It was a steep but short flight of stairs. I tentatively put one foot above the other and heaved myself up in the dark over each step. I tried following the host who had welcomed me with a curt nod. But he had already disappeared from view.
I came to the landing, then moved across the hallway and dining to the living room. I spotted the host then, battling with the lid of a box of snacks. He jerked his head to the left, gesturing me to keep moving on. The chattering voices from the other side gave me direction. The bright light streaming in from the windows hurt my eyes.
I crossed the threshold of the wooden archway and 20 pairs of eyes stared at me. No, bore and drilled into me, silently demanding what business I had to be present amongst them. Fortunately for me, they quickly passed judgement and having declared me as an unworthy contender for their attention, their previously unwavering gaze slid from me to each other as they resumed their conversations.
I weaved my way across those squatting comfortably on the carpet, taking care not to topple over those sitting on the sofas. Inevitably I came to the farthest sofa in the room and claimed a spot for myself. Placed right by the window-side, it had been warmed by the bright yellow rays of the Sun. I perched my butt precariously, lest someone realize the mistake and rudely ask me to leave the room.
For a few nail-biting minutes as everyone continued to chat among themselves, I remained frozen, ready to leap up and run out at the slightest inkling of interrogation. Even though I had expected it, the worst did not really happen. A few minutes later, Iced Teas were handed around and surprise, surprise I was politely offered one too. I quickly grabbed the cold, frosty glass of my favourite beverage and drowned my gaze in it.
Shortly after, the discussion was initiated and the topic announced – Bias Against Female Authors.
I breathed in deep, cleared my throat and smiled to myself. I had this. There were quite a few new authors I had recently discovered and whose books I had devoured. In fact, all I ever read were women authors. Most romance novelists were women, I thought. I ticked off names mentally. I smiled to myself again, then quickly wiped it off lest someone mistake me for a real Cheshire cat. I would be leading this discussion and be the most authoritative speaker on the subject, I thought to myself.
As the discussion progressed, various interesting points and perspectives came forward. Arguments and then counter-arguments flowed thick and fast. After about 2 hours, we had but barely started. As each member of the club spoke, my head turned from one corner of the room to another. Eyes wide, I stared at these beings who had seemingly appeared from another planet. Being well-read acquired a new meaning. Names that were hitherto unknown to me were frequently mentioned. Those that I barely managed to recognize were tossed around like peanut shells in a bar on a Saturday night.
If pride could cause one to fall even while sitting down, I’d have grazed both my knees. Probably would have skinned my elbows. And bruised my shins too! A fracture or two wouldn’t be improbable either. I was rudely told, by no one as such, that there was more to the world and in the world than romance.
I slowly inched my way into the middle of the room, in order to escape my turn as a speaker and sat there cowering. My confidence ebbed like the retreating tide. By now I was dreading the moment, wondering if anyone would be interested in what now I realized to be shoddy debutante novels authored by forgettable writers (read EL James or Stephanie Myers) suffering from a me-too-bestselling-author phenomenon.
Somehow I managed to blabber something about a romance novel written by a female author I hadn’t read earlier. Nevertheless, I made a mental note to not just read more but also to read ‘different’.
I have already started reading non-fiction. The book that you’ll find in my hands these days is ‘The Story of My Life’ by Hellen Keller. I shall go back to the meet next week surer of myself. I shall ace it in fact, I’m sure.
But wait, isn’t the topic for next week Science Fiction. YIKES!!!!