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Netherfield Ball – Vijay Nambisan’s Poetry Talk, The Toddy Shop

The party secrets.

[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]

One evening The Delhi Walla went to hear a high-brow chitchat in Hauz Khas Village. Poet Vijay Nambisan and The Caravan magazine’s associate editor Supriya Nair had announced a conversation on stage. The event was hosted by poet-novelist-guitarist Jeet Thayil in The Toddy Shop, a bar whose waiters present bills in poetry books.

Mr Nambisan, who lives in some far-flung corner of South India, is whispered to be a recluse who would rather mull over Larkin and Heaney in his study than corrupt his soul in Delhi’s bitchy literary circle. But here he was with his wife, novelist Kavery Nambisan. After all, somebody had to promote First Infinities, Mr Nambisan’s new collection of poems.

The book was on sale beside the bar counter. Rajni George, assistant editor in Open magazine, flaunted her copy of the paperback as if it were her latest Hermès bag. Wearing an eye-catching flowery dress, she said, “It’s made by my tailor in Kodai(kanal), my hometown.” Ms George was seen chatting for a long time to Ms Nair, whose sari had bird cages all over it. Poet Vivek Narayanan, however, remained seated in one corner and refused to be photographed. Author Palash Krishna Mehrotra, holding a mug of beer, was overheard asking a fellow beer drinker, “Are you a good man or a bad man?” Nearby, a woman, possibly a curator, said something about leading a weekend walk in the National Museum.

Meanwhile Mr Thayil drifted along from one guest to another like an unfaithful lover, and stayed loyal only to his wine glass. And novelist Upamanyu Chatterjee looked angry throughout the evening. (Also spotted: novelist Janice Pariat.)

After everyone settled down, Mr Nambisan read out a few of his poems in a booming voice; he even sang in Tamil (or so it sounded). In one poem, he tried to do to W.H. Auden what Hamlet did to Yorick.

Everyone clapped. Some screamed, “Whoohoo!”

Party with a difference


2. (Vijay Nambisan)

3. (Supriya Nair)

4. (Kavery Nambisan)

5. (Rajni George)

6. (Jeet Thayil, right)


8. (Palash Krishna Mehrotra)

9. (Upamanyu Chatterjee, in white)


11. (Supriya Nair and Rajni George stayed together for a long time)

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