19 Jan 2020 – Sunday morning in Kolkata. Here’s two of my first readers, reading GARIAHAT JUNCTION while basking in the winter sun.

Reader 1: An 84-year old ex-professor of Physics, his monkey cap marking him out as a Bengali as nothing else can (in winter)! He had read an incomplete draft years ago and is relishing re-visiting the collection (with a magnifying glass), one story at a time. (In my mind’s eye, I imagine his absent wife sitting beside him, fighting with him to read the book first….)

Reader 2: A 7-year old dreamy creature, whose days (outside of school) are mostly spent in talking to her “pretend” friends. She was FURIOUS to know that this is not a ‘children’s book’. And it didn’t placate her one bit when I told her that the book is dedicated to her. I further tried mollifying her by saying “OK, I will read out portions from it to you. Happy”? “No”, came the defiant reply. “I will read it myself, whether I understand it or not”!

That’s precisely what she has been doing since yesterday. Stuck in a traffic jam in Gariahat Junction, while returning from her ballet class with her dad, she called me up to say that she is reading GARIAHAT JUNCTION at Gariahat Junction! And then, very helpfully, suggested: “You know, I can give you an idea… you can write a story about me stuck in this jam, reading your book”.

It melts my heart to see my child wanting desperately to enter my imaginary world. But she has also, in the same breath, made me feel hopelessly inadequate as a writer. “When will you write a children’s book?”, she had asked me: it was not so much an irritated question as a challenge!! I am not sure I am up to taking it up… for I simply do not have the imagination of her ‘dida’ (my mother), who could flit between poetry and prose, writing for adults and children with effortless ease.

And as she determinedly continues to read my book, I have another worry – that she will chance upon the “adult” bits much before she is supposed to….!