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One swallow for a summer



Not just a writer_Anurag Mathur at the Olive Bar and Restaurant in New Delhi. Photo: V.V. Krishnan.

ONE CANNOT miss the writer's quintessentially creative willowy fingers, and his love of lager. The first glass of Heineken at the lounge of the Olive Bar and Restaurant in New Delhi, followed many more and concluded, post dinner, with the last morsel of dessert, savoured in the candle lit interior. Anurag Mathur, the author of "The Inscrutable Americans", top seller book since its debut in 1991, is as experimental with his taste palette as he is with his writing. This time, the fiction writer is dabbling in poetry.

"I like Mongolian cuisine," he says soaking pita bread, a Mediterranean treat, in one of the dips, "I have also tried French food but for some reason it has not done well. In Delhi at least, may be because it is expensive and heavy," figures out the hazel-eyed journalist-author, who intends to unveil the collection of poems in May.

With a slight bulky frame, or the illusion so created by the heavy jacket, one can seldom fathom he was an ardent cricket player a few years back. Lack of any prominent crease on the face is slightly misleading, knowing that he is well past his prime thirties, the tennis player is now contented with the limited activity of walks and yoga.

A dabbler in multifarious cuisine, he limits his interests only in eating and not cooking. His non- vegetarian fare includes only chicken and mutton. "No fish," he declares.

Through with the appetizer, grilled mushroom roasted peppers arugula, which he hails as delicious, with gulps of beer, Anurag waits for lemon and rosemary grilled chicken, to arrive.

He does not speak till he pushes the last grain down his throat, letting only jaws work on tight- lipped mouth.

"There is no such thing as Indian food, there is regional food of all sorts, probably 500 different cuisines," he informs.

One bite

His other books did not shine as the first one, and that too gathered pace after some years.

"Anil Kumble took 10 wickets in an inning once. It is impossible for him to do so every time. It is the same with a writer. Even Shakespeare wrote dozens of plays but only a few are read and performed as on date," reasoned Anurag.

"Why people buy books and how long would they buy them, is an enigma to me. Only if I knew the answer I would write nothing but `The Inscrutable Americans'. But no author knows really," concedes the writer. On the slow pick up of the book, he added, "At that time there were no launch parties, well perhaps some what, but nor for `The Inscrutable Americans'. It became popular only through word of mouth."

His writing effort is a disciplined regime of `one to four in the morning' unravels the novelist. "I require just a few hours of sleep. It's been that way. Siesta suffices. And a significant part of the waking hours goes in the conscious effort of keeping track of the world, be aware of the happenings in politics, culture, society."

One spoon and he seems fully content with his choice of dessert, "Cappuccino fudge cake".

"American girls had developed chewing gum `into not just an art form, but a very personal and eloquent language'. Sometime they were merely chewing. At other times, their chew suggested they were interested. When angry, they did not chew, they bit. If they stopped chewing altogether, it was the sign of most extreme displeasure... A sign of approval... when gum gathered into bubble. But large bubble was not extra-approval but either flirtation or a patronizing contempt...", read

a few lines of his first bestseller, now crossing 34th reprint. A discerning observer, how can he claim that he cannot 'read' women?

"It was observance of one aspect of women of one country. There are many aspects of American women I never understood. Cultural conditioning makes enormous difference. Indian women are completely different from American women." He makes his stand clear on women. On food, we know already.

URMILA RAO

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