IT WAS A CASUAL SORT OF EVENING—bottles of beer had left wet rings on corner tables, someone was hunched over a laptop fiddling with the playlist, the smokers had claimed their spots on the balcony and were lighting their cigarettes with tealights. I wasn’t entirely at ease, though. My hosts had been kind enough to ask me to read a couple of passages from my debut novel, which was to be published in a few weeks’ time. Even though I was among friends in Mysore, I felt a small sense of disquiet. This would be the first time I had read in public from the completed novel.
It was fine—of course it was. I was grateful to the impressive couple who laughed in all the right places. There was even a bit of applause. But once I had finished, I noticed a delicate change in the atmosphere. It felt as though a cool gust had swept in from the balcony, blowing the tea-lights out on its way.
I later found out from one of the hosts that someone at the party had been a little disconcerted by the reading. He had recognised himself in one of the characters I had read about and, after a few half-hearted sips of his drink, had left in a fug of preoccupation. What else might I have revealed in the book? What had I meant to say about him? Why did I have to write at all? This was a person I barely knew, and he certainly was not the inspiration for the character.
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