Eating Authors: Gautam Bhatia

No Comments » Written on August 17th, 2020 by
Categories: Plugs
Gautam Bhatia

Although I was one of the founders of the Codex online writing community, I haven’t checked in there much these last few years. Recently, I’ve tried to do better. In particular, because it’s a means of holding myself accountable. There’s a quarterly topic thread where novelists check-in on their progress over each three month span. It’s one of the few Codex threads that I visit. I like to hit it with a listing of my ambitions, month to month, and then follow-up to see how well/badly I’ve hit/missed the mark. I do not use it to compare my progress to anyone else’s because 1) we’re all at different points in our respective writers’ journeys and 2) the only one I should be in competition with is myself. That said, I do enjoy seeing the reports of other writers’ successes, both old friends and folks I haven’t met yet.

Recently, there was a post from someone I didn’t know. He had mentioned that his first novel was about to have its Covid-19 delayed release. My first reaction was to congratulate him. My second was to reach out and invite him to EATING AUTHORS, which is how Gautam Bhatia comes to be here today.

In another world, Gautam is a lawyer. His focus is on Indian constitutional law and philosophy, and he has published extensively. He’s a Rhodes scholar, studied at Oxford, and earned his law degree at Yale. In 2018, ForbesIndia listed him among their “30 under 30” (he was 29 at the time). Nowadays, Gautum lives in New Delhi, India. When not working as a lawyer or legal academic he has been known to put in time as a reviewer and editor with Strange Horizons.

The ebook of his first novel, The Wall, was released four days ago and the paperback comes out next week.

LMS: Welcome, Gautam. Please tell me about your most memorable meal.

GB: SFF has shaped my life. So, predictably enough, my most memorable meal had something to do with SFF. Growing up, I loved the historical fantasy novels of Guy Gavriel Kay. My favourite was The Lions of Al-Rassan, that is set — in part — in Moorish Spain. As with all good books, the novel triggered a lifelong fascination with Andalusia. Many years later — in the summer of 2019 — when my taste in SFF had moved on, but my long-distance love affair with Andalusia had not, I was able to plan an actual trip to the region. My final destination was Granada, whose squares I had dreamed of not only because of Kay’s novel, but also because of Mahmoud Darwish’s heart-stopping poem, “I Want from Love only the Beginning.”

The Wall

I spent a lovely day wandering around the old city’s mountainous, winding streets. As evening wore on, I called my mother, who insisted that I eat dinner at a restaurant called Estrellas de San Nicolas, which she had uncovered after careful research: nestled into the hillside, it was supposed to have the best views of the Alhambra Palace (a landmark featured in Kay’s novel), from anywhere in Granada. I went hunting for the restaurant, but it proved notoriously difficult to find, and — being the penny-pincher that I am — I had decided not to pay for an international roaming on my phone, and rely only on hostel and city WiFi. There was, of course, no WiFi on the mountainside, and I was reduced to walking up and down the streets in the general area, peeling my eyes for the restaurant’s sign. I spent an hour or two this way, with the Alhambra — across the valley — seeming to mock my fruitless quest. On my fourth or fifth pass along a street, I finally did manage to uncover the restaurant (it is genuinely well-hidden), by a stroke of great good luck, found a vacant table despite having failed to make a reservation, for want of a functioning phone.

I ordered paella, which everyone had told me was the dish to eat when in Andalusia. The view of the Alhambra was everything I had been promised: I watched the fortress change colour with the sunset, the outer walls turning golden, dark red, pale red, and then grey, as the sun went down. It was also, I realised, the ideal place to finish that I had kept pending: I had to write the Epilogue of my novel — its last page — and I had been putting it off for a special occasion. This, evidently, fit the bill: so, next to my plate of paella and my glass of orange juice, with the Alhambra across the valley, I scribbled the final scene of my novel — which is due to be in print in one week from now.

Thanks, Gautam. I’ve only had paella once and it was a miserable experience. Admittedly, that was in Cannes, and surely it would be better in Andalusia. Then too, a view of the Alhambra seems guaranteed to make any meal wondrous indeed.

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

NB: links to authors and books here are included as part of an Amazon Affiliate account. If you follow any of them and ultimately make a purchase Amazon rewards me with a few pennies of every dollar.

Want to never miss an installment of EATING AUTHORS?
Click this link and sign up for a weekly email to bring you here as soon as they post.



Leave a Reply