Imagine yourself standing in a crowded bus, trying hard to look out of the window to catch ephemeral glimpses of the street lights, of busy roads, of traffic jams. You are in the midst of it all, brushing shoulders with strangers who have their own stories to tell. This book is that window in the bus, giving you an insight into the fictional or non-fictional lives of others.
That's a short excerpt from the foreword that I wrote for an anthology of 29 short stories by 13 Indian authors titled 'Urban Shots'. The book can be found/bought here, the main site of the publishers, Grey Oak.
On the 19th of November, I held a copy of this book in my hand at Oxford Book Store, Calcutta (can't say Kolkata because this one's been around for too long and the Chai Bar and set-up to sit and read still reeks of the Calcutta I grew up in). The book was launched along with the publisher, Ahmed Faiyaz's book, Another Chance. The book launches across India were either focusing on Another Chance or Urban Shots. The Calcutta one was on Another Chance. But I was a panelist for this launch in a conversation between Ahmed, Mrs Arpita Chatterjee, who did a dramatic book reading, and myself. The poster for this event is here: (They screwed up Ahmed's book's name. There's no 'The' before Another Chance)
I never thought that the first book launch I would attend in life would be my own. There was a lot of unease before the event and in the part where I had to decide what to wear. Finally, I settled for a black simple kurta with jeans, the image of a college goer. Simple and smart. Besides, black hides the fat! When the event started, I did the moderation of the discussion and different angles on urban relationships were brought up. Talking into the mike in front of an audience (that had many smiling supportive family members and friends) was interesting. This was not a school assembly on Dream Theatre or a little girl dressed as a fairy singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas in CSC's Christmas Fancy Dress/Talent Show Competition. This was a grown up girl, speaking her mind about the topics concerned. I even gave my input in the question-answer session.
The most fun parts were:
1) Drinking the water from the glass kept in front of me during the discussion. Silly, but felt great!
2) Signing the copies bought by the people attending. Mummy's was the first I signed and the whole thing felt real only when I saw that smile on her face. She deserved my first autograph. She and Papa were the reasons why I was there facing an audience rather than being one in the audience. They let me pursue my own dreams and write, even if it wasn't the best paying option for a future (Still not sure about the future, though. Working on it). In the copies, I could write whatever I wanted and my friends and cousins would have to buy it! I did!
Fingers crossed that there will be more such book launches in the future. When I mailed my Head of Department about the experienced, his one line made it feel even better-"This is the kind of 'high' that I preach about."