06 May, 2007

Skirts & myths

by Kavita Puri Arora

We first spoke on the phone sometime in October 2005. Shakti always had an immediacy and an urgency in her voice. She'd call, ask a question, push for a response, and politely hang up.

At the time she was editing Lifestyle Trends magazine and I was with HarperCollins. She'd call me off and on, mostly when she received a book she liked and wanted information on an author or an event. Like many of the other reviewers I had never met, 'Shakti Bhatt' was a myth. We got re-acquainted while I was working at the British Council, Delhi.

Vivek Narayanan recommended Jeet Thayil as one of the poets for a spoken word season BC was hosting. He gave me two numbers – Shakti's and Jeet's. He said, try Jeet but if you can't get through call his wife Shakti because she'll definitely respond. I couldn't get through to Jeet, so I called Shakti's mobile, and it wasn't a surprise when she picked up and promptly handed him the phone.

Shakti's name would always be on the guest-list for BC events. I finally met her at one such event, and I distinctly remember our first face-to-face being a long one.

We spoke about her wanting to apply for a BC scholarship, about Random House, about Bracket Books, about HarperCollins. And we spoke about Delhi, a city she loved and hated.

My most recent unforgettable memory of Shakti is from a party at my house. My husband Shankar lit a bonfire and she kept gravitating towards it. Everyone else was standing, but she insisted on crouching. "I love fire," she said.

She was drinking red wine. I went to fill her glass and noticed the rim was chipped. When I offered to change it, she said, "No, and stop being so formal." She mingled, but spent most of the evening with my friend Neeru's adorable three-year-old, Kavin. Kavin was building blocks, Shakti built with him.

That night I gave Shakti a short leather skirt. She said she would wear it to Jeet's event. "I love short skirts," she said.

A few days later, I received the following text from her:
The skirt was a big hit. The event unlike any other. J acknowledged you on stage. Thank you for everything.

Love, s
That was the last text Shakti sent me.

Alice spoke about Shakti appearing in her dreams. She's been in many of my dreams too.

And strangely enough, she was in my thoughts. This last month, without knowing what had happened, I thought about Shakti and I spoke about her. The Midsummer Night's Dream Company I've been travelling with knew of her... and now know of her absence.

The vacuum is big and irreversible.

Sometimes I wish the myth were still a myth. I wish I didn't miss her as much as I do. I wish she were still a text away.

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