Thursday, July 27, 2006

Encounters with Writers: Amit Chaudhuri

Amit Chaudhuri’s inspired reminiscence of Bombay in London Review of Books follows in Suketu Mehta‘s footsteps.

I first met AC and his wife in Oxford. We had these slender details in common: he’d been a post-doctoral fellow at my college, his wife’s advisor was my mentor, we were slightly homesick--meaning we found the company of fellow south-asians significantly enjoyable. Later that year, he visited Chennai (Madras) on a book tour for his third novel, Freedom Song, while i was home for a visit. After his reading at the British Council, my mom, my favorite aunt, and i gabbed with him at the reception and ended up taking him to dinner at the Gym (the Gymkhana Club--where a hundred or so years ago, dogs and Indians weren’t allowed). There you have it: Oxford, British Council, Gymkhana…it sounds like i'm *such* a citizen of empire, but i'm not, i'm not!! :/

There were some terrific conversations: my mom and my aunt are among my best friends and AC got along great with them, very sweetly explaining cultural theory and reminiscing about similar childhood experiences. When I saw him during his next summertime visit to Oxford, he invited me to dinner with his wife and daughter and gave me a copy of his new novel, A New World. Since my first reading of ANW, i haven’t been able to escape the sinking feeling that this portrayal of narrator Jayojit’s wife was based on me:

She began by phoning her parents twice a week… it was her mother, he knew who was her confidante, and could chatter and whisper with her daughter as if she were her twin sister, while with her father Amala, on the phone was still the flirtatious, slightly high-pitched little girl, always being reprimanded for not realizing it was a long-distance call…
Help!! Am I really that super annoying or does that depiction fit most Indian kudis?

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