Varied pleasures

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on March 08, 2019 Published on March 08, 2019

Bins returns to Elsewhere while I change my ticket and remain in the city I call “Delhirium” for another couple of weeks. Initially, the reason is that I have a tooth that needs fixing. The moment it’s fixed, other reasons pop up.

First, there’s a most delightful session at Gargi College, talking to a roomful of students and faculty about...roll of drums...HUMOUR. They allow me to share my favourite theory about jokes: That laughter evolved as a survival mechanism. Why? Because humans became smart enough to understand the inevitability of death. I believe this was such a shocking realisation for early humans, that without humour, none of us would ever get born. Next, I teach the whole class how to draw a funny face — it’s really very easy! — and finally, the audience sits politely through my slide presentation of Suki Speaks and asks interesting questions afterwards.

So far as I can tell, we all have a grand time. In the evening of the same day, I am invited to sit in on a closed-door reading of my play The Mating GameShow. This is a script I first wrote a thousand years ago, in the late ’80s. I’ve rewritten it countless times, adapted it for filming as a TV show and watched half-a-dozen readings of it. But here, now, the play is finally complete. It’s part of a collection of my plays that I will publish later this year and it was great to hear it being read with warmth and gusto by a young and very enthusiastic cast, directed by Nikhil Mehta.

I’ll have more to say about it and about this reading when the book comes out! But meanwhile: the morning after the play, three days before I’m due to fly out and join Bins, I wake up to find the room spinning around me like a psychedelic top. Eek! It’s a most unwelcome return of the vertigo I “enjoyed” last year! I spend the whole day clutching on to door posts and throwing up. By evening, having consulted Dr Bins in his clinic in Elsewhere, I decide to stay back in Delhi to do the tests that I DIDN’T do last year.

Needless to say, this results in a whole new array of interesting events for which, just a day ago, I was not going to be present. Most exciting by far is the launch of the anthology I’ve been involved with, the amazing Gollancz Book of South Asian Science Fiction. Editor Tarun K Saint gives the introductory talk. Eight of the 30-odd authors, including Tarun and myself, read from our work. The well-attended launch is held at the department of Germanic and Romance Studies at Delhi University’s North Campus, thanks to Prof Shaswati Mazumdar and her keen interest in science fiction.

Books are sold. Snacks eaten. Then we authors and our lovely publisher-editor Poulomi Chatterjee enjoy a late lunch on a rainy afternoon on a small blue planet in the Milky Way.

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column



Published on March 08, 2019
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