Warning: a bit of gushing ahoy.
Ten year ago, in a small bookstore (which has shut down now) in Delhi, I was introduced to Samit Basu’s first book, the first in the Gameworld trilogy, and was instantly jealous of him. I hadn’t read the book yet. I just stood in the bookstore, remembering that I had flicked through the fantasy novel’s pages, ending up at the first page, with his biography. What made this green-eyed smoky monster rise up through my ears was the fact that he was just 24-years of age when his first book had come out, my peer by age. By that time, I had already been harbouring a dream of writing a novel, but hadn’t started on it. And I wanted to write something in fantasy. (This ‘I want to write a book’ has become something of a fashionable thing now, to do for every bucket list, right there along with dance with the African tribals, click photographs of zebras and jump from high rise buildings and airplanes.)
Me and a friend who was there along with me, bought the book, read it, giggled at the breathless one liners after another, reread it, discussed it, and stayed with the trilogy, anticipating each of the next with as much impatience as Harry Potter fans. It was my first Indian fantasy series that made me as crazy, something I bet that all Game of Thrones fans now will remember. Now when I look back at the trilogy, it was of a new, impatient, foot-tapping author who broke limits and codes and played with myth and mythology and actually had fun doing it. At that time, it was just so much fun! Samit wasn’t looking at prettified language, he just wanted to play with ideas. That’s something that I loved most about the trilogy.
Since that day, all those years ago, I’ve had ‘fan’ moments with Samit: the day he added me on Facebook, the first time in a Facebook group when he commented on my post, and the first time he answered my emails to help and guide me in the Indian comic industry. He was a senior (by experience, if not age) writer, brutally honest in his suggestions to me (Quit if you want to make money), and refreshingly no-bullshit. Everytime an answer from him came into my inbox, my eyes lit up.
Then while working on Cult of Chaos, I did the impossible, and asked him outright, over email if he would like to give me a blurb for the book. He showed interest, I whoopied and sent him my manuscript, hoping, so much, that he would like it, because if you love someone’s stories, you would want them to be proud of you too. (We authors are like this, made of fragile egos and emotion.) No reply. I pinged him again. Poor thing had just taken up a new job and was juggling with far too much. I wondered if he would be able to go through a rough manuscript of 1,00,000 words complete with bad sentences and typos. Another reminder, wait, wait. And finally, he sent me a blurb. And here’s what he said:
Cult of Chaos is racy, rousing, rambunctious and rakshas-ful. Read immediately
I whoopee-d, had a drink, hugged my husband, told ALL my friends. The thing was, before Cult of Chaos was even published, it had been a success for me, because Samit liked it. (See I warned you above on the possibilities of gushing.)
I thought that was the highest point for a fangirl relationship, but then, last weekend, it went to another level. I found out that Samit was coming over at the Times Literary Carnival this year in Bangalore, and wrote to him to see if he would like to meet me (First I tried to ask him if he would want to come to my book launch, but he had a panel on the same day, same time. Murphy, someday I will strangle you!). He said, yes. Come over at 12. There it was.
I went with husband, on a sunny Sunday, flushed with happiness after my successful book launch. And I took two books of his to sign, because the other two had decided to go hiding on me. Excitement happened. At the festival, he was up with Zac O’Yeah and a few others in a five-people panel on one of the stages. I thought it would take ten minutes, since he wouldn’t have the time. I mean he’s a celeb author! Aren’t they supposed to be like superbusy and stuff? In my head, the scenarios was: take books to him, get them autographed, try not to be overfriendly and do unwanted hugs, thank him for the blurb and do my fangirl grins.
‘Wait for me for ten minutes,’ he said after we’d said our hellos. Meanwhile, I chatted to Zac, who is superbly helpful to new authors (read his much more sophisticated gush on author Nirmal Verma on my blog). We went to a coffee shop, had pretty average food and chatted for almost an hour, before I even brought out his books for a sign. He gave me gyan on nailing literature fests (more ego-fests than places where people buy books), dissed those who pretend to read certain authors and pretended not to read certain others. We laughed at how some authors want to take stage from others. He told me how one had just climbed the stage at one of the panels and started to talk about his book. Then there were fans who want autographs without knowing the name of the author, kids and adults, forget having read any of their books. They just see a badge of the festival, and come running. (I’ve been to two literature festivals, Chandigarh and Bangalore, where I’m been lucky enough not to see kids with notepads and pens but actual copies of Ghost Hunters of Kurseong to get author signatures, so I was fascinated!) Then there were the listeners, the audience at the fests who actually instead of doing the listening just wanted to say their thing, sort of like social media. The conversation was super fun and I learnt so much! In that hour, from an author I respected, he became a pal, I respected.
All the while, he wore a Darth-vader t-shirt, heard my rambles patiently, posed with Cult of Chaos with a happy buy-it look, told me I look like an ‘intellect’ (Aiyo!), and swapped stories on eating fish. And he drew an elephant-bum in the autograph to wish me luck in life. Sigh-worthy, no?
Thought the weekend couldn’t go better after a fabulous launch of your book (the first one), but Samit, you made it even better!