Posts Tagged ‘Events’

The Storyteller’s Back!

Idea Smith told the story last year but this year, as Lord Jeffrey Archer returned for the Landmark Jeffrey Archer tour a second time, you’ll need to settle for my patchy version of it. As I am sure anyone but me can imagine, it is impossible to take in an event when you’re in the thick of organizing it. I tried very hard, I promise you, but between running around for stock, flowers, and signing pens, the two hours that he was in the store just passed me by.

Lord Archer entered about fifteen minutes past seven, by which time the book section at Landmark, Infiniti Mall was completely packed. There might have been a moment or two when I doubted if as many would turn up as last year. But I needn’t have worried. All of Archer’s fans were there – some new ones too.  They came to be charmed, to be  entertained… and no one went home disappointed.

The Landmark Jeffrey Archer Tour at Infiniti Mall, Mumbai

Jeffrey Archer at Landmark Infiniti Mall

While it’s been a while since I last read Archer (the last one I read was Twelve Red Herrings in 1994), I don’t doubt that the books are engaging – going by the stories he told at the store. He told stories of joining the Samajwadi Party and being Transport Minister, but my favourite was the one where his American publishers , Simon and Schuster, tried everything in the proverbial book to get him into the top 15 of the NYT bestseller list.

It was 15 minutes of a lovely, animated saga of how they flew him on the Concorde, put him up at the Waldorf Astoria, and got him two minutes on the Good Morning America show. Despite being instructed to mention the title as often as he could, he spent all of it describing the Concorde. After many botched attempts, success in the American mainstream came when Johnny Carson, while introducing Lord Archer, told his 53 million-wide audience,

Kane and Abel is one of the best books I have ever read. I stayed up all night turning page after page and I would recommend that each of you buy a copy.

A week later, Kane and Abel was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and stayed there for 6 weeks.

Jeffrey Archer tells the Kane and Abel story

Jeffrey Archer tells the Kane and Abel story

The thing about being backstage at these events is that you catch the authors/artists as they actually are, egoistic, eccentric, or not at all. But whatever Lord Archer’s personal faults be, there is no doubting that he’s truly happy that so many people show up to see him. He doesn’t leave till every last book is signed, no matter if it takes two hours and that he’s pushing seventy. He always has a smile for you and your camera, no matter how many flash bulbs have gone off in his face. And that makes everything okay as far as I am concerned.

You can still catch him at Landmark, Pune, Moledina Road on the 17th of May. The last event is at Landmark Bangalore, Forum Mall, Jaya Nagar on the 18th of May. Both events start at 7:00 p.m.

NRMU Dadar Shaka

It rained heavily in Dadar the day before. For a moment I wondered if I should return home rather than negotiate the stretch from the platform to the over-bridge and beyond.

Along the road bridge that passes by the station and flooded with rainwater is a narrow lane that exits in the direction of Lower Parel. It is squeezed between two rows of flower sellers, one with their backs to the bridge, squatting with flower baskets in front, and the other operating from tiny shops opposite where flowers strung together hang from hooks in the ceilings.

One lot of passengers exit the station in the direction of Matunga, the other in the direction of Lower Parel, while the third disappear into the bustle of Dadar’s markets and beyond, maybe to Prabhadevi.

On rambling days rainwater can be fun. But on crowded weekdays flowing rainwater, after unsuccessfully seeking storm water drains, will have washed a hundred hurrying feet before washing mine, a service I would rather be spared of. Add to it rows of early morning customers bargaining over baskets of myriad colourful flowers squeezing the lane further, crowding the narrow passage so thick that I can barely see my own feet as I get nudged and pushed on my way out. I might’ve overlooked this as well if not for the mucky shade the rainwater takes in the lane littered with wasted flowers and leaves, turning the ground beneath my feet to a soggy carpet of squishy muck.

“It is Ganesh Chaturthi, the Municipal Corporation folks must be busy holidaying to turn up to clean this up,” I hear an elderly man say to another. Umbrellas are out. I hold mine firm as it is knocked around by other umbrellas held similarly.

“Fold your umbrella now,” a rotund gent chides me from behind. I realize that I’m better off folding it than fight for umbrella space in a patch of sky barely visible under the rag-tag plastic shelters that the flower vendors have rigged up outside their shops along the length of the lane, narrowing it even further.

Getting off the train I had sprinted up the incline that joins a narrow corridor connecting to a large hallway. There I bumped into a large crowd of passengers sheltering in the open space that leads to the over-bridge. Having left their homes without umbrellas they stood watching the rain pour outside. Few expected it to rain today though most would’ve known that there is no knowing when clouds would open up during Ganesh Chaturthi.

“There’s no telling until the last day (11th) of the festival,” a fellow passenger had noted as we scrambled for cover from the rain the winds blew in through the door as the train slowed down approaching Dadar.

It was when I slowed down to pick my way through the crowd in the hallway that I saw a man holding a mike. A board seemingly materialized out of thin air in front of me. Curious passengers paused by the board to read the appeal written in hindi.


“Bihar pranth mey bhishan baad ki tabahi mey juunj rahey logon ki madad mey aapna haath aagey badaye, madad karey, madad karey”.

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The Archer Aims For The Heart

Jeffrey Archer on Landmark tour!

..proclaims a hoarding on Andheri Link Road a few feet before Infiniti Mall which houses the Landmark store. The lower two floors look fairly sane, I think to myself as far as weekdays go. Even the second floor which looms into sight as the escalator rides up looks remarkably normal. Then I notice the mountain of bags lying at the entrance. And I’m stopped by the polite but firm female guard who shakes her head almost sorrowfully and tells me that I cannot carry my battered copy of As the Crow Flies in.

I push my way past the jewelery counter, the New Releases rack and past the music section. Voila!! What’s a celebrity without the crowd? Archer has succeeded in drawing the mob to the store on a weekday. It’s so crowded that people are stepping on each other’s toes even among the magazines racks that signal the start of that heaven that is Landmark’s book section.

I slither through the crowd in a manner perfected by years of Mumbai train travel and end up right at the back, smushed up against Movies while Jeffrey Archer regales a crowd from a stage in what is otherwise the aisle between Maps and Language.

archer-in-the-distance.jpg

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