When Amma was sifting through your things, she found your Madras Literary Society card and said, “Papa wanted to give them a copy of your book.”
Little did I know that this would put in motion a string of events that would lead to my book launch—something you wanted to do when I visited Chennai. You often spoke of it and wanted it to be grand and a big affair because the virtual launch in the middle of the pandemic just wasn’t enough.
So I decided to stop by MLS and drop off my book. The lady I met there knew you very well and was shocked to hear about your passing. She pointed to some plants in front of the building and told me that you had given them to her. I casually asked her if they did book launches and she told me they did.
It had to happen on a Saturday and somehow the dates kept getting pushed around for some reason or the other. At one point I didn’t think it would happen. There was only one Saturday left in April before I flew back to the US. But that ended up being the best day to do my launch—World Book Day!
The next surprise were the guests who were invited for the launch which turned into a lively book discussion and book reading. Lavanya, an eminent story teller from Chennai led the discussion with carefully curated questions. I read the chapter, “Ghost Stories” because a week before the launch, the windows of the building were covered with black curtains for a horror film shoot.
Mr. Manohar Devadoss, a long time MLS member and artist received my book. That he was a Padmashri awardee and blind but still got someone to come read books for him blew my mind. After losing his vision, he turned to studying Carnatic music. Once an artist, always an artist, I guess. I know you had something to do with this Papa, so thank you!
I had to really push myself to do this launch without you, Papa. But I wanted to honor your spirit by making this dream of yours (for me) come true. It may not have been “grand” in the way you envisioned it but there were a small group of people who meant a lot to me (Janani and her girls and Jayasree), a distributor who’s name is Sumathi (after Amma’s mom), and MLS members who were intrigued by the book and ended up buying signed copies. That moment when I signed the first copy was surreal. I felt like a real writer with a published book under my hat.
That said, I’m glad I at least got to do a virtual book launch with you. You and Amma sitting there with your faces beaming with pride will be etched in my memory forever.
I love you Papa and I’ll try to keep yor dreams for me alive. Remember that time when you told me you had found your life’s purpose? You said it was to be my (and Dinesh’s) dad. Words fail me now, Papa but someday when they flow I’ll let everyone know what a great dad you were (are).
P.S. The picture is of the two of us at someone else’s launch at Odyssey. But I remember dreaming of my book launch on that day.