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Vikram Seth's First Stop: Chennai
Second Stop: Bangalore
Third Stop: Kolkata
Fourth Stop: Mumbai
After launching Two Lives across India in four major cities, it was the final stop home that Vikram Seth must have loved most. The launch in Delhi, on Thursday evening, coincided with his mother Leila Seth's 75th birthday.
Like his earlier events, Seth alone controlled the stage. No publishers, VVIP's or other authors sharing elbow room.
Organised by his publishers Penguin Books India at the Diwan-e-Aam, Hotel Taj Mann Singh, the reading went off like clockwork. "Please take pictures for 30 seconds and retire to the back so I can communicate with my audience," he asked the press photographers. "No clicking during my reading."
Read an extract from Vikram Seth's Two Lives
The hall was large, with over 200 chairs laid out. Attendance by Seth's friends and fans surprised organisers though, with guests from some Embassies actually sitting on the carpet to listen to the author!
"I must say it was my mother who helped me get over writer's block after my last book, by telling me I should write about my uncle," he explained, speaking about how he interviewed his uncle for months, while sifting through his aunt's letters.
"Yes, I helped him get over writer's block. He worked on the book for over four years before it finally saw the light of day," Leila Seth told this correspondent, as she mingled with guests later.
Aamir is a suitable boy
The reading was accompanied by witty remarks from the author, about himself and his younger brother. "I think the conception of my brother and I was a mistake, but my sister wasn't," he said, amidst laughter. The audience also clapped lustily when told about his mother's birthday. Seth said he was merely carrying on the family tradition though, as his mother too had launched her book on his father's birthday.
The reading went on for an hour before Seth took questions from the audience like a celebrated actor. He denied a suggestion that he and Salman Rushdie were working on books with the same subject. "I hope you do not write a book on the same subject if you were both nominated for a Nobel Prize [Images]," a lady in the audience said. "I can assure you we do not collaborate because that would mean half the space for book reviews and divided audience attention as well," he answered with a broad smile, as he swung his arms open, glass of wine in hand.
Amongst the listeners were former governor of Jharkhand Ved Marwah, painters Jatin Das and Manjit Bawa with their wives, Aveek Sarkar (who read an introductory note about the book), members of the Seth household, and Manvendra Singh of the Bhartiya Janata Party -- the lone member of parliament who, despite an ankle injury, made it a point to attend. "I came here to buy his book and get an autograph," said Singh, pointing to the long queue of people waiting for their turn to have a word with Seth.
Happiest of all, one would imagine, were the people from Penguin India. After all, over 200 copies of Two Lives were sold within an hour.
Vikram Seth on the rediff chat
Two Lives, remembered
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