UPDATE: there is an update to this post below – please do read it
Rashmi Bansal’s book launch was pretty depressing. Not for her. For me. I felt very awkward for some reason. I entered the shop – Crossword – and I found her inside. She didn’t recognize me. I didn’t bother to introduce myself anyway. I never feel like to going to people and telling them who I am. The last I did that was in Bhubaneswar- may be because there was something pure and nice and child-like about Miss Short Story.
The book was formally launched after 10-15 minutes of my arrival. A couple of middle-aged and older men who had been featured in Rashmi’s new book – Connect the Dots – were present for the occasion. There were 20-30 onlookers too. The onlookers sat on the others side of the table on one of those white coloured fibre chairs. I was one of the onlookers. I could see a copy of the book lying in the lap of the guy sitting next to me. I asked him if I could check the book out. He passed on the book to me. I opened the book, saw my name written inside – just like it had been for SHSF – closed the book and returned it back to the dude. Believe me it feels good to see your name inside a book.
Rashmi and the middle aged and older men who had been featured in the book spoke for 2-3 minutes each. Then the question-hour session began. That was when I spoke to Rashmi for the first time. I asked her if the writer in her ever felt desperate to break-away from her “20-25 interviews put together as a book format”? She told me she didn’t need to break away from the format as long as the format worked. Hmm. She said she didn’t want to do anything new for the sake of doing something new. She said that her daughter (who was sitting on the other side of table along with other onlookers) wanted her to write book on vampires. I don’t know why she made this suggestion from her daughter sound very stupid and childish and all that. May be she was trying to confess to herself and to everyone else present there at Crossword – in the most indirect way – that she wasn’t sure she could write any other kind of book anyway – like book on vampires. I found the writer in her scared – scared of being rejected – scared of being sneered at at by publishers who after having looked at a book on vampires by Rashmi Bansal, might casually tell her to stick to what she is good at. But then, not her fault. Even Amitabh Bachchan had to grow old before he could stop being the angry young man for Christ’s sake and could do roles like that of Auro.
Then there was this guy out there yesterday – yet another onlooker – who asked for the microphone during the QA session and declared to everyone that he didn’t intend to ask any question. He said he wanted to share his experience of reading Stay Hungry Stay Foolish. In the next ten minutes, he did exactly that. And I felt very small.
So this guy passed out an year or two ago with a campus placement. In a month or two, he realized he didn’t want to keep going to a software company office day in and day out. So he chucked his job. He chucked the job and then he figured out he didn’t know what he wanted to do anyway. So he got pretty freaked up you know – depressed and all that. And then, suddenly he laid his hands on SHSF. He had never even read any novel before. In the four hours that he read that book, his life changed forever – that’s what he proclaimed yesterday. After having finished the book, he wrote an email to one of the guys featured in there who ran the Ekalavya school in Ahmedabad (still does). Mr. School owner replied back the next day. Within few days, our man reached Ahmedabad and was given shelter and job by Mr. School owner. Ever since then, he has never felt that he does any work. – he loves his work so much. He thanked Rashmi for book and I could see Rashmi getting very senti and all that. I was getting a li’l senti myself. And feeling very small. Because it’s going to be almost two years now and I still go to my office day in and day out. And once in a while I design book-covers and go for book-launches where I don’t even feel like letting the author know who I am.
I thought it was going to be very rude and ill-mannered if I left the place without letting Rashmi know who I was even till the very end. Also, she had emailed me earlier that she would be passing a cheque to me. So I went to her a little while later – after the buzz of the book-buyers who wanted to have her signature on the book, calmed down a bit and the show almost approached its finishing edge. I went to her and grinned sheepishly – hey, this is Amrit. I guessed she had figured that out all this while anyway. I guessed so because she didn’t really seem surprised. Rather, she seemed slightly upset – may be because I hadn’t bothered to say hi to her earlier. After some time, everyone left. Rashmi and I talked for few minutes before that. I told her I would see what I could do with the cover of the third book. And then she left. She had forgotten to bring my cheque. She even forgot to pass on a copy of the book to me. That was kinda depressing you know. Or may be I was simply in a weird, awkward, lonely bad mood yesterday evening. May be, after many years, when I look back at life, I shall be able to connect the dots.
PS: Rashmi – in case you end up reading this post, I want to let you know that I don’t hate you. Yesterday was just not my day.
UPDATE: I received my cheque and my copy of the book a few days later. Rashmi did end up reading this post, but thankfully she did not mind much. In a rather polite way, she explained to me that she was rather tired that day. We are still working on the cover of her third book.