04 May, 2007

A life interrupted

by Chiki Sarkar

Shakti and I worked in the same publishing house, although she left just as I arrived. But we'd been in touch before her departure and we'd gossiped and traded books and I had thought, this girl has ambition, energy and flair.

So I spent my first week in India trying to seduce her back to Random House. We met for dinner at Swagat — and I will always be grateful to Shakti for introducing me to it — and she made me have Bombay Duck and Fish Gassi, the two dishes I always order when I go back. I remember very little about that evening except we seemed to love the same books and that conversation never seemed to stop. We met again a few days later, this time with Jeet, and my memory of that evening was the same: hazy but full of chatter and buzz.

Shakti went on to take a much more interesting job, starting her own imprint at IBD, and I saw much less of her. I remember a few dinners in the new year, a books party, a discussion we organised that she chaired, a rather unexpected and fun evening after, exchanges of emails, and talk of meeting up. I always left our encounters with the same impression I had of her when we first met, what a sharp, cool young woman she was, what good company, how it would be fun to see her more often. But of course there was Real Life in between, the everyday busyness of little things, and it had been some time since I saw her last.

So many people will no doubt tell their story of Shakti in a similar fashion: we had arranged to meet but didn't in the end; we were about to see each other next week; we had drinks just the other day. It is the only way we can talk about a death so unexpected, as if it were an interruption, as if Real Life were to start up any minute: the chats over the phone, the dates for dinner, the jokey email exchange, the promise to meet soon.

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