The largest classroom on campus was filled to capacity to listen to Rahul Mehta, author of Quarantine. A brief introduction full of accolades and glowing reviews began the evening and foretold of the experience we were all about to share. A small man with black hair stepped behind the large wooden podium to the microphone and for the ensuing hour held captive each imagination present with stories of vibrant color and rich texture. The characters who populate these stories are so intimately written and so deliberately lit that the listener parts with a sense that he or she made a new acquaintance. The shared stories are so personal that the listener might (if the story was less enthralling) turn away out of a sense of decorum. When the reader paused between essays, the room immediately filled with a great warm rush of applause that seemed to simultaneously pour from every corner and wash over all who were present.
Mr. Mehta was persuaded some time earlier by his editor, that along with his collection of short stories he should (in fact had a social responsibility to) write and share with the world some personal essays of growing up gay. The subject was to be his own life experiences. Having written only fiction up to this point, Mehta was understandably reluctant to begin such a revealing undertaking. The editor stood her ground and the world benefitted; these stories of common human experience are so well told that they allow the reader to see his or her own life in a bit clearer focus. Not the stories of a political activist, but those of a son, a friend, a lover, a boy becoming a man, an American, an immigrant, and of course a human.
If you have ever felt like a person alone in a world that does not really understand, these stories will definitely reach you.