, ,

Published: Verve Magazine, July 2012

Debutante author Kiran Manral has an animated interaction with writers and bloggers on her debut novel The Reluctant Detective at the Trident-BKC’s Botticino


The monsoon ride to a luncheon book reading at the Trident-BKC’s Botticino restaurant was surprisingly quick. The clouds were dark and gathered, but not ominous. The hotel is chic, crisp and unostentatious. You’d expect a bustling business hotel, but the soft water channels, elegant jaali work and neck-craning tall ceilings masked the muted conversations floating around. Verve’s Arti Sarin and I were early: we settled into the Botticino’s little cozy seating area (off their grappa display cabinet with hand-blown glass bottles), where The Reluctant Detective’s charmingly poised and self-deprecating author, Kiran Manral, was to read from her book.

The Reluctant Detective by a first-time novelist treads new boundaries: the protagonist, Kanan Mehra, aka Kay, mustn’t be taken seriously. She bumbles and fumbles her way through a murder investigation – with the author’s trademark humour. Less of a stretch with the latter in the book would have made the writing crisper and less stream-of-consciousness. Yet, as the author is already on her next in series, you know she is creating a protagonist meant to be around with some permanence, and you wonder what Kay is likely to be embroiled in next.

For lunch, the Trident-Botticino’s chef Vikas Vichare put up a fine spread: a refreshing antipasto of ripe mango and asparagus in a filo pastry, to toast the season’s end for the king of fruits. Quick on the follow was a fresh pear, pecorino and arugula salad or a roast chicken roulade with marsala wine stewed figs, caramelised shallots and pistachio, if you please. While my choice for the mains was the ricotta and goat cheese ravioli; I could see the others savouring the meat options: chilli and fennel crusted snapper with orange sauce, and the mushroom and mozzarella filled chicken breast with sautéed fennel and thyme jus. As the wine glasses rolling with Frescobaldi Pater Sangiovese Di Toscana clinked to a well-balanced palate, the table wrapped up with a lovely-textured tiramisu and a berry sorbet.

At the beautifully laid table in a private alcove, conversation flowed easily between travel blogger Nisha Jha, food blogger Pushpa Moorjani, author Shakti Salgaokar and Manral, ranging from living the protagonist, to audience expectations, marketing a book and back-packing, while blogger Anuradha Shankar was snapping away with her camera at the elegant and meticulous plating. With Manral’s references to her spouse as “the husband” and to her intolerance towards cooking, we began to realise – in sweet irony over beautifully seasoned and balanced food – how much of the protagonist was her own alter ego. In this case, knowing the author uplifts the book to a place where the character unfolds and seems to come alive, larger than life, and so uncompromisingly realistic.