I am looking at the photographs from the first two launch events of my four-city book tour. The pictures portray a celebration. In India, a book launch event is very different from one in the U.S. I must say I was taken aback when I arrived at Crossword Bookstore at Kemps Corner in Mumbai and saw a huge poster with the cover art of 'Foreign' installed as a backdrop to a stylish speaking platform. I was asked to open up a package wrapped with a silk ribbon with the book inside, hold it up for pictures. Cameras flashed throughout the event. A somewhat similar pomp accompanied the second event, at Easylib in Bangalore.
The pictures look glamorous, I am told. But, if you were there, you will remember how grim the conversations around the book were. Grim, somber, sobering. So, I can't help but think of the oddness of these moments, in which the euphoria of seeing a project come to fruition is mixed in with the troubling nature of the project's theme. The readings, the questions from the audience (among whom are those who have already read the book and those who are there to buy it and read it) and my responses have all focused on the urgency of the reality of farmers' suicides. There's also the delicious discussion of characters and plot and love stories and the reader's demand of delight from a book. Yes, thank goodness there's that.
But, dear reader, just as I'd hoped, in the center of these two events has been the desire to engage deeply with the real life story of the farmers. This is my wildest dream coming true for this book!
So, when an occasional person asks me why I refused to invite a celebrity to grace my book launch and why I don't rue that this may have led to my event not being splashed on the 'People' pages of the news media, I can only hope that they believe me when I say that everything is just as it was meant to be. And yes, of course there were celebrities at my launch event - didn't they see that my friend Dilshad Sanyal traveled from Nagpur with her young daughter just to attend the launch in Mumbai and that my teacher and mentor Jeroo Mulla, the woman who was an early shaper of my social conscience, was there at a moment's notice? Didn't they meet Sunory Dutt who came from Hyderabad to Bangalore because she had read the book and reviewed it and believes in it? Do they know that I don't need to hustle and schmooze with all my media contacts because I'd rather spend time with family and friends like Dilshad Master-Kumar who will host me with all her love in Delhi and to whom I know a just and humane world becomes increasingly important with each passing day as she raises her daughter?
I am not being irresponsible. Yes, of course I want the book and its story to be in as many hands as possible. But there are many ways of getting there. If I didn't believe that each individual who believes in something will go out and give it a big life in the world, I would not have written this book, would I?
I'll appreciate each part of this, with the heartiness of someone who can see that the ritual of celebration does lead to the ritual of readership which, as we know, has, more often than not, led to the ritual of change.