|Charu Sharma, Me, Rajan Bala and Anita Nair|
|Speaking at the event|
|Browsing through the book|
I read 'Ladies Coupe' by Anita Nair many years ago and instantly fell in love with her and her writing. I simply loved the story, the characters and the context of that warm, cocooned train journey that all those ladies make, and grow as they reach their destinations. I was highly impressed with her story, the use of the language, the irreverent way in which her characters speak and behave (a brash and abrasive bunch who got what they wanted instead of typical Indian writing where the women cried and were sad and victimised). For example, the story of the lady who cooks so well to get back at her philandering husband with his muscular physique which slowly grows obese as he cannot resist her fat, oily cooking. I also loved the way she wrote the intimate scenes in her book and in my opinion no one can write intimate stuff better than her in Indian writing. Someday, I thought, I will meet this wonderful writer and talk to her about her writing. Though the thought was somewhere in the realms of fantasy, I was dead serious deep inside.
A few years later I heard that she was in town for a book reading. It was at Akshara Book Store in its newly opened store at Jubilee Hills. My writer friend Vinod Ekbote and I, book event junkies in those days, wondered if we should go - Anita Nair is a well known writer and the store would be packed we thought. But we decided to go to the new store rather than to the Secunderabad store the next day where she had a another reading. So we drove down on a cold wintry evening to Jubilee Hills.
There were very few people there at the new store - which was a blessing in disguise for us. In a little while Ms. Anita Nair arrived with her husband Suresh and we had the most wonderful time chatting about her books while we waited for some crowd to build up. We sipped tea and ate samosas until the book reading got under way. She was wonderful all through the evening, in spite of the lack of the crowd, and read her passages with a smile. I bought her new release 'The Mistress' then.
So much for dreams coming true. A few years later I was in Bangalore to do a book launch of my first novel 'The Men Within - A Cricketing Tale'. The late legendary cricket writer Rajan Bala was my chief guest, Charu Sharma the well known television commentator was the guest of honour and things were all going fine when I suddenly got this brainwave on the morning of the launch that I should invite Ms. Anita Nair too. I got her number from Lakshmi of Akshara and called her. And she agreed to come. Zahir of Crossword was only too happy to send her a car to pick her up and I was over the moon.
It was a fine evening. I reached the Cross word in Residency Road a few minutes late since I had gone to pick up Rajan Uncle at the Asian Age office. Charu was already there waiting and in a short while Ms. Nair appeared. When she spoke at the dais she expressed her surprise that no one had written a cricket novel yet, especially since books had been written in IWE about everything including she said 'the ocean tide'. There were many questions asked to her about writing and she answered them all quite patiently before going back home - a good one hour drive.
I called her the next day to thank her and she spoke very warmly to me. She was also very helpful and gave me the number of an editor she knew in Penguin to approach for my Children's stories. I met her again when I visited Bangalore another time and have been in touch with her on the mail and the phone whenever the occassion warranted. When her latest book 'Lessons In Forgetting' got released this year I was all set to go to Bangalore but I could not make it.
It is this wonderful side of human nature that people like Anita Nair express, that warms the heart. I wonder if I would have had the time for an unknown writer like me who called out of the blue. Would I travel for an hour through bad roads and the infamous Bangalore traffic for a small event for someone I do not know? I don't know if I would have then, but after that day I certainly will. That is the least I can do for such a fine gesture. I can at least take it forward.
I always felt that her best book is still to come. I love her irreverent take, her humour and the way her prose builds energy as it goes along. In fact I do hope she writes one funny, sexy book sometime. But whatever she writes, she easily tops my favourite list of writers in India and I wish her well and many wonderful books, accolades, love and much success in the future.