Friday, March 06, 2009

Orhan Pamuk in Bombay!

Orhan Pamuk was in Bombay and he read read from "My Name is Red" at the British Council auditorium. I got the only seat available in the auditorium in the last row, beside a pillar, beside an architect to whom I mentioned, as an aside, that there are many architects who write so well.

"Maybe it has something to do with sentence construction," I say, trying to sound insightful.

"Yes, as an architect I can't afford to make a mistake. We consider sentence and structure of language as sacrosanct," said this suave lady architect (who writes on architecture) with a pleasant and kindly smile. What a succint way of putting it! I should learn from architects, I guess. Sentence construction is a lot like architecture, I know, I am constructing my own house.

The cognoscenti and literati of Bombay so notorious for coming late/not coming/being dismissive of literary events turned up in force wearing the latest chiffons, hip-hugging denims, perfumes, low-cut blouses sporting their latest gadgets/cameras/mobile phones. Men either shave their tops or wear their hair long, I could see. What a sight it was, my heart was thumping, literally! So much adulation for a writer? But Pamuk is Pamuk, unassuming, natural, no put on airs, guileless and candid.

The show begins, Pamuk walks in dressed in a casual tee-shirt and trousers, accompanied by the British Council man who jokes, "The fire exit is this way, in case there is a fire," all laugh, the ice is broken, the tone is set for the evening. There's more to come from Pamuk himself. Is it that all good writers are also entertainers? In that case, where do I stand? Suniti paid me a compliment when she said my writing has a "wry humour" I don't know if I would be as entertaining on stage before an audience. And to my surprise he was also trained as an architect. I look knowingly at the architect beside me.

He begins to talk, his voice is fluent, his tone even, his expressions restricted and economical. The reading from "My Name Is Red" is full of twitters from the audience. I am a muddle of details as I was busy capturing the event on video for upload to, so i missed some of the details, but his words came to haunt me in my dreams last night, and even now I can hear snatches of what he said:

"My family wanted me to be an engineer, I trained to be an architect, and then became a writer."

"You don't have to imitiate a great writer, keep at it till you discover your voice."

"I can't writer in English, I tried. But India is different, it has its own problems of trying to find a voice. A writer should write in the way one speaks to ones shopkeeper, ones brother."

Hopefully my video should be uploaded to youtube today and i would be able to put a link here tomorrow. Then you can enjoy what he said live, and I can put up some of his quotable quotes here.

Yes, he has a sense of humour and several times the auditorium erupted in spontaneous laughter! One questioner asked how he makes time to write when his life is full of events like this. His answer was simple: "Don't open mail, pull the wires of your telephone, that's it." Shows the great humour of the man.

Bombay is honoured to have you speak to us, Pamuk!

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