Vikram Seth: Face to face

Much much more exciting than being on a panel at the Lit for Life festival that concluded recently in Chennai was the run-up to it – lunch with Vikram Seth.  No, read that as VIKRAM SETH!
A writer who has occupied so much of my mind-space that I tend or tended to think of him as a giant, facts not withstanding. The man is a few inches shorter than me and I am not very tall myself – at 5 feet 2 inches.  I gasped so loudly when I saw him that folks from the Hindu’s Lit Review broke into peals of laughter.  The first thing I said to him was: “I am completely overwhelmed” and of course he said, “You shouldn’t be.” Even as I got him to autograph my now ancient copy of “The Golden Gate” and a friend’s copy of “Mappings”, I took a good look at his face.  So different from the photographs I had seen.  A very wrinkled forehead, kind, rather large eyes, receding hairline…
Over lunch, he spoke about various things: about whether or not there was a “h” in the “lata” that is part of my name, about his strategy for protecting his time.  He made me and a friend close our eyes and repeat after him the words: “I am afraid that is simply not possible”. That, apparently, is the line he uses with most people.
I returned home to the reality of knowing that there are just far too many people and things that I cannot say that line too! And yet, the idea of leading a pure writer’s life is so appealing.

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