, a psychotherapist, a lawyer and others, each bringing new perspective. Looking forward to the next event, and also the book club that is happening this Tuesday evening!
Kudos to Rakhi and Literati for organizing a wonderful evening 🙂