It drizzled that day I tell you. Yes it did. In the hot summer month of May, it drizzled. When a lady pointed this out to him, he gave a pose and said, “I am Rain God!’ which some partly deaf press correspondent wrote in big headlines: “I am Rainbow! Sheesh!
I learnt that Lord Jeffery Archer was visiting Pune on a whirlwind tour (12 cities in 2 weeks) of India. I had made up my mind to make the best of the opportunity. More than me, it was my best friend Maggi who wanted to meet him in person (she is really impressed with his latest book). Besides,since I am aspiring to be a novelist myself and am currently writing short stories (so that I can publish them in future as collected works), I wanted to hear the Lord of Storytelling himself!
I have to admit this right away. I admire this old man who is in the prime of his youth. I admire him for his energy, enthusiasm, his discipline (writing schedules), his ability to bounce back, his ability to make the best out of the worst (prison diaries), his sense of humor and above all his ability to tell a story.
I will not write about what you already know about him and if you want to know more; you can check his site. I read his recent book ‘Prisoner of Birth’ and I was not impressed. It is a typical Bollywood blockbuster movie on the lines of Don (Amitabh wala, which I like better). But I am not a critic and I am not discussing his books which you already read and can judge for yourself.
I am writing about the man in person. I rushed to Landmark Pune on the 22nd of May (Thursday) along with my buddy, Maggi. We were aware that he was expected to reach Landmark by 6.30pm. So we were at the place by 5.30pm. The first floor already had people walking in and some of the chairs already taken.
The organizers announced that in order to get the book signed we had to buy and get it billed first. So now I am not a big fan of autographs. But, since my friend was more excited than I was, I bought “As the Crow flies” and got it billed. We still had time to kill so we kept our books on two chairs, we felt will give us a good view and left for coffee. I must say this, my experience tells me that the last thing that anyone will ever steal is a BOOK!
We had our cup of coffee and returned to find more people cramped in. By then one of India’s greatest cartoonist Honorable R. K. Laxman was wheeled in (due to his age he moves around in a wheelchair). It was a double whammy and we loved it. After a thunderous standing ovation, people started rushing to the aisles to get a copy of one of his collected works of the Common Man. Now since I am not in to autographs, I was not very keen on buying another book for the sake of it. Maggi tried to get a snap of me along with him, but the organizers said that he did not like being photographed. So Maggi had to be content photographing me.
Finally, Lord Jeffery Archer walked in, wearing a white T-shirt and jeans (the jeans was blue!). He looked relaxed and I don’t know if he looked tired or not because I was seeing him for the first time. The first thing he did after walking on to the podium was make a mess out of the crowd, since he wanted most of them seated rather than standing in the aisles and blocking the view of people in the back. His intentions were very noble but he forgot that this is India. The crowd started pushing around so that they can sit on the floor close to Archer.
It was hilarious to see people sitting on chairs rushing to sit on the floor because it was closer to the man. There were a lot of people standing along the aisle for lack of seats to place their ass on. So Lord Archer wanted them to sit down or move closer to the podium. There was a small area that was cordoned off for the VVIPs which Lord Archer made available for the standing pubic.
Once the organizers managed to bring some order to the crowd, Archer made it a point to first and foremost accept the honor of Mr. Laxman’s presence. He was all praise for Mr. R. K Laxman’s brother, another legend in his own right – R. K. Narayan
It seems Jeffery Archer has picked up Malgudi Days and can’t get enough of it. It was really a moment of pride to hear such words of praise by an accomplished writer about a fellow countryman.
Then Jeffery started his routine of giving tips and talking about his work schedule. One thing that stood out during his speech was the sense of humor that spiced things up. He has the amazing ability to put the audience at ease. He is a master story-teller and his talk was filled with anecdotes. He kept starting off on any topic with “Let me tell you a secret” and then he will make the audience feel a part of some conspiracy. He is a very good public speaker.He talked about IPL, Indian Women, and a wide range of unrelated topics and kept us entertained.
After a non-personalized autograph which Maggi managed to get without standing in the mammoth queue, we decided to go back to our lives. Those few moments were really a break from the daily routine. A little bit of magical time with the Lord himself!
Jeffery Archer has blogged about his experiences on the India tour and I admire this man all the more. He finds time to blog even as he is losing out on sleep. And here I am sleeping and losing out on blogging!