By Roopa Menon,
Special to The Post
Arundhati surveyed the set-up for the evening—just one last time. The walnut brown teakwood furniture looked inviting. Lilies bloomed in a porcelain vase placed on a console table. The marble floors gleamed.
She glanced over at her prized possessions, her little shrine to literature. Airtight containers sitting on the mantelpiece held a hairband of Sylvia Plath’s, Vincent Van Gogh's pipe, and Balzac's coffee cups.
“Ah! My ppprrecious.” She whispered as she ran her fingers over the containers. Arundhati lived in a stately villa in the heart of Malabar Hills in Mumbai with her parents. An only child, Arundhati was allowed to indulge her literary passion at the grandest scale possible by her father Pradeep Basu, thanks to his thriving fertilizer factories in Mumbai.
I hope Vishwas has set out the footstools on the balcony. And I hope that he’s asked Chef Rustom to revamp the menu. Huh! I won't have tacky bread pakoras served at my literati gathering, she thought as she parted the delicate drapes that hung like scrolls of parchment and hurried to the balcony. Vishwas, the housekeeper, was wheeling in the hostess trolley laden with appetizers. “Arundhati baby, all ready. I asked Chef Rustom to replace the pakoras with spicy salmon rolls.”
“Excellent! Thanks Vishwas. You are the best!” She tilted her head to the side and looked out at the stunning sea view. “Nobody throws parties like me. No lowbrow Bollywood talk or soggy snacks will be entertained at my literati soiree.”
“Welcome. Welcome to another celebration of art, poetry and life. Welcome to the first fortnightly literati Friday evening of 2011, folks.” Twenty-four eyes turned towards her. Dressed in an olive-colored, silk kurti, Arundhati surveyed the guests that she had handpicked with care. Deepa and Nisha were regulars; the three of them a close-knit girl gang. In their world they referred to each other as the ‘artsy sisters’. Arundhati was the impetuous and gutsy one; Deepa was practical and enthusiastic and Nisha was quiet and compassionate. They had such distinctive personalities, yet they had been inseparable since high school.
“What a stunning turnout. The ‘Who’s Who’ of St Paul’s literary scene are here today. How did you get Divya? She never attends any literary events. Oooo…look there’s Geetanjali, the prize-winning poet. How did you manage, my dear?” Arundhati beamed. Deepa was right; gathered that Friday were short- story winners, class toppers and prize-winning poets—all from St Paul’s College, the most elite college in town with the best English literature program. “Persuasion is one of my many talents, ma cherie. Besides, only a St Paul genius can understand another.”
“We have a movie club, a drama club and even a nature club. What about literary enthusiasts like ourselves? Where do we go?” Arundhati had addressed a bunch of like-minded students at St Paul’s two years ago. It was the start of literati fever, led by Arundhati and her artsy sisters.
“Listen to this,” she said. “We will hold literati evenings every other Friday. How does it sound? Shall we seal it then?" Deepa and Nisha had nodded.
A red carpet welcome was laid out for literary snobbery, writing credentials and college prizewinners at literati. Phonies and wannabes were strictly off limits. All attendees had to possess an undying love for western literature, with a healthy dollop of admiration for American writers and poets such as Hemingway. Familiarity with Sylvia Plath, whom Arundhati considered the pinnacle of poetry, was mandatory. And no Bollywood-related themes or Indian writers would be entertained.
About the Author:
Roopa Menon grew up in Kerala and migrated to Mumbai at the age of ten. Roopa dabbled in writing during her college years, some of which was published in magazines in India and abroad. Pyar Aur Poetry is loosely based on her college experience in India.
This story is a excerpt from Indireads. This fictional series offers a wide wide range of romance novellas written by both men and women, for South Asian readers around the world. Read more at www.indireads.com