I don’t want to begin this essay with a revelation that the publication date for my book has been pushed back again.
So I won’t. Instead, I’ll share this picture with you.
That’s a book. And my writing is contained therein. Close enough, right?
Sure. To North India, With Love is a great book. Published by ThingsAsian Press and edited by Nabanita Dutt, it is a travel book — but not in the Lonely Planet sense. It doesn’t catalog restaurants or hotels or tourist traps; instead, it presents snapshots of moments. It’s a collection of about 40 short essays that together paint an affectionate portrait of North India, presenting experiences that have mattered to the travelers who came before you. And it couples those experiences with just enough information for you to run off to Dehradun or Allahabad or Old Delhi and create an experience of your own.
If you’re in the US, you can buy it on Amazon; hopefully it’s available in Indian bookstores as well. Three of my essays have been re-edited and republished in this book. These include the story of Ruksana, my experience with Karim’s tandoori bakra, and a retelling of the story of our famous Bollywood poster. Here’s an excerpt:
I came back the next weekend with my father and the money for the deposit. Manesh wasn’t there. This time, we sat at the rickshaw stand with a drunk mechanic who kept telling us, “I speak English tutti-frutti,” and “Vijay is my brother,” and “You want some whiskey?” Finally Vijay and Ranjeet, his English-speaking partner, pulled up. We discussed again the poster while the drunken mechanic danced around, sent a peon for soda, and interrupted us with “Vijay famous artist!” and “My cousin-brother!” and yet more “You want whiskey?”
Jenny and I had anticipated a small poster, perhaps two feet in length — after all, our main goal was to reprint it on a postcard. Vijay, however, insisted that his work could be no less than five feet tall. We agreed, the peon returned, and we celebrated with Pepsi and whiskey. As we were walking out, the mechanic turned to me to whisper conspiratorially, “I speak English tutti-frutti.”
You can read the full essay on the ThingsAsian site. And you can see a picture of the poster that I’m talking about in this unrelated article that appeared in the Gujarati newspaper, Divya Bhaksar. Here’s how it looked in print:
After the article came out, the author assured us that it was saying nice things. But is it? As bad as our Hindi is, our Gujarati is worse. Does it complement our writing style? Does it repeat that last February’s denunciation of our imperial arrogance? Does it accuse us a pivotal role in the 2G scam?
Nope. Nice things. We know that thanks to my coworker Pankaj’s friend Vimal, who relieved our fears (Thanks, Vimal!) with an abridged translation that I’ll paste below:
Delhi through the eyes of a Foreigner
One American couple came for 3 years to stay in Dil walon ki Delhi, and what they saw here it is.
The author starts off by writing Osho Rajneesh’s saying: “the best way to hide anything from a person’s eyes is to place it in front of his eyes.” He talks about India in the same way: child beggars pulling arms of the people on the streets, a bridegrooms procession in midst afternoon with the mercury soaring at 42 degrees Celsius, blaring loud speakers in the night enough to tear one’s ear drums, crazy honking vehicles, little boys serving tea in dirty clothes, pirated dvds and cds selling in the open, choked-full buses and trains, cars parked in no parking zones, etc.
Then he goes on to say: Lets meet Dave & Jenny, who came to Delhi in Nov 07. They did not come to see the Taj, but for the work project and to work for an NGO, and chose to see Delhi through their eyes, rather than using a conducted tour.
He talks about their blog and reproduces the same. He begins with the matrimonial ad in Mumbai, and then goes on to their trip to Daryaganj to make a film poster for themselves. How they managed to find Vijay and how Vijay was surprised they managed to find him. Vijay printing a 6 foot poster instead of a 2 foot poster requested by them and how thrilled they were. The poster is reproduced along with the article.
He also narrates how “do one thing” fascinated and amazed Dave and Jenny.
It’s nice to be appreciated. And that warm feeling of appreciation gives me the fortitude to sigh and bare to you the pain I mentioned at the beginning: our book release has indeed been pushed back to April, and possibly later. Apparently there are simply too many books about Delhi on the market right now, thanks to the tourists who failed to materialize during the Commonwealth Games.
Which means the release parties will be postponed. Which means we won’t be visiting Delhi in February. Which means our memories of the hot winter carrot halwa steaming outside the Jama Masjid will, for now, remain just that.
The good news is that we should be revealing the cover soon. We haven’t seen it yet ourselves, but we do know that the publisher was at one time talking to Vijay the Bollywood poster painter about doing the art. And if that’s indeed the case, then here’s a sneak peak at the source material we provided him:
Hopefully Vijay can once again do us justice.
(And if this picture at all convinces you that I’m capable of writing 250 entertaining pages about life in Delhi, then make sure you email us to join our book mailing list. We’re in discussions for something like nine release events in six Indian cities, and we’ll be inviting everyone on the list. Whether it takes place in April or July or sometime in the 23rd Century, you don’t want to miss out.)