John Irving joins us at the West India Auto Association
Deepika, Emil, Aloysius (my cousin, cousin’s husband, uncle respectively) and myself were enjoying a splendid Gujarat luncheon for Diwali at the posh WIAA (West India Automobile Association) on Malabar Hill Sunday, and I kept thinking about John Irving and the “Tower of Silence”.
If I’m not mistaken, the American contemporary authour wrote about the clubhouse in his novel Son of The Circus. I remember that the main protagonist – a surgeon from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children – was a guest at the club (even though he was Parsi) and there was some talk about human bones in the rose bushes behind the tennis courts. In the book, members were not keen that the Tower (a tall structure where Parsi take their deceased up so that – according to custom – the vultures can deal with the remains) was nearby, as they’d always suspected something like this might disturb their afternoon tea.
In our case, about twelve of us were gathered around a table in the glassed-in, air-conditioned dining room, so bones in our vegetarian thali would not be a concern. Three of us chatted about Goa and writers and two women – a financier and fellow-writer – listed a number of must-read Indian books and must-see Goan bookstores.
“You must read Amidav Ghosh,” exclaimed writer Rupa Chinai. “He wrote Glass Palace and The Sea of Poppies”. She told me they could be found at the Mandovi Hotel and Bookshop or The Reading Habit in Panjim; or Literati in Calangute. I’d also been by advised to read Jhumpa Laihri (The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth), Sudha Murthy (The Dollar Bahu, How I Taught My Grandmother To Read, Wise And Otherwise) and Anjana Appachana (Listen To Me Now).
Like many people I talked to about Goa, Rupa’s eyes sparkled when she talked about the small southern state. She’s travelled and written about many parts of India (especially the northeast) but has fond memories of sipping tea at the Mondavi Hotel.
“I must admit, I envy you a little bit,” she confessed of my upcoming sequester in my uncle’s Povorim house. She gave me a steady gaze and then, “I think you’re going to like it there.”
Coming from a writer, those were potent words. I’ve been fortunate to meet other literati, including freelancer Dilip D’Souza. He’s written on travel for a number of international newspapers, and keeps a blog called Death Ends Fun (named after a bumpersticker he saw in the U.S.).
This all feels very … kismet. I would love nothing more than to tuck in with a community of writers once I tuck into Aloysius’s house in Bardez. I’ll sip tea on the veranda, walk to bookstores, and sample thalis at nearby cafes. I trust the only bones I’ll see are the ones that will slowly take on flesh as they grow into stories and books.