Manav Kaul, an artist who wears several hats- a writer, photographer, traveler, actor, filmmaker, has released his new novel, 'Shirt ka teesra Button'. The launch of the book was marked by a book signing and reading session by the author on the evening of March 30, 2022 at the National Crafts Museum, Delhi by Hind Yugm, the publisher of the book.
As expected, a good gathering was awaiting me as I reached late for my first ever book signing. Silently, so as not to disturb anyone, I tiptoed to the back of the crowd that was quietly listening to Kaul reading excerpts from his new novel. There he was, sitting in the middle of the stage, on the right chair, in a white shirt, with his specs on, reading. I looked at him and then I looked at the people looking at him, with sparkling eyes and smiling faces. Almost everyone had Kaul's new novel, either in their hands or resting on their laps. However, not one eye was pointed to the book, every eye in that crowd was dedicatedly looking at Kaul.
Just as I was taking it all in, in a minute or two, he stood up for a tea break, asking us all to read the rest of the novel by ourselves. He put his sling bag on and made his way out, followed by a dispersed crowd. A small stall selling the new and old novels by Kaul was now back in business, jammed by Kaul's fans.
As the break was over and Kaul was back to his seat, I realised why there was a seat on his left. It was there for people to get their books signed while sitting next to him. The dispersed crowd was now standing in a queue and everyone was excitingly and patiently waiting for a chance to meet Kaul so up close, to conclude their visit to the event.
As the evening came to its end, I wanted to understand what makes people fall in love with Kaul's writing. In a conversation with Deeksha Verma, a photographer and an avid fan of Kaul's writing, she tells me, "I have been reading Manav Kaul for more than four years now. The first book I read was 'Prem Kabootar' and I was instantly drawn to his writing. Everyone describes his writing as simple, however, I don't feel so. I think it is his ability to say the most complex of things in much simpler words that makes his work so interesting. He talks about the things on the surface and yet what he says has so much depth. I, myself try to write sometimes and when I write around the time I am reading Kaul, his way and style of writing naturally influences mine."
Further describing her experience of meeting one of her favourite writers for the first time, Deeksha says, "I was awestruck just as I looked at him standing in front of me. Everyone was greeting and talking to him while I was shivering with the nervousness to even go near. We finally met, we shook hands, there was so much I wanted to say but at that moment, I could barely speak. He asked my name, he smiled at me, he signed my book and when I told him that I am overwhelmed, he said, "So am I". I always wondered about the circumstances under which I'd meet him, I even wrote something around it. I see his videos reciting his poems on Instagram, watching him reading his book live was entirely something else. Wanted to tell him how much I loved him but couldn't, but that certainly doesn't take away the fact that it was indeed one of the most special experiences of my life."
Saurav Mishra, a student and a photographer says, "It was in August 2020 that I read the first book by Kaul, 'Bahut Door, Kitna Door Hota Hai'. Before that, I had been following his work as an actor and had read his poems. I was always a fan. I love how his work revolves around the most mundane of things and is yet so intriguing. His writing has made me feel connected not just to him, but to myself as well. His humbleness reflects in his work and it is not very hard to fall in love with him."
While talking about his experience of meeting Kaul for the first time, Saurav says, "I once saw a dream where I met him and this experience was not so different. He was wearing a white shirt, just as he did in my dream. The moment I saw the announcement of this session, I went bonkers to see Kaul. The moment I laid eyes on him for the first time, I was awestruck. I finally met him, had a chance to sit next to him, got my book signed by him. I told him about the dream. I always wondered what it would be like to meet him for the first time and it's blowing my mind that it has already happened. It's an experience that I'll cherish all my life. All of it was indeed my dream come true."