The memorable instant.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
There is only The Delhi Walla.
It is evening and I’m at Caara Café inside British Council to attend a discussion of Arundhati Roy’s first novel, The God of Small Things. Hosted by Readers’ Break, the chat is to begin 15 minutes later. Soon, a young woman arrives followed by a man with a beard. He is Samuel Buchoul, the reading group’s French founder. Then one more man walks in; he is carrying a hardbound edition of the novel. Published by India ink, a publishing house that no longer exists, his copy seems to be a first edition (see photo 2 below).
It is a special moment to talk on this novel at this venue because about 20 years ago this novel was launched in this building, and now the author of this novel has announced that at long last she is ready with her next novel.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.
Another man appears. He seems to be carrying a cheap, pirated edition of the novel.
We are now nine people. Mr Buchoul apologetically says that although hundreds of people had confirmed their attendance on Facebook, only so few are actually here. We all console each other by saying that a small group, after all, is most suitable for a truly profound conversation. In the next few minutes, however, more and more people start to trickle in. Th readinge group continues to widen until it ends in a big circle.
Oh yes, the talking points.
One reader says he read the novel five times. One says he hasn’t read it even once. One says she loves the incest part. One says she liked the childhood part. One says Arundhati Roy ought to have written the novel to also “target” the foreign readers. One says she tried reading the novel but gave it up after a few pages. One says he was expecting to see Arundhati Roy herself in the meeting—his tone is that of a person who has been cheated out of a shopping bargain. It is a beautiful moment.
The Arundhati Roy readers