This afternoon, I attended a workshop on icons of Bombay and wondered whether we’d have any distinguishing features, given our chrome-and-glass obsession. In my mind, I saw beloved parts of Bombay fade, as if in a dystopic graphic novel, replaced by generic highly dense built structures that didn’t belong anywhere. The memory of Bombay, it’s icons, things that made it special, completely erased. But I am being dramatic and getting ahead of myself.
If the present and the future were the preoccupations of the afternoon, the evening dealt with memoir, in the context of fiction and non-fiction. Sitting next to two writers, both whose practices deal with the ideas of memory, “real” stories and imagined ones, I thought about the range of distinct voices and treatment of narratives, the perspectives they employed as insiders, outsiders, and privileged insights. In a world surrounded by stories of every kind, there is a narrative if only you look. There are stories in people, in things, in places, and in the nowhere space, like trains. A few people stop to see these stories and tell them.
At the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, I usually beeline for all the literary events. I love listening to writers speak– about their work, their writing process, the world that informs and inspires… Writing to me always feels like an isolated task: a dark room, unlimited supply of coffee and food that’s easy to eat, and someone else has cooked. Under the canopy of trees at the David Sassoon Library garden, where many of the lit events are held, the writers are out in the open, and one has access to them, beyond their books. Whether it is a good thing, that is debatable. But they are there: In flesh. Sharing their thoughts, as you leaf through (their) books, wondering if there’s a way that you can directly transfer your salary to Kitab Khana.
This evening, however, I didn’t buy a book. I made mental notes to check out a couple of authors, and as impressed as I was but the panelists, I didn’t feel like buying anything. Who doesn’t have a reading list longer than they can handle? Who has the time to read everything? But that can’t be the reason I didn’t come home with a loaded brown bag. The sheer number of books on sale felt intimidating. The baggage of all that is not read was weighing me down and I had to walk away. The feeling is strange and has no bearing to the fact that I’ve made several purchases only a few days ago and am scared my parents will throw me out of the house.