OPINION

My Book Launch - Anti-climactic Yet Thrilling

January 30, 2007
Jawahara Saidullah

A series of small disasters and near misses led the way to the launch of my book. First, I was delayed in Allahabad by a day, because my father fell really, really sick and had to be hospitalized. So I had to wait for my sister to rush back from Delhi so she could be with him while I attended the launch on the 10th before leaving on the 11th.

Then, on the way to the launch, the car stopped. It just died in the middle of the road and had to be pushed to the side. I hopped into an auto and sped ... errr ... crawled my way to Connaught Place. It was rush hour in Delhi and I was out of practice sitting in an auto. So I hung on with a death grip, not wanting to be hurtled out of the vehicle as the driver tried to wedge in his vehicle into the smallest gaps imaginable. I thanked whoever for CNG vehicles because I was right on the level of the exhaust pipes of the trucks and buses gunning their engines next to me.

Then, of course, I couldn't find the Regal building. Okay, I know all pucca Delhi folk could find it blindfolded but I'm a Bostonite by way of Allahabad. So there! A paan-chewing guard outside some shop pointed me up some stairs, urging me to go up as I looked doubtful. "Jaiye, Jaiye. Upar hai," he told me, wagging his head. I trudged up. And up. And saw a bank, a travel agency and more dingy stairs. I headed back down and down, looked to the right and saw a sign for The Attic.

I went up a flight of stairs and walked into an empty room, very hip, earthen walls, a giant poster with my name and images of the book cover flanking either side. It was cool ... and so very real. However, no sign of the editor and the publicity person.

I sat down to collect my thoughts and to pick out some small portion to read. I had planned do that in Allahabad but it was so stressful with all the health-related stuff.

Just then they arrived, as did the reporter from The Hindu, Nandini Nair. She asked really quite insightful questions and seemed to have read the book (well she said she hadn't finished it yet, but still).

Then Ghazala arrived who I hadn't seen for about 16-17 years. Weird! Things just exploded then. The place started filling up and Ghazala got into media mode. Made the Roli folks light candles around the room, arranged the front of the room (dramatic uplight lamp and a candle on the table in front of us) which helped create an atmosphere of mystery and drama.

Renuka (my editor) introduced us both to the audience, presented us with copies of the book each. I had no idea this was a photo op (hello! country bumpkin time for me) but it was. So we posed with the books, face out, while flashbulbs went off. Total paparazzi moment from then on.

I spoke. Badly I think but I salvaged my pride by reading a paragraph from the book. Then Ghazala read and did an amazing job. The words just came alive. It was really quite beautiful but I didn't know what I was supposed to do. Look at her? Look around the room? Look down? Look literary? How? Well, I tried to do all that, hence the strange expressions in the photographs. The flashbulbs never stopped. A strange, strange feeling.

Drank some wine (despite Anees Jung's invitation to drink whiskey). Signed some book ... a surreal moment, specially when signing for Ms. Jung.

Then the evening ended. I went with Ghazala, Sudeep Sen(a wonderful poet and literary editor who actually asked me to send him something), his wife and his son Aria, Renuka and a few others. We went to Piccadelhi (cool concept) where I drank a (BAD) frozen margarita and we all danced on stage behind the live singer. The rest of the clientele looked alternatively bored, pissed off, intrigued and apathetic as they looked at us.

Piccadelhi was obviously a reproduction of Piccadilly, except the singer was into country western/old cowboy songs. So we listed to "Achy Breaky Heart" and "Home on the Range".

Still, once we started dancing (okay I needed a lot of persuasaion and I suck) but still ... the singer (Kamal I think) who turned out to be a music teacher at some cool school invited me to come read there. He was really nice and called me (or Ghazala?) "a beautiful lady with a book." I was leaving the next day so he gave us his card and he talked to Renuka instead.

Then, we traveled back on the brand new, sparkling Delhi metro, which was really cool.

I am still trying to come to terms with my feelings and emotions. Still trying to come to realize the full impact of what was a momentuous day for me. I've wanted to write and publish since I was 12 and saw my first short story in print. And I've finally done it. I mean I've published stuff before (in magazines, anthologies, newspapers, etc.) but a book, all mine, just my name on the cover, all my words within. That was something special.

At one level it seems anti-climactic and at another I am thrilled. When I've sorted out what I'm really feeling I'm sure I'll be blogging.

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#1
BJ Kumar
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January 30, 2007
10:34 AM

Congratulations on your first book. I wish you lots of success. It looks like writing a book involves a lot of work and also it does not stop after writing it, perhaps gets more hectic! :)

#2
Jawahara
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January 30, 2007
11:03 AM

Thanks BJ. In some ways I find the work after the book is done harder than the actual writing. The writing phase is my time....to imagine and create. This is for the produc that the book becomes :-)

#3
Deepa Krishnan
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January 30, 2007
12:05 PM

I feel like that when I create my tours. There's so much fun doing the research, plotting the things to show, writing up stuff...and then I have to go sell it, talk to people about it...not easy!

#4
temporal
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January 30, 2007
01:33 PM

J:

saying congrats sounds a bit trite

what would the writer's equivalent be to break a leg?

#5
Jawahara
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January 30, 2007
03:21 PM

Thanks all! Yes, Deepa, I think anyone involved in anything kind of creative probably feels the way you and I do. :-(

T, perhaps, break a nail or a keyboard key? Yikes!

#6
BJ Kumar
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January 30, 2007
04:22 PM

Be careful, breaking a keyboard letter can cause a pricked thumb! :)

#7
Jawahara
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January 31, 2007
08:45 AM

So true BJ, so true. But then I do write of wicked, dark things...so maybe that's not such a bad thing. :-)

#8
Amrita
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January 31, 2007
11:50 AM

Hey Jawahara - congrats might be trite but thats whats coming your way, all the same! and look, at the end of the day, all that aggravation's worth it isnt it? couldnt be happier, luv.

#9
Jawahara
URL
January 31, 2007
01:33 PM

Hey Amrita, congrats are always welcome :-). Thanks. Hope your writing is going well.

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