I got a book signed by Jeffrey Archer. His latest thriller - A Prisoner of Birth. For which he is touring India at the moment. So I met him yesterday for a one-on-one.
It is funny how first impressions go for a toss.
The day before I was gung-ho after listening to him at a book reading in Gurgaon. He was witty, he was sarcastic, he had a good deal of expressions on his face, he was a good speaker (Add for good measure the fact that Kane and Abel happens to be one of my favourite reads). My attention was riveted. As was that of the rest of the audience of readers which applaused him with unreserved gush. He knew exactly how to woo them all.
With ravings about Indian cricketers to an audience of Indians, you just cannot be off mark. Especially when you say, "I have to tell you all that your Indian cricketers are your best ambassadors abroad".
To top it all, he signed each and every book at the book store and refused to leave till they were all done. Touching.
Then on Sunday morning I met him in The Mountbatten Hall of The Oberoi.I was disillusioned. Not that I mistook him as a man with a spotless reputation. In fact I find men with nothing scandalous in their pasts a tad bit boring!
But what is it with foreigners being patronising about Indians? And paying backhanded 'compliments' about bloody Indians taking over Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge in the next few years? I am not sure I quite fell in line with old man Jeff.
In fact I ended up having mini verbal battles with him. He was expressing surprise about the kind of considerable audience he has in Japan and India. I raised my brows immediately and said, "What is so surprising about that?" He fell quiet for a few seconds and then said, "I guess I shouldn't be." Then he comes up with an inane sentence like, "But I guess you Indians love storytelling and romance?" Uh!
My hackles rose further. He happened to make a statement on women's wants being simply about dressing up well and going out at night. I was astonished and I reacted as such. And to my indignation, he led it off track and said, "Young lady, you are pretty and you dress well. How many people out there can have the same? Come out with me and see for yourself!" I retorted: "My reference was rather about your making women sound so frivolous." (I probably sounded like a feminist). So he pounced back and said: "Why, do YOU like soccer?" And when I replied in the positive, he said, English women care for neither cricket no soccer. What a nonsensical argument it was.
And what a weird interview it was. Where the interviewer was being interviewed as well. My lord insisted on knowing stuff like when I get up in the morning. And took me aside at the end of the interview and rasped, "So young lady, you will get up in the morning won't you?"