They walked together, against the setting sun, into the picturesque Portuguese villa that houses Sunaparanta at the Goa Centre for the Arts. William Dalrymple posed animatedly for the shutterbugs, while Olivia Fraser smiled demurely. With William leading, they made their way to the intimate courtyard, the perfect setting for this edition of the Shanghvi Salons titled, “The Muse and I”. Before a packed audience, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi engaged the couple in a candid chat that explored their relationship and the impact of love on their creativity.
The beginning was brimming with poetic prose as William confessed that for him it was love at first sight: “Olivia and I were invited to an event in London by an Indian friend. There I saw her across the room and I was instantly smitten.” At that event, William realised he knew one of Olivia’s cousins and on the pretext of borrowing a ‘hideous scarlet jacket’ from her cousin, he tried to find out more about Olivia. But the storyteller couldn’t weave a convincing tale, and it became clear that it wasn’t the jacket he was after. “It unravelled embarrassingly, and I also found out that Olivia was not available,” says William. But that didn’t stop him from courting her. In fact, the author moved in next door to Olivia, and when her relationship didn’t work out, he swooped right in.
The writer adds drama when he says, “If my parents were to arrange my marriage, it wouldn’t be with her — because we belong to different gotras. In fact, our ancestors had been at war for over a century! She would be the equivalent of a pahari, a wild hills woman; while I belong to a more civilised lot,” quips William, even as Olivia playfully reproaches him.