The party secrets.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
So many people and for… literature!
One evening The Delhi Walla attends the book launch of Daughters of Jorasanko at the India International Center. The evocatively-named Multipurpose Hall is packed with so many literary-minded gentry that there is not a spot to stand with ease. There are many women, and every woman is dressed in an extravagantly gorgeous sari (see photo 5 below). Each face–irrespective of the gender–is beaming with such eager happiness that its blinding radiance can re-ignite one’s doubtful belief in the supremacy of the written word.
It soon becomes clear that all these beautiful people are looking for Sharmila Tagore, the evening’s principal guest.
The fawning admirers are unaware that Ms Tagore is literally under the ground beneath their feet. True to her reputation as an enigmatic Hindi film legend, this dream creature has hidden herself in the building’s basement so that her entry could be as dramatic as one of her tragic melodramas that routinely made our mothers weep in anguish when they were still college-going virgins.
All these years later, Ms Tagore’s strategy continues to work brilliantly.
Dressed in a red sari, she quietly walks up the stairs, enters the hall, and hushed silence follows.
This mythical being is accompanied with her own entourage of intimates. Some of them are: Ms Aparna, a romantically-inclined young wife from Calcutta, who is married to a writer-type; Ms Doyamoee who reigns as a goddess in her village in Bengal; Ms Champa, the flower-seller from Kashmir; Ms Vandana Tripathi, the almost-unwed mother, from somewhere near the Darjeeling hills; Pushpa, the poor prostitute from Calcutta’s red light district; Kajli, the unlucky prostitute from Darjeeling.
The other noteworthy faces spotted in the Multipurpose Hall: Retired Chief Justice Leila Seth who makes her first appearance in society after recovering from a stroke; Bangladesh High Commissioner, the white-haired Syed Muazzem Ali, and his wife, the unassuming Tuhfa Zaman Ali, an alumnus of Delhi’s Jawahar Lal Nehru University.
Also seen: Aruna Chakravarti. Perhaps she ought to have been mentioned first. Recipient of the venerable Sahitya Akademi Award, Ms Chakravarti is the novel’s author.
The evening’s shocker–Roopa Malik from Paris. She was in a blue bikini, and nothing else. See the last photo.
First among the Tagores
1. (Aruna Chakravarti)
2. (Sharmila Tagore)
3. (Leila Seth, right)
9. (Syed Muazzem Ali)
11. (sourced from internet)