Sipping Tea with Amitabha Bagchi (Part 1)
On the morning on December 22, 2010, I was flu-stricken, sleepy and chilled to the bone. It was a holiday for the 11th standard and I had no particular reason to make the effort of getting out of bed, dragging myself to the bathroom and dressing up for school. Save one. For the first time in the History of the Great Literary Club of the Even Greater Bal Bharati Public School was an author coming to interact with the members. The President had to be there. She wanted to be there. To see History in Making.
For those who don’t know, when the Literary Club was a baby, it was called, very humbly, the Book Club. And it wasn’t just any other baby, but my baby. The pains that I took to make the idea a reality, to get people to read and discuss books, to withstand the scorn of my seniors! Like all mothers in the world, who never quite realise when the baby sprang from the womb and then, as if out of nowhere, became an independent adult one day, I never realised when my brainchild the Book Club was metamorphosed (by the school management) into the self-governed Literary Club. But then, like all mothers in the world, I was happy that it had.
So, standing in the driveway of the school on a dry wintry morning, when I saw a long white car approaching, and I knew it was him, my heart skipped a beat. My mind was back in the school library. Have they arranged the refreshments? Are the chairs in place? I hope they’ve spread the tablecloth right. I was like a jittery mother whose daughter is getting married, scared of the saasuma raising an eyebrow on seeing even a minor, otherwise imperceptible glitch. Amitabha Bagchi got out of the car and smiled at me. I extended my hand. Slightly embarrassed by how warm was his hand and how cold was mine, I still managed to utter as we shook hands, “Hello. I am the President of the Literary Club. Welcome to Bal Bharati.” He smiled again.
I came to know about Amitabha Bagchi in 2009, somewhere around the time I was busy trying to set up the Book Club. A school had organised a book discussion competition of Bagchi’s debut novel Above Average (Harper Collins, 2007). A couple of seniors I knew well had participated won the first prize. D was really excited about the book and had really liked it. I had seen the cover—beautifully done, the portrait of a boy with (I gather) apprehension and a slight pain in his big, brown eyes, the letters ‘a-b-o-v-e a-v-e-r-a-ge’ balanced loosely on stretched guitar strings.
On our way through the corridors to the school library, we talked about the Literary Club and how enthusiastic the members were to have him, all the more as it was the first time an author was coming to meet us. He was warm and engaging. No ‘I-am-a-published-author’ fussiness. Mommy Literary Club was no longer jittery.
◊Read part 2– less of background blabber and more about the session (coming soon)