I've read a few good books in my life, all but desultorily, reading for the mood they bring upon me: I haven't the intellect to engage with the writer. So I've been content to watch intellectuals from a distance, how they spar and embrace, and I've never attempted to move toward them. But yesterday, I went along with one great writer — Abdul Rasheed — who had arranged a meeting with the long-reigning giant in Kannada literature — U.R. Ananthamurthy.

The man opened the door himself, we sat in his study for a while, and then Mr Ananthamurthy decided we should sit in his back garden. I could see he is fond of Rasheed and respectful of his writing. The talk was only between the two of them, and it ranged over many topics: the "pure anger" of Ramdas; linguistics and text beneath text; Lankesh and Tejaswi, Karanth and Kuvempu; the writer's discipline and those who have it; the magazine Granta. I gathered very little from their conversation, but, of course, I was thrilled to view it from such close quarters.

Later, I could join in a bit when they spoke of some ideas — to float an online literary journal. Ananthamurthy stoked Rasheed's thoughts, and mine, put forth his views, and the possibilities crackled and multiplied.

Now when I write these notes from the meeting, my remembrances are of his old hand that was warm and strong when it gripped mine in the chill breeze at his door, and his offer to make tea, and the intensity of the conversation which made us forget the tea, and his watchful observant eyes that rested gently on whom he addressed; and his slow short elder's steps with us to the door, at which moment he realised he'd forgotten to make that tea.

At the gate, his arm had been heavy and relaxed on my shoulders, his gaze fatherly upon Rasheed.


Photo: DNA India