Saturday, July 29, 2006

 

tharoor at silverfish

Went to shashi tharoor’s reading at silverfish a few days back. This is one of the very few readings I’ve ever gone to….the last one was where Feisal Tehrani and Uthaya P Sankar read their pieces… and I can’t remember where and how long ago that was…

I made a point to go this time as he quite possibly will be our new UN top guy and if that happens it would be a very very long time before anybody will ever get to hear his next reading I guess…

And as the reading will be in Bangsar I thought well, may be there would be a few smashing looking girls present and I should look more presentable than my usual shabby self and so just to make sure everything is in order I went to the loo at that new shopping complex opposite that busy and popular Indian restaurant devi’s corner and checked myself in the mirror and what was that little loose string hanging from my left collar button? without thinking I tugged at it a bit and oh bugger, out came the little button spinning down the floor and careened to god knows where.

That made me worried sick as it was very obvious that I would look positively stupid with that button missing on one side of the lapels…and I know that literary readings events are not exactly Britney Spears’ concerts and it would be lucky if we get the whole of ten people present and everybody is bound to notice me…so I decided to buy and change into a cheap t-shirt and if it’s black I guess it would look quite ok but this being bangsar, the most image conscious and hypocritical spot in the whole of Malaysia the cheapest one you’d ever get here is for RM40 which I’d be damned if I were to fork out that much for a t-shirt that I could easily get for ten at giant or tesco just to impress some ladies who would most likely won’t notice me anyway…and as the time was nearly 6.00 pm I took my chance and hoped nobody’ll notice a trifle such as a missing button…

…but I need not really worry because for one thing the small bookstore was jammed packed with what I presumed to be tharoor’s fans…and I was mildly disappointed to see that they were mostly way past fifty and a few didn’t look exactly in good health and one more thing , almost all of them were Indians! Not that it mattered but it seemed strange , … this was soon made clear to me … the Indian high commissioner was present…everybody seemed to know each other except me who don’t know anybody so while everybody talked about tharoor’s books while waiting for mr tharoor to arrive (he was caught in the KL traffic jam) I edged myself to a shelf of silverfish new writings series and picked one up…the one with a forward by dina zaman….and I always like to read forwards… in fact I once bought a book by Celine (not dion ) solely because it has a forward by kurt vonnegut…. And one of the best forwards I read in the past few months was also by Vonnegut in one of his collection of short stories…but dina zaman’s forward!...well I’d better don’t say too much except that she sound like a school teacher addressing high school English class… not exactly my kind of literary forwards…and I noticed one of the selections in that volume was by one amir hafizi…. The very same guy who has an amusing and anarchistic blog (malay male) fixated on abusing women, anal sex and any kind of sex with thai girls…so I started to read a paragraph but it didn’t get me sucked in and so I flipped to short bios at the end of the book and saw one eighteen years old from damansara by the name of hanna alkaf’… and I read her piece and got hooked right there with her simple but quite stylish writing about a young girl being sexually abused by her uncle… it was a short piece ( 3 page long) and I read the whole story and this young lady showed some promise …( by comparison, I couldn’t string a coherent sentence when I was eighteen)… but she’s too young to develop the sexual abuse angle properly….obvious that she didn’t experience it herself or too repressed still to tell it all…probably amir hafizi would be better at describing this sort of things….but I ‘m digressing again…

When tharoor arrived at 7.00 pm there was standing room only and positively not a good situation for any kind of reading and after a short introduction by raman the silverfish owner ( tharoor being a cross between p.g woodhouse and jonathan swift…) tharoor went straight in, reading a small bit from his bioghaphy of nehru standing against the wall with everybody standing around him and after that a longer one from his last fiction ‘riot’… which was lucky for me as I have been reading the first 30 pages or so of this book the night before…he reads clearly , confidently and still looks boyish for a fifty year old and all his hair is still black and styled almost naughtily like a young man, definitely not the hairstyle you’d expect from a top UN guy…

Interesting point he explained about this book was that it could be read or start from any chapter any which way you like as it was designed such that each chapter was meant to give a point of view of the person narrating it…much like what the protagonist in this book explained how he wished a book should be written just like that… the bit that he read actually…

although ‘riot’ was his last fiction, the last published work was in fact a collection of writings titled poetically ‘bookless in baghdad’….and I was struck by a poignant story he told; the title came from his observation when he visited a book market in Baghdad where the middle class people had to sell their books to make ends meet in the aftermath of the first iraq war…how tragic! The Q&A following the short readings was not too interesting perhaps because the overcrowded situation wasn’t conducive to really relaxed discussion but a few interesting facts did come out…he admitted he’s single now (withiot anybody asking this question) , wasn’t a terribly good father to his sons but damned proud of them (and he went at length to explain about fatherhood and how the children are continuation of our genes and that sort of thing), that he’s an eclectic reader (his words) and mentioned three authors he loved…Garcia marquez, p.g woodhouse and kundera….and given a choice to become a UN sec gen or Indian PM what would he choose? Being a diplomat he is he rightly said that at the moment it is unrealistic to think about being a PM but added cheekily ‘ i guess mohan singh never think that he would be a PM if you asked him twenty years ago). That he like everyone else has multiple selves but unfortunately most people only identify with only one and that one is almost invariably the religious one which create all these tensions in the world… why don’t we identify with things we have in common?...and one of the most interesting Qs actually come from one young Chinese girl who came forward from the back and read her question from a piece of paper shivering like a leaf and she wanted to know whether fiction speak the truth or something to that effect…and tharoor beautifully expound on the beauty of fiction and what it does to you as opposed to other kind of writing (except if you read purely trash…his words)…but I guess you all know about that already…..

Comments:
I really enjoyed this post, though it tends to drift . Or maybe that's why? I felt like I was there, listening and watching as well. Through your thoughts.
 
ms Jane,..

thanks for coming in... ...i do like to wander and digress and i think people ought to do that a bit more...digression is always interesting...
 
enjoyed this too - especially your digressions. glad you blogged it. sad i couldn't go and missed you - yet again!
 
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