Devika Rangachari, author of Queen of Ice, was at the Children’s Literature Festival at Kala Ghoda.
How does one condense a two-day experience into a handful of sentences? And what was my Kala Ghoda experience all about?
It began auspiciously enough with our train journey to Mumbai during which Himanjali [Sankar] gave us enough reasons to make us weep with laughter—and enough reasons for our two male co-passengers to regard us with chilling disapproval.
The following day saw Himanjali and me on a mad whirl across the city, visiting friends and getting hopelessly lost—and loving every minute of it. We even spotted Abhishek Bachchan in an auto at a red light but by the time we had finished looking at each other in breathless excitement, he had mysteriously vanished.
My session at the Kitab Khana bookstore that evening convinced me that Mumbai reads—and how! Several children and adults wanted to acquaint themselves with my Queen of Ice—the former rather unnerving with their all-knowing responses and the latter shaking off their collective dread of history to ask probing questions. There was a queue of Queen-takers, thereafter. I could have danced a celebratory jig but had to be solemn and restrained and grave as befitted the occasion. (This is perhaps how most authors develop split personalities.)
I thoroughly enjoyed both my school sessions the following morning—one in the Prince of Wales Museum grounds and the other in an indescribably beautiful school library. Once again, the responses were quick, the questions incisive, the atmosphere enthusiastic. Impressive, to say the least!
Citrus cake at a Pali Hill Swiss café, fudge overload brownie at Theobroma’s and caramel custard at Café Britannia were other notable highlights of my Mumbai experience. So were being locked into my hotel room by a worker who looped electrical wire around the handle and attached it to a welding machine; and getting into the wrong car along with a Kala Ghoda volunteer and urging the driver to move while he stared at us in a thoroughly bemused fashion.
The flight to Delhi was laced with trepidation and a hint of danger—Himanjali detected an abnormal whine in the engines and encouraged us, through stories of precedents, to jump off; I discovered an eerie aspect to one of the crew members whose height seemed to change dramatically at will.
A tantalising curtain-raiser to Mumbai, its world of books and other delights—that was Kala Ghoda for me.