Thursday, March 17, 2016

Of meeting idols and learning life lessons.

This year, January was not a particularly happy month for me. In fact, it was probably one of the worst months of my 38 years of existence. February is when I am at my cheesiest, chirpiest best, what with Valentine's Day and my birthday being just 8 days apart. But this year, February wasn't any better either. To make things worse, I was down with a bout of flu on my birthday. Overall, I was feeling like life was garbage. Insufferable and disposable.

To my rescue, came that little bundle of energy called Janice. School buddy, my partner-in-crime for giggling during BCTS classes at Suvidyalaya School many years ago, and more recently, also co-conspirator for some very stupid practical jokes. This very efficient little lady arranged for me a personal meeting with an author that I discovered by accident, and was absolutely enchanted by. Here was a writer who was keenly observant, non-judgmental, funny, subversive. The media, off late, has taken to describing his work as 'bawdy'. He who wrote in a way that I could see situations unfold before my eyes in vivid detail, as I read each word and line.  Mr. Kiran Nagarkar.
(Okay! So I admit, I demanded it of her; but she was an absolute sweetheart who obliged)

So, on 24th of February, I packed my bag with the KN books that I owned, plus one that was a gift for a friend. And off  I went to met Jan outside her office. She managed to excuse herself early, and we hopped into the cab and made it to his place of residence at Breach Candy. Suddenly, I was nervous. The excitement faded, and I developed two very real cold feet and sweaty palms. What would I talk to him?  A very senior writer, award winning, at national and international levels. And here I was, a nobody! Just another reader who just liked his books a lot for what they are. No indepth study, no literary reviews and critical analysis. Nothing even remotely intellectual to say.  I was beginning to feel like a fool.

"Back me up, Janice, if I behave like a bumbling idiot!"
She said "Chill maar, yaar!"

He opened the lift door. It was abrupt, because the living room opened straight into the lift. An unusual thing for me, but perhaps it is a regular feature of the old posh buildings of  South Mumbai. And there I was, face to face with him. He smiled widely and laughed at Janice for being late. And she jaunted into the house as if she owned it. Then he turned to me and we shook hands.  This wasn't some celebrity writer. Here was a nice person, with twinkling, warm eyes welcoming me. Instantly I felt at ease.

Janice, of course, had to embarrass me. At least once.

Jan (announcing with her trademark guffaw): She's a huge fan of yours! And she just whispered to me "Just how cute is he!" And she is all tongue-tied about what she will talk with you.
Me (mortified! casually attempting to hide my face with my palm, while scowling at Jan): Errr.
Kiran Sir: Hahaha! Then perhaps I should propose to you!
Me (suddenly feeling cheeky and bold): The problem is I will accept the proposal.
Kiran Sir: Hahaha. That would be a difficult situation. Are you married already?

Over tea and casual banter, and a lovely black Labrador called Nero who peeped in to check on us, we discussed simple things about books and life, in general. Tulsi Ma'am, his partner, had also joined us after a while. I told him how I discovered him. I had picked Ravan and Eddie on a whim, after seeing an ecstatic cherubic baby sweeping down on the cover. This was at Crosswords Powai, sometime in 2005 or so, when my then employer Human Factors International had reserved a component of salary that could be claimed by submitting book bills. Which was perfect for people like yours truly.

It was little over an hour when we thought we ought to leave. I click pictures with them, looking silly and happy. I got my books signed. And also got signed a copy of the Cuckold for Abhishek Mukherjee ( ) my very skeptical Bengali blogger buddy who hates all things Mumbai, but who had to admit that he quite liked Ravan and Eddie.

"I am going ask him to adopt me!" I declared as we munched on rolls and quiches at Theobroma.
"You're mad, Mal", said Jan.

Suddenly Jan's phone buzzed. She answered, and then told me.
"He has asked for your email ID and phone number. Drop him a line with the pics, okay!"

I went home and posted my pics on FB. I gloated over the comments and likes. I was slightly apprehensive mailing him. For no particular reason.

Some days later,Janice called: WOMAN! Have you mailed him?
Me: Errr. Mail him and say what? "Hi! Here are the pics"?

Jan (hollering): Mail him THIS INSTANCE!!! He is doing a reading at Kitabkhana, and he's invited me and specifically asked to get you along too. He likes you!
Me: Oh crap! Okay!!! Mailing him right away!

I didn't receive a reply to that mail.

I reached Kitab Khana this evening, and as I quietly crept into the gathering that was already seated, Mr. Kiran Nagarkar looked up and waved out to me. Everyone turned. I was slightly embarrassed and rather proud at being publicly acknowledged thus.

After the reading and discussion was over and the crowds dispersed, I met him.
"Malavika!" he exclaimed, once more me putting me completely at ease.
"I mailed you the pictures", I said.
"Yes, yes" he replied, "I saw the mail. I am not too prompt with replying. But I read it. आणि ती बया कुठे आहे? Come over again with Janice. Bring your kids along. It is nice talking to both you young ladies"

And somehow with these two meetings, I discovered that intellectualism is not in the smugness of knowing it all. It is the willingness and wisdom of wanting to know everything and everyone.

Post Script (had to add this incident)

In early March, a certain actress was due to inaugurate a jewellery brand in the vicinity. She was the one who, in my teens, inspired me to bare my midriff and dance with abandon on my bed  (secretly, of course!) to a particularly 'superhit' calenderic song. I would have loved to get a glimpse of her in person; and so I planned my market chores of the day such that I reached the venue just on time. There were some 50-60 odd middle aged people gathered there. There was a loud band playing the Nashik Dhol to welcome her. She was nowhere to be seen.
"अंदर  गयी  हैं क्या ?" I asked the bystanders.
 "अभी  तक आई ही  नही " I was told
The dancing diva of the 90s hadn't arrived but the security personnel were pushing away the bystanders, in a not very polite fashion. I walked away. She was probably was not worth the time that these bystanders were wasting for her. I lost some bit of respect for her. I had already outgrown her, perhaps. It just took me this incident to realise it.


  1. Replies
    1. Bribe me, and I'll get you to meet him. :D

  2. Oh you lucky lady. I want to meet Mr. Nagarkar as well. When are you and J taking me?

    1. We should probably organise an informal get together which includes all those in our circle who want to meet him. :)

  3. Lucky you. Yeah, I got to read one of his books.

    1. Which one?
      The thing about him is that he is observant, and matter-of-fact. He makes no attempts at trying to prove himself intellectual. Even when talks it is like "Kya hai, re tum young generation? Why do you believe everything and take everything so seriously?"

    2. I don't know. I guess I will start with Ravan and Eddie.

      He sounds nice. :)


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