July 06, 2020
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Mumbai Lit Socialite

Sometimes I wish the Nobel Literature prize was abolished so that people like me could get some rest.

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Mumbai Lit Socialite
Illustration by Sorit
Mumbai Lit Socialite

O diary, will I be able to cope with all this? Eleven literary seminars, workshops, book readings and poetry recitals in three days. Sometimes I wish the Nobel Literature prize was abolished so that people like me could get some rest. Year after year, I am called in to give my views on ‘unknown’ writers, poets and novelists from Afghanistan to Zambia, whose names I have not heard before. But then, that is the hazard of being a literary socialite. This morning, dear diary, when my pet cat went on mewing, I was nervous something would happen to upset me. And it did, Mo Yan of China won the Nobel prize for literature and within 40 minutes, newspapers, magazines and TV channels were calling asking for quotes. “Madam, what do you think of Mo Yan?” they started, which is when I cancelled my plans to have a dim sum lunch and began to invent quotes on Mo. Thanks to Google, God’s gift to mankind, I learnt Mo was a man and then it was easy to spin yarns about his love for democracy, freedom of speech and support for the dissident movement. These were convenient guesses which fortunately fetched the writer the Nobel and me, applause!

The average Indian knows a lot about China. Border disputes, Great Wall, Hindi Chini bhai bhai, Olympic medals, Shanghai roads and Chinese cuisine and all of these can be used to invent some sort of quotes about guys like Mo. But when the first phone call came, I had actually wondered for a moment why they suddenly remembered Mao, I mean Chairman Mao and his famous Red Book. Thank God for the ‘Yan’ and ‘Tung’, which set me right. It’s more difficult when the winners came from Sudan, Surinam, Papua New Guinea etc. Before the days of Google, one knew nothing about these writers and their countries but today it is easier. Within 3-4 days of the Nobel announcement, T.N. Shanbag of Strand Book Stall managed to get English translations and we jotted down points from these. We members of the Mumbai literary socialites group are now quite active because celebrity papers like Bombay Times front-paged our views on the Nobel laureates though quite often they were mentioned as ‘Noble’ prizes.

But there is also a rat race among the literary socialites based on the number of invitations they received for Nobel discussions and the quotes they got in the media. This was parallel to another rat race with almost every other Ram, Vicky and Hari coming out with their own novels which were publicised through reading at book stores over wine and cheese. But we need more novelty. Why not have literary discussions along with ramp walks and fashion shows? Kareena, Deepika and N.C. Shaina would be welcome to brighten up the evenings, add to our enlightenment of everything Noble, I mean, Nobel.

The Mumbai-based satirist is the creator of ‘Trishanku’; E-mail your secret diarist: vgangadhar70 AT gmail.com

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