The other side of Jeffrey Archer you must know
Syed Ali Mujtaba
On Saturday the May 24, 2008, a man who calls himself the greatest story teller on this planet was in Chennai. The celebrated author was none other than Jeffrey Archer, who was in the city to promote his latest book 'A Prisoner of Birth.'
It was packed crowed at the leading book store of Chennai called Landmark. The master story teller really got a huge attention over here. I presume more than 1000 copies of his book must have been sold that evening. I saw more than 500 people queuing up with two books in their hands to get the authors autograph, perhaps one for him and other for the aunt who lives down the lane. The enthusiasm of the crowd undoubtedly demonstrated that Archer is the top man in this business of story telling today.
The author was at his best when he made the concluding remarks of his speech. He said, ‘ladies and gentleman I am coming to India again this winters when the English cricket team tours this country.’ He received a thunderous applause for saying that. The crowd loved him, as he goes on; ‘I want to see the English team demolish Indian team on their home turf.’ Every one becomes silent as his monologue continues.
“India has won the toss and elected to bat first. Shewag and Tendulkar open the innings. Shewag out for zero, Tendulkar back into pavilion for 3, Ganguly spoons up a catch at silly point for 9, Lxaman and Dravid could add only another 25 runs. How much was all that, he asks, have you counted the score? I guess India is on taters at 37 for seven and its time for lunch! The crowed gets unnerved. Jeffery Archer has brought them down from ecstasy to gloom. He then delivers the punch line. Well folks don’t frown at me; I am just a story teller, Its Jeffrey Archer saying you goodbye.
Jeffery Archer spoke for about thirty minutes and then he interacted with the crowd for probably another thirty minutes. This was to develop a personal rapport with his readers but those who observed him silently, he exposed the wicked side of his personality to the core.
After hearing him I was not impressed, he left a poor impression on me and sounded an arrogant character with very inflated ego. His remarks that after Margaret Mitchell's “Gone with the Wind,” he is the most salable author in this world and while JK Rowling’s Harry Potter had 14 rejections, his first book, ‘Not a Penny less, Not a Penny More’ was rejected by 18 publishers, were all attempts to blow his own trumpet.
It was really appalling, when during the Q&A session he hurled personal innuendos at least on three occasions. The most atrocious was when he rebuked at the guy who perhaps escorted him from the hotel. This person was supposed to moderate the Q & A session, but since the crowed was overwhelming; he could no way control them. Jeffery loathed at him, ‘you fool, you cannot handle this,’ just leave it alone, he said and told the audience, you know this guy in the car was teaching cricket to this Englishman! The boy's face was red. I felt sorry for him.
The second instance was when a person was trying to tell him that he had read his latest book but was unable to clearly express himself about the characters of his book. “You little twig, don't open your mouth again you are spoiling the party,” Jeffery said.
He repeated himself again, when at the end of the session one person who was desperate to ask him a question. This man shouted; ' Sir, let me be the last one.’ “Who the hell you are to decide that, you got to be Jeffery Archer and stand over here, to do so,” Jeffery Archer shot back.
During the course of his speech, Archer took a dig at the Indian press with a much concocted view. He asserted that the front page of the Indian newspapers have Bollywood news and gossips, who is sleeping with whom types and the Obama- Hilary story figures on the 36th page. Every Indian knows that dailies here have a maximum of 16 or 24 broadsheets and all of them have political news on the front pages. It seems Jeffry Archer was talking about the British press calling them as Indians.
He did made fun of the traffic system in India and told the audience he had harrowing experience traveling on the Indian roads. “I want to be the transport minister here to fix things right” he said for which he received huge applause.
What I could gather from Jeffery Archer was he is an English gentleman of the Victorian era age, to whom India is still a colony of the British Empire. During his talk he hurt many but none took objections to him. Every one seemed to be overwhelmed by the aura of his presence. He got away with all his innuendos because people here were unable to understand him clearly. Indians worship their heroes to the extremes and can sallow any insult hurled at them. Had he been speaking to an audience London, I am sure shoes and slippers must have been flying at him. The problem with the Indians is, they are not exposed to such talk shops. Once they hear many such characters like Jeffrey Archer, they may be able to judge themselves.
My report on Jeffery Archers function in Chennai, received an interesting reaction from friend Matthew Maycock, who wrote to me from London. Matt writes; “It is interesting to see the response to Jeffrey Archer got in India. In the UK he is quite broadly reviled for his many recorded indiscretions. These include: being sent to prison for perjury, fraudulent investments, dodgy share deals, various 'pays vice-girl' stories, potentially robbing Kurdish refugees of significant amounts of money, while also being implicated (with Mrs. Thatcher's son amongst others) as being involved in the failed coup of Equatorial Guinea. The Conservative party, of which he was once President, has long ago thrown him out. This is a man who should not be receiving any acclaim.”
However, in spite of all this all this I think Jeffery Archer tour was a huge success in India. He toured six cities in the country and each of them drew packed house. Indians are mad about him. The market survey says more than in Americans, Japanese or Australians, Indians read Jeffery Archer. His pirated copies are sold on the Indian traffic light signals.
“I got to say this back home,” says Jeffery “if you are not sold on traffic lights, you have not arrived in India.”
Jeffery was saying, “some one asked me, why I am doing all this, you have made enough money, you got a villa in Cambridge, a penthouse in London, an apartment in New York, what more you want Jeffery? Archer replies; “the crowd that gathers to listen me, they jostle to have my view; they queue up to get my autograph, all his motivates me to keep on going. I want all this to go on forever and I am going to keep on writing for next thirty years,” he said.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org