The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 3.1 MB
Everyone talks about falling in love, but falling in friendship can be just as captivating. When Neela Devaki’s song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins.
But as Rukmini’s star rises and Neela’s stagnates, jealousy and self-doubt creep in. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, one career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the center of an internet firestorm.
She was rarely nervous before an event and was puzzled by her uncharacteristic perspiration. She worried Mikey could feel her sweat through her ruby blouse until she realized that the wetness was coming from his hand. She shrugged casually, but his fingers clung to her, even when she stumbled over the sneakers of the men in graphic tees and chinos who had filled the standing room area at the back of the hotel ballroom.
When they reached the stage, Mikey quickly introduced her to the four panellists, three men and one woman, all of whom appeared to be in their twenties. They each greeted her with variations of “so honoured to meet you.” She would have gladly reciprocated, but her diligent moderator research had left her unimpressed.
“Thank you all for joining us for today’s exciting talk on race and music,” Mikey announced into the mic. The audience applauded enthusiastically, their festival lanyards flapping.
“As you know . . .” He paused until the applause trailed off. “As you know, this recent issue is one that we need to think more about. And to get things started, we have . . .”
He paused again, this time interrupted by the volunteer/bouncer Neela had encountered outside the room, who was racing towards him, waving a folded note.
“Oh, and um, of course, we acknowledge we are on Indigenous land,” he said. “Also, a big thank you to our sponsors. Without taking up too much more time, I want to introduce the moderator for today’s panel, Nyla Devaki.”
Mikey gestured at her with his sweaty hand and grinned. The audience applauded again. She smiled back at him with all of her teeth, because she was a consummate professional, even if she wasn’t getting paid enough for this bullshit.
“I have her bio here, but I think it goes without saying how amazing this human is and how lucky we are to have her here with us today.”
Then Mikey read the panellists’ bios, each one longer than the one before, and all of them featuring copious adjectives (visionary, distinct, powerful, influential), hyperbolic comparisons to music pioneers (Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell), and exhaustive lists of accolades acquired from organizations that Neela had never heard of. Sedated by the monotony of manufactured praise and the stench of carpet cleaner, she almost didn’t hear Mikey say, “Take it away, Nyla.”
After firming her posture and taking a sip of water (that she wished was vodka), Neela posed her first question: “What do you think is your most valuable skill or trait as a racialized musician?” She’d considered starting with a softer question, perhaps one about the panellists’ inspirations or current projects, but why waste time? All the male panellists reached out for her mic to respond but she handed it to the brown woman, despite her grandiose all-caps name.