It was my first visit to Gladstone. I can't think of an equivalent institution in Mumbai.
I wanted to hear Sheema Khan read from her Hockey and Hijab – a book that has become a talking point everywhere in Toronto. She wasn’t there, but there were many other – equally interesting – writers.
I particularly liked the short passage Tasleem Thawar read from her work published in Her Mother's Ashes 3 (edited by Nurjehan Aziz), the translation by Chelva Kanaganayakam of a Tamil poem and Olive Senior’s passage from her book Arrival of the Snake-Woman.
For me the highpoint of the event was to be able to exchange a few guarded words with MG Vassanji. And to meet Dionne Brand. I went up to both of them and introduced myself.
Believe me, that is unusual; even though I sometimes do come across as a shameless self-promoter.
Thankfully, Vassanji remembered me. It'd have been rather embarrassing if he didn't. He's generally reticent, I guess. So exchanging a few pleasantries with him, especially after he had just won the Governor General’s prize for non-fiction, should count as a major achievement.
I told Brand that I had written about her book A Map to the Door of No Return (Notes to Belonging) on this blog and that I hadn’t read a more succinct explanation of VS Naipaul’s lifelong anxiety as a writer than her's. Brand said she had read my blog recently. That should count as another major achievement. Brand is Toronto's poet laureate.
Dawn Promislow introduced me to Olive Senior. I told her about my discovery of the Indo-Caribbean culture in Canada. Jasmine D’Costa introduced me to Fraser Sutherland, an editor of literary works and to Mariellen Ward, whose Hindi is as beautiful as she is.
A young woman walked up to me and asked whether I was a poet. I answered, “Yes. All my submissions have been rejected so far.” She laughed. I laughed, too. What can’t be cured has to be endured.
Everyone had a great time.
Image: Book Covers + Adobe Photoshop