Images of striking up conversations with, and getting to know people with whom I had interacted only online, began flashing. That's exciting for me. Moreover, I have always felt that bonding with people having common interests is easier, than randomly saying Hi to a stranger and striking up a conversation.
But another thought seemed to be weighing me down. After all, they are strangers. Nowhere it's said bibliophiles are also the most affable human beings on earth. (In fact, I know some with airs of huge diameter around them, and attitudes that poke you everywhere.)
Fighting off skepticism, and with fingers crossed, I replied to the post, telling the organizer to count me in.
On the appointed day, yesterday; a few minutes after the appointed hour of 12.30 pm, I landed up at Toit, a popular joint on 100 ft Road in Indiranagar. As I reached the 2nd floor, I was guided to the far corner, where tables had been booked.
I was neither the first to arrive nor the last. But the body language of the few who were already seated seemed to convey the impression that they knew me or recognized me (obviously via the FB profile photo.) Broad smiles, shake of hands, and self-introductions. As everyone else trouped in, the protocol carried on for a few more minutes.
We took out the books we had brought for either exchange or giveaway, and spread them on the table. The focus quickly shifted to that as each one of us lounged forward to pick them up, flipped pages and exchanged notes. Ice had broken even before we realised. Comments about how possessive we are about our books ... jokes and banter ...
Before landing up there, I had thought no one would find me interesting to talk to, and I would myself be struggling to make conversations with strangers. (My social skills are pretty bad.) I was completely wrong. We found many topics (besides books) to talk about. In fact, I was talking so much, I wasn't eating; so had to shut up and focus on food.
The best part, some of them were friends of my friends -- two of them are good friends of my ex-colleague; and the cousin of another is married to my schoolmate and family friend. What a pleasant surprise!
As the drinks arrived - from water to cocktails to beer - the conversation centred around how Indian and western cultures look at drinks... And, when the food - broccoli, pasta, pizza, burger etc - started landing up, the focus shifted to vegetarian vs non-vegetarian. How beef is Kerala's "favorite food", and what would happen if it were banned in Kerala.
Meanwhile, I realised quite late that it had been raining cats and dogs. A gentle reminder was the few drops, which found the gaps in the ceiling, falling on me. O, by the way, toit in French is roof.
At the end of it all, around 4 pm, the most remarkable takeaway was the bonhomie: I didn't feel anyone was a stranger. The only flipside, if there was one, was that the seating arrangement at the corner didn't make it quite comfortable for all of us to move around and mingle with one another as much as we would have wanted to. But we all had resolved to catch up, and keep in touch.
As the evening gave way to night, my Facebook notification pings wouldn't stop buzzing, with friend requests, posts and comments in the group.
So long. ... The buzz now is that the next meet-up will be a potluck party.