Report by Karen Almeida
Booktalkers met on 20th July 2012, fresh from reading ‘Difficult Pleasures’ by Anjum Hasan and eager to booktalk. The fifteen odd Booktalkers and Anjum Hasan shared a relaxed evening Booktalking, in a cozy room at Bookworm.
Of course we started with introductions – with bits thrown in about what we liked, didn’t like, which stories struck us most. We then moved on to listening to Anjum read from “Wild Things” transporting us once again to that momentous day in Prasad’s life. She went on to speak about the story and the character Prasad. We were surprised to learn that she has never worked with children considering that her description of the children and their lives were so real. There were so many things that struck us about the story – the rural v/s the urban, the position food has in both, schools and education, marketing and advertising, Prasad misreading the price of the scent, Prasad spraying himself with the scent on the bus as a defying action. Many booktalkers felt that in Anjum’s stories this one action defines something, a thread that is often found in her narratives. Powerful .
There were other stories we booktalked about – Good Housekeeping, Revolutions, For Love or Water, Eye in the Sky, Birds, The History of Touch in fact almost all the stories had touched one or the other of us. We liked that the stories were about simple, everyday events in ordinary people’s lives, their relationships and were struck by her observations of the little things. Anjum was glad to hear that we enjoyed Eye in the Sky (a large part of which is set in Goa) and that the story held together for us. She felt that if Goan connected with the story detail, there was an authentic ‘goan- ness’ to the writing and there was!
Some of us felt that the stories were not totally complete; they left one needing to know more – they needed an ‘ending’ of some sort! Equally there were those who felt that this was what worked for us and made the stories special. For Anjum herself the stories were complete in themselves.
When asked about the inspiration for her characters and their stories, about the sadness running through a lot of her stories, about their urban settings, Anjum shared her writing process and how her own personality shapes her views. She also spoke about how she has come to realize that she is indeed a keen observer of people and behaviour .the pleasures of the short story, how at some point life and fiction begin to merge (for her) and finally in her view how life is so much like fiction!
It was a good booktalk, warm, intimate and intelligent and Anjum is not just a good thoughtful writer but a special human being !