I was sitting around chatting with my friend Vani at the park today, when a little old lady pottered up and started talking to us.
She was a real delight - she was telling us about the Bhagavad Gita classes that she's been going to in Delhi for the last 20 odd years - every single week!
''I always come back...you know...'' She was searching for the right word.
''Charged?'' I suggested.
''Charged!! That's it!!'' For some reason, she became terribly happy about my having supplied the right word, and held out her little hand for me to shake ''That is the most wonderful contribution to my day...the right word...yes, I come back charged...just like our cellphone batteries need charging? Wonderful...Charged...''
I squirmed a little bit, taken aback by her excitement about the word and was about to change the subject when Vani piped in ''Aunty, she's a writer...she's always got the right words!''
This sent the little old lady into paroxysms. ''I've seen her with her kids every day at the park'' ( This is an exaggeration but I let it pass) ''She is a wonderful mother...and a writer too?''
I mumbled ''No, no, Aunty -I mean, yes...but it's only my first book'' .
Vani was enjoying herself ''No way, Aunty, she churns out books by the dozens''.
I glared at her, but the old lady was paying no attention to either of us anyway. ''Such talent'' She gushed ''I am so proud to know you'' She pumped my hand again, surprisingly vigorously for someone her age and size. ''You must be a wonderful writer''.
''Aunty'' I protested ''My book isn't even out yet...why don't you wait and read it first? How do you even know it's any good? I will get you a copy when it's ready...''
She gave me her address with alacrity, but her enthusiasm was diminished not in the least by all my weak protests. She pottered off, incredibly happy, kind of reminding me of that boyfriend of Phoebe's - played by Alec Baldwin, i think - in FRIENDS who was overly optimistic and terribly, terribly happy all the time.
Now, here's the thing. This is a lady in her eighties. She doesn't know what we all know. That everyone nowadays seems to be writing a book and getting published. That most people you talk to about having written a book immediately talk about how they know so many people who have also done so, and by the way, they're on their way to doing it sometime soon, too. I exaggerate here - most people are mighty impressed, and some genuinely thrilled - but equally, it is a fact that there's a definite overflow in the Indian market of first-time authors - and also there are plenty of people out there who are very critical of this trend of so-called 'mediocre', 'eminently forgettable' and just 'plain bad English' that seems to be 'flooding the market'. In all of this, as an excited first time author who hopes that some people will genuinely enjoy your book when it releases, your bubble can really burst if you let it.
So here I resolve to always remember the lovely little Park Lady who, without knowing me personally and without even reading my book, is already terribly proud of me. And therefore when the Dementors come in after a couple of months and trash it - possibly without even reading it - I know exactly what shape my own personal Patronus will take.
And in the end - there's something nice about being so terribly, terribly happy about everything - even if it means you're like Alec Baldwin's hyper-happy character in FRIENDS.
Therefore, I go to sleep now and start pracising: