The trip to Mumbai in the final analysis was not so much about the book launch but about life and how perfect it is in minutea while we are busy chasing the big stuff.
So in the memory collage I took back with me was Gretchen Ferrao, someone I have met just once and fleetingly, making it to Crossword through heavy traffic all around Haji Ali, after a long day's work, exhaustion written all over her face, chocolate hamper in hand to tell me without words, she would not have missed showing up for anything. She was also someone who smsed me after finishing the book late at night many months ago, "Oh no, he loved her, why did he let her go????''
I have saved that sms. Thank you little one.
And Mona. I will forever associate her now with a redolent masala daal, stuffed baby brinjals and paan icecream (yes paan!) at Diva Maharashtra for dinner on a day the most part of which she had spent driving me across Mumbai, saying, "That is Lata Mangeshkar's house. Worli Sea link. Haji Ali."
I will associate her now with a stroll across Marine Drive in the middle of the night. With the three baby turtles she raises amid morning dappled walls where her daughter and I drew fairies and butterflies. With the joy she exuded while singing Punjabi songs and poetry snatches from my book at the reading. With a gooey chocolate cake. With radiance that never gives up on itself. With the matter-of-fact statement, "Okay, I am gonna read till everybody drops dead."
And Soni. Who I have known only as a voice, as a celluloid image who wafted in, smiling like an old friend and spoke of the book as if she was a part of its love story, its heart and soul, flesh and blood. Who said certain things that are too precious to be shared because I still cannot believe that she was there and she said them. Because people do not do these things for no reason even though she said to me, "then you have perhaps been meeting the wrong kinds."
Who among many other beautiful things, said, "I would have gone anywhere to read this book."
"The love story (like Dr Zhivago! Was she kiddin me?!) is about what all of us have experienced at some point..longing for the one that got away."
I have no idea how much the book is selling or who is reviewing it or if it will make it to the second reprint but for me, her generosity is a reward bigger than any royalty cheque, any award because it came unasked, like a gift you never expected to get but got anyway. I can't repay what she has given me and no words are adequate so I will shut up.
And Vinta. She has the face of a cherub and the spirit of a giant. She is brave and loving and kind and a warrior for things she believes in. She believes in the book. She hopes to see it become a film someday. Why in God's name is she doing this? Soni and she say, it is because they love the book but how many people who inhabit a world so distant from mine, would go out of their comfort zones to applaud someone they barely know?
And this gift of unconditional support that all three of them have given me is something no PR drive, no hard selling press coverage would have got me.
So life is not perfect and yet it is because it reminds me just how blessed we all are to get all that we are given, including unexpected, yet inevitable friends who show up when we need them most. And then there was the paan ice cream :). I feel replete. Life is enough.