Ok, the title here isn’t the Asha Bhonsle album. It could probably be the title of the picture I got shot with Rahul Bose (no, it’s not appearing anywhere here). But before I describe that foolishness here, here’s some bhoomika. On 7th April was Kitaab fest in IHC and the main reason why I wanted to go there was because one of my favourite most authors – William Dalrymple was participating. He’s a wonderful writer and is the sole reason behind my sudden interest in Indian history. Textbooks could never do what he did with a couple of books of his. I had written a review of the “City of Djinns” a year or so back and I wanted to write about “White Mughals” but then let it be. I’m currently reading “The Age of Kali”. The immense desire to meet WD in person and to be able to talk to him, was enough for me to slog in the week so as to be able to take leave on Friday. People got quite flabbergasted when told that I took leave for “this” event and that too when I am not even a writer (well not with critical acclaim at least), journalist, critic, random media person and am instead a software person. Of course the other attraction was Rahul Bose who I think is one sane actor and last but not the least, he blogs too!
The morning of 7th saw me get up quite early so as to make it to IHC at 9am from Gurgaon. I shouldn’t have made that effort because I made it at 10am and was greeted by a hall which was absolutely empty with not even the ghost of a program lurking nearby. Shortly William Dalrymple arrived and started setting up the projector with his slides for the reading of his new book – The last Mughal. I didn’t have any problems in procuring seats in the second row, right in front of the stage because the hall was fairly empty. The program started when Rahul Bose arrived “fashionably late” (in the compere’s own words). The book reading by WD started with a gusto but got converted to a sleep inducing murmur in some time. The chilling AC anyhow made me feel like curling up in a blanket and sleeping. I somehow managed to keep myself awake. William Dalrymple appeared to be the bonhomous and affable guy next door. He tended to stretch on with his reading, quite unaware that he was doing so. This thing of being oblivious to it all, is what lent him a non-starry air. After the session, Rahul Bose asked him some questions related to the apparent change in the amalgamation of the British and the Mughal cultures, over a period of time. He also talked about how history takes shape by word of mouth or how it would be for our coming generation because of the difference in our perceptions and the things which are recorded down in history books. That is something I have always found rather interesting. It has also been highlighted quite well in the Da Vinci code.
One of the advantages of sitting right in front was that I could minutely see every expression of Rahul Bose (some of which I captured on my cam). I suddenly felt all school girlish about a celeb being there right in front. I also felt silly for feeling that, since clearly no one else treated him like a celeb except for the NDTV, CNN IBN and Tehelka guys. For a moment I even did the admittedly shameful thing of giving him the attention I had initially reserved for William Dalrymple. But in spite of all this I knew that I wanted to get a picture clicked with him. So I waited patiently till most of the “bees” had stopped buzzing around him and then I asked him if he would mind getting a pic clicked with me. He acquiesced and pictures happened. He instantly rushed out, before I could even utter a thanks, with some autograph mongers trailing behind him. That made me feel rather foolish for having given “bhaav” to a celeb. As it is, he doesn’t get a chance to get his picture clicked with me everyday.
After the WD & Rahul session there were several interesting discussions with eminent South Asian and British writers as the panelists. By this time I had exchanged my seat for a row which was way back in the hall so as to facilitate easy exit. Around lunch time when the discussion got rather boring, I thought of exiting the hall. Just as I reached the cornermost seat next to the aisle, a thought bubbled up in my head. It said, “What if I were to fall right now. This whole area looks rather precarious.”. And somehow that’s exactly what happened. My thoughts translated into reality with me wondering whether I had had a premonition or something! I had twisted both my ankles quite badly. More than the pain in my ankles, I was quite shaken up by the happening as I had actually been cautious and ended up falling. I had a feeling that for a split second there, I had hogged the limelight from the panelists and perhaps the whole hall was looking at me. I quickly did what I was in the process of doing viz. exited the hall and then collected myself. The pain wasn’t that much in the day but by evening I was beginning to walk like a wooden legged pirate. Thankfully I wasn’t driving as I had company. It took a day for the twisted ankle to get ok by using a painkiller and a muscle spray. As a result I missed the 2nd day at IHC when Goldie Hawn had to talk about her book. Since this “twist in the story” happened, I was also unable to get William Dalrymple’s pic clicked with myself. But I had managed to run into another celeb. Suchitra Krishnamurthy had a painting exhibition ongoing at IHC. And do these celebs make some dough or what! Her paintings were in the range of 2.5 Lakh + 12.5% VAT! If someone is as foolish as to leave buying a good enough car and buys a painting done by Suchitra, then he actually deserves that painting. I didn’t expect her to be there, but there she was, wearing HUGE goggles that looked like Mickey mouse’s ears, asking me whether I wanted the rate list. After taking the list I realised that it was her. I actually used to like her in her Lakme ads, but here she looked like a cartoon.
On the 3rd day of the Kitaab fest, I visited IHC for the sole purpose of meeting WD, talking to him and possibly getting a picture taken. The panel debates were rather interesting and engrossing. Soon enough William Dalrymple got free. He looks pretty much at home in cotton kurtas and all. I went and talked to him in bits and pieces with myriad “bees” buzzing around him from time to time. He even started greeting me with a “hi” everytime I pinged him, ignoring all the news channel dudes! Was I pleased or what! I also learnt that he lives right here in Gurgaon (Kapashera border to be precise). I talked to him some more and our conversation ended when eventually the picture titled “William and I” happened. A very unique and well spent weekend.