Last Friday, Nikesh Shukla read a short story by Dave Eggers, so it seems only fair in the quid pro quo ways of the world that Eggers returns the favour for Shukla.
He was up for it and suggested ‘The Samosa Whisperer‘, which is one of my favourites too, serving up as it does, a spicy short-storied wedge of Shukla’s former stomping ground and my current ‘manor’ (Ealing Road), along with a meditation on the nostalgic comforts of food, food which rescues both memories and the dramatis personae of those memories.
We decided to do the recording over Skype. So the night before I nervously tested out my broadband connection and buffed my microphones, awaiting Dave’s call.
He was as I’d expected him to be: affable, warm, engaged, exactly like his TED video. He was also faintly pleased with himself, but in an extremely modest way, because he was going to read the story with accents.
ME: Accents? EGGERS: Yep. Been watching The Big Bang Theory, Series FIVE, and I think I can do the voices. ME: Are you sure? EGGERS: Yes.
So he begins reading. I’m steeling myself for the first line of dialogue, and when it comes I have to stop him.
ME: Dave, hang on. EGGERS: Uh-huh. Problem with the levels? ME: No, no, it’s just…
How do you tell Dave Eggers that he really shouldn’t be attempting an Indian accent for this story. A story he’s prepared in the way that the Dadima of this story once prepared samosas for Prakash. A story Dave clearly loves, possibly even as much as I do, every line so flavoursome and light. A story he might have read to Vendela and the kids just last night, with everyone laughing and clapping at his pitch-perfect rendering of Shukla’s pitch-perfect dialogue.
How do you tell Dave What-Is-The-What Eggers, Dave Social-Activist-826-National/ScholarMatch Eggers that his Indian accent sounds corny and faintly embarrassing. Embarrasing to him, you, Shukla, the whole of the Indian subcontinent. You don’t, right?
What you do is you let him read the story. You thank him profusely, and then you re-record it yourself, un-accented, and just hope that he doesn’t come back and listen to it later. And why would he? He’s a very busy man.