Thursday, May 8, 2014

Chitra Viraraghavan’s ‘The Americans’ – An account of the book launch at Landmark, Hyderabad (Part 1)

When Shruti and I met Vinod at CCD for chai and chat, Vinod asked us if we would be free on 02 May 2014, to attend a book launch.  He informed us that the author is known to him and that he’d forward the invitation.  I received the invite a couple of days later and I saw that the book to be launched was in fact a novel called The Americans written by Chitra Viraraghavan...


Vinod had a couple of times earlier informed me about book launches and invited me to attend.  Many of Vinod’s friends are writers and movie directors and they are all very creative and quite a few of them have written books and Vinod unfailingly invites me to their book launches.  But for some reason or other I couldn’t attend these book launches, but this time I decided I shall attend, come what may… and it was just May...

This is the debut novel of Chitra Viraraghavan and she would be ‘in a conversation’ with Sridala Swami, poet and writer… and then the book would be launched … in Hyderabad … I reached Landmark half an hour early and since it is a bookshop there were very few people (!), so, there was lots of space to move around and browse … there were discount boards everywhere … and whatever book I picked up, I kept wondering, ‘wonder how much this would cost on Amazon or Flipkart or Infibeam’ … I saw some people around the launch area (I am starting to sound like an ISRO engineer at Sriharikota…!!!) and guessed that one of the ladies who looked happy, tired, and tense all at the same time must be the author, Chitra Viraraghavan … and then when some distinguished looking elderly people came over and congratulated her, my guess became a ‘yes’… I could hear her saying that she had been giving interviews to people and publications, and that she is tired and her throat is acting up … she clearly was tired and said she wanted to relax a bit … maybe some mildly fluttering butterflies too … she said to an elderly lady that she’d take a walk around the shop and unwind … then she changed her mind and said she’d actually go out and stroll around a bit … I didn’t know what she did eventually …

By that time it was nearing 6.30, and the seats started filling up … lots of friends, well-wishers, some family members too, I think … a clean shaven gentleman with hair falling over his forehead that threatened to cover his glasses too, was hovering around the author looking concerned … Vinod came in around that time and we caught up with books and pens … and it was Vinod who told me who this man was …  he had reason to be a bit concerned, I felt, when I learnt that that he is Krishna Shastri Devulapalli, the author’s husband and author of novels Jump Cut and Ice Boys in Bell Bottoms … Krishna Shastri then came and sat beside Vinod and I noticed the wonderful pair of leather ankle boots he was wearing … Red Tape? Lee Cooper? or maybe some foreign brand …


The conversation started a little while after 6.40 … it began with the author and her interlocutor (?) sharing some early childhood memories … familiarizing the audience with their familiarity with each other … Sridala Swami, I thought was very good with her comments and queries … there was a comment which I thought took the matter to the heart of the novel, when Sridala Swami talked about the multi generic narrative style of The Americans, and compared it with David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas … I particularly like this multi generic narrative style and liked novels that played around with the narrative structure like Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, George Lamming’s In the Castle of My Skin, Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch, and others (Jai, you are showing off!!!) … and felt that this would surely go in The Americans favour … though Chitra Viraraghavan confessed that she hadn’t read Cloud Atlas, she said she was aware of the novel’s multi-generic nature and in case of her novel, different genres of writing came in as a natural feature and these represent the characters’ views of the world and life … to illustrate this point, Chitra Viraraghavan then read out from her book a scene, which she called the ‘item song’ part of her novel, where Shahrukh Khan appears in the dream/ imagination of a girl and serenades and dances with her … there was also a Hindi song interspersed … but the desire to sing was overpowered by the need to maintain correct Hindi pronunciation and Chitra Viraraghavan declined to sing and just read the Hindi song …  properly in Hindi pronunciation … our loss … 

4 comments:

Sammy Chanda said...

Worth a buy?????
Then may be I will get it. What do you say?

winding river said...

Hi Sammy...I haven't read it yet...check Harimohan Paruvu's link at the bottom of Part 2...a couple of people have started reading it and have found it good...

Jai

Anuradha Rao said...

Srini.... I like reading your blog and hence going to stay with that. Honestly, the book doesn't sound (or should I say seem) too interesting....

winding river said...

Hi Anu...thanks for visiting...as I said, I haven't yet read the book... and this is only an account of the launch...maybe you should wait for some competent people to write about the book itself...