& occasionally about other things, too...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Meeting writers

MG Vassanji, Dionne Brand, Olive Senior, Nurjehan Aziz, Priscila Uppal, Jasmine D’Costa, Tasleem Thawar, Dawn Promislow.

There were more writers per square foot at The Gladstone Hotel last Tuesday at Tsar’s annual book launch than I had seen in a long time.

And so many others that I didn’t know. Not that I know all of those I've listed here.

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

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