Meeting Lord Jeffery Archer

It turned out to be quite an enchanting day! I met Lord Jeffery Archer, one of my favorite authors and it was fascinating. I have been a fan of his since a long time; I got introduced to his books when I read the book called, “The Sons of Fortune”, which was such an amazing book that I haven’t yet forgotten the story. Kane and Abel was another that got me hooked to his style of writing. His short stories are fantastic too, especially, “To Cut a Long Story Short”.

A week ago, Facebook alerted me to a meet & greet event with Lord Jeffery Archer at a mall near my workplace. This is why I love Facebook sometimes, it alerts me to all these cute events keeping in mind my wide variety of interests. I was overjoyed to see that I could make it, despite it being a weekday. These days my schedule is pretty heavy, but I was determined to attend this event. Who would miss a chance to meet up their favorite authors? I reached my office pretty early, requested my superior to let me leave at an earlier time than usual and finished all my work.

I reached the venue one hour in advance, but so many people had already gathered. The host kept us all entertained for an hour by asking questions about Lord Jeffery Archer and rewarding the people who answered correctly. I was standing right at the front since all the chairs had been occupied. I sought out the counter where they were selling his books. I bought his latest book, “This Was A Man”, the final book from the Clifton Chronicles series. I wanted to get it signed by him. I was carrying my favorite book, Sons of Fortune, but it looked too old, so I decided to get the new one signed.

After waiting patiently for more than an hour, Lord Jeffery Archer finally graced the stage in the midst of loud cheers and applause. It was a surreal moment, one of my favorite author was standing just a few feet away from me. He is an enchanting person and extremely witty. At the age of 76, he is globetrotting to promote his books. It is an amazing feat for someone who is in their 70s.

He regaled us with some funny anecdotes about his life. Like how when Kane & Abel had come out, he wasn’t popular in the United States and he had a few misses when trying to get his book on the best-seller list. Ultimately it was a radio talk show host who told him that it was the best book he had read in his life and that’s how it finally entered the best-seller list. He then spoke about his love for cricket and India and he said Indians gave him the best responses. Though he did talk about the crazy Bangalore traffic and he had some really witty comments about life in India.

The question and answer session was quite an interesting one; he revealed that he would love to be the Captain of the English cricket team, but he could neither bowl, nor bat nor field so he stuck to writing. On being asked how he dealt with the dreaded writer’s block, he responded by saying that he has been incredibly lucky to have never suffered from this disease. On being asked about how can people become authors, he said that you need two things to be a writer; talent and energy. You can write with talent and energy or even just energy without talent, but never without energy. And writing and storytelling are two very different things. I really loved what he said about writing. As an aspiring writer myself, where I question my own abilities so many times, I loved how practical his advice was.While talking about bouncing ideas for his novels, he gave a very funny spin to Jane Austen novels; he quipped that Jane writing in a small room in a small house in a small village wrote about 5 daughters trying to find husbands for themselves. Then she wrote about 4 sisters trying to find husbands for themselves and so on and so forth. Emma being the last one. This made us Austen fans laugh crazily. 
Once this session was over, the queue to get the book signed became a huge chain. The entire floor area of the mall was filled with people waiting to get their books signed. There was a girl behind me, who kept saying how so much waiting was bad for her and she didn’t even like the author. She was there just to get her boyfriend’s book signed. It’s really weird why her boyfriend couldn’t get it signed if he was such a big fan and why she would waste someone’s else chance of getting the sign quickly when she wasn’t interested at all. I guess some people show up to these events just to show off how intellectual they are on social media.

Finally when my turn came to get the book signed, I told him he is a brilliant author and I admire him a lot. I thanked him for the autograph and left happy that I got to meet him.He just signed his initials but it was just so unbelievable to have actually met him that it didn’t matter as much.

I wasn’t able to get a picture clicked with him because of the sheer amount of people still waiting and the lack of time; but I am happy I got to live the moment and I could see him so close to me, listen to him and convey my admiration to him.

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My Fascination with Lost Treasures and the Unresolved Mysteries of the Sea

Treasure hunt adventures and the unresolved mysteries of the sea, these are the two areas that fascinate me a lot. I love reading about them whenever I have time. They fire up my imagination and give me something to think about. There are many mysteries since the longest of times that have piqued my interest.

The MH370 search will end soon. Recently it was announced that unless new evidence that points its location is discovered, the search will end. The media even said that with time most people will forget about it and it will be a cold case and it will go down in the history books as the greatest unsolved mystery ever. But personally, I will never be able to forget it. And that’s not just because of my sadness at the families not getting a closure, but it is also because I am deeply fascinated by the unresolved mysteries of the seas.

Having grown up on the gripping novels by Clive Cussler, the unsolved marine mysteries are an area of interest for me. I am so deeply interested in getting to know how a particular shipwreck happened and how it was discovered. Cussler’s most famous novel was about the Titanic, called, “Raise the Titanic”. The protagonist, Dirk Pitt raises the wreck of Titanic for finding something that got buried under water on that fateful night in April in 1912. After the discovery of the wreck in the 1980s, and while there being no mystery to the sinking since the very beginning, everyone knows what happened to it, and it still fires up our imagination and still stokes the embers of shipwreck enthusiasts. Sadly, RMS Carpathia, which was the first ship to respond to the SOS of Titanic and the first one that came to the rescue of the many survivors, sank in 1918 as it was torpedoed by a U-55, a German submarine.

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RMS Titanic
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RMS Carpathia

Cussler went onto write about many real and fictional shipwrecks in his many novels; he usually writes about such ancient shipwreck incidents and ties them up to the story set in modern times. He also ties in a lot of science into the mixture. His novels are an amalgamation of history, science, mysteries, treasure hunts, action and adventure. They are very fast paced and they can leave you breathless. That is what made me so fascinated about such unresolved mysteries.

MH370 is really a huge mystery. So many theories have been floating around. Though the investigators are now almost sure that the pilot deliberately crashed it in the ocean according to the simulator data found at his home. There are some absolutely crazy and unbelievably ridiculous theories like alien abduction or maybe the plane has landed on a remote island, just like the TV show Lost. But the most likely theories are that either there was a hijacking and it glided till the fuel got over, or the pilot crashed it. Basically human intervention is the only explanation so far that makes sense. But it’s not a complete picture. I really don’t know what to believe. So much debris has been found at various places like, Reunion Island, Mauritius, Tanzania and Madagascar; but no clue where the wreckage is and what happened to the people.

Though what really makes me sad is the fact that in spite of all the modern technology at our disposal, the plane could disappear and potentially might never be found. It’s scary, how planes can still just vanish into thin air like that. And what’s more, the investigation is completely botched up. I cannot imagine what the families must be going through. I cannot fathom the possibility of this going down as a cold case in the history books; I really hope they find it soon.

There is a very famous picture of an island in Greece called Zakynthos, on a cove of beach Navagio; where there is a small ship wreck right on the beach.

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Zakynthos

The story goes that MV Panagiotis was smuggling contraband in 1980 and after being chased by the Greek Navy, it ran aground on the beach where the crew abandoned it. But no one knows if the story is genuine or not. I am so fascinated with this place that I want to visit it someday just to see the shipwreck. Of course the island itself is really beautiful, but the shipwreck will be the top most in my itinerary.

Another thing that fascinates me is the Bermuda Triangle; First point being Florida, the second one being the Bermuda islands and the third point being Puerto Rico, forming a triangle in the Atlantic Ocean.

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This area has gained notoriety over the years because of the disappearance of countless ships and planes crossing the area. Officially it does not exist, but the theories have never really died out. Many attribute this to alien abductions or supernatural phenomena. Recently I had read that probably the reason why there are so many disappearances there is that the magnetic field there messes up with the instrumentation and they go haywire. Though it does not explain why there have been instances of derelict ships just floating about without the crew. There is no sound theory about why the crew would disappear if the ship is still afloat.

There are many shipwrecks lying under Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, it makes for a fascinating visit someday.

Another mystery that has yet not been solved is Amelia Earhart’s disappearance. She was the first female aviator to fly a solo transatlantic trip. While circumnavigating the globe in 1937, along with Fred Noonan as the second navigator, her plane mysteriously disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. It is still not known what happened to her. The most common theories are that either her plane crashed and sank, or they landed at an atoll which is now known as Kiribati Islands, or maybe she was captured by the Japanese. There was even a theory that she actually survived and lived up to a ripe old age, but it could never be proven.

Amelia Earhart
FILE – In this undated file photo, Amelia Earhart stands next to a Lockheed Electra 10E, before her last flight in 1937 from Oakland, Calif., bound for Honolulu on the first leg of her record-setting attempt to circumnavigate the world westward along the Equator. American aviator Earhart’s disappearance in 1937 is among aviation’s most enduring mysteries. Earhart, the first female pilot to cross the Atlantic Ocean, vanished over the Pacific with Fred Noonan during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Seven decades later, people are still transfixed with the mystery. Theories range from her simply running out of fuel and crashing to her staging her own disappearance and secretly returning to the U.S. to live under another identity. (AP Photo/File)

I really hope someday, some adventurer solves these mysteries, so that we can get to know what really happened. Humans are a very curious lot and I don’t think we could ever rest leaving the mysteries of the seas just like that. Though there is also this romanticized notion of some mysteries remaining unsolved; but people like me would always want to know.

At least in case of MH370, it should be found for the sake of the families of the victims, as they need closure. And we also need the data to perhaps try to prevent such tragedies in future.

There was a time when I used to imagine myself as someone like Dirk Pitt who unravels these mysteries; it just gives me major goose bumps. And being a part of a narrative that ties so close to the some of the most mind boggling historic mysteries is truly fascinating.

Why Reading Soothes my Soul

My family is extremely passionate about reading and it got passed down to me as well. My mom used to buy so many books for me and my brother when we were little. We always had something to read. We also have a habit of reading while eating, passed on to us by both my grandfathers. My paternal Grandfather used to always read while eating. And my maternal grandfather not only read books while eating, but also solved cryptic crosswords in the newspaper, in his mind! I was in awe of him, he was so brilliant. He was a district judge, so he had an air of a sophisticated and very knowledgeable man. He could also recite all the volumes of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace with great ease.

My mom and I usually always spend an entire day at the local book fairs that happen at least once or twice a year. We end up buying at least 20 to 30 books at a time, roaming around all day, searching even under the tables at the stalls. Our home is filled with books, inside a huge trunk, on the bookshelf, on the bed and on as many surfaces as possible. We often joke that we might need to rent another place just for our books.

I remember reading and re-reading Herman Melville’s The Moby Dick. I love that book so much! The first line itself gives me major nostalgia and it is still my favorite book. I passed down my precious book collection to my little cousin sister years ago, but I kept Moby Dick for myself and I still have it. Another book I remember re-reading was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table by The Illustrated Classics. There was something about both these books that appealed a lot to me. Although it’s been a while since I have read either of them.

There are some books whose first few lines bring a flood of emotions and memories of the times when I had first read them, two of them being my absolute favorites; Moby Dick and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. They still deeply resonate with me.

“Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation.” – Moby Dick

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” – A Tale of Two Cities

I have grown up loving Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Alexandre Dumas, the Bronte Sisters, etc. Very recently I bought an almost rare, “Complete Works of Shakespeare”, all his masterpieces in one book in their original verse form. It was an expensive acquisition but I couldn’t control myself. I read a little bit of it whenever I get a chance to. I had “The merchant of Venice” in my first year of college and “King Lear” in the second year. It was especially amazing to study, “The Merchant of Venice”, I loved re-reading it. The Shakespearean verses are really beautiful to listen to when read out aloud. I also had Jane Austen in college. She represented the social issues of her era so wonderfully in her books. Her description of the people of those times and how much they were obsessed with marriage and social status was perfect. Every time I read about Mrs. Bennet crying about her poor nerves and Elizabeth Bennet rising above the trivialities of her family, I laughed heartily. I often used to dream of heroes like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester in those teenage years. Their existence is still a mere dream.

The Romantic Era was truly remarkable. The authors and poets in that era wrote masterpieces that defied the conventions of those times. They wrote some beautiful and inspiring pieces that can make us feel so happy. The imagery of the pastoral landscapes was written so beautifully, we can imagine it all in our minds so perfectly, as if we are right there witnessing all that is being described. The classics are truly a pleasure to read, no matter how many times we might have already read them before.

And it’s not just the classics that I love to read; I also love reading novels. But not the Mills & Boon variety; I love books that have a lot of action. I love science/marine thrillers, political thrillers, treasure hunt thrillers, suspense thrillers, murder mysteries, etc. I love novels written by Clive Cussler, Dan Brown, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffery Archer, Robert Ludlum, Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, etc. Clive Cussler is my favorite, his books have a combination of history, science, archeology, treasure hunt, action and adventure, which really transport me into another world. From the first page to the last, his books are very exciting.

I am an absolute bibliophile. Even if I get to read 10 pages a day, I will read them. I always carry a book with me. Books fire our imagination; they conjure up the imagery in our minds. Just like Harry Potter’s journey to the Hogwarts or the journey of the Pevensie siblings into the magical Narnia, books transport us into another world. We can escape into an adventure which has the ability to alter our perceptions, open our minds to various different eras and cultures, giving an insight into the lives of the characters we come to love. If I really love a book and it has had a profound impact on my mind, I need a few days of respite before I can pick up another one.

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Recently, I could not read at all for some time, because of time constraints. But I felt like my life was incomplete, as if a part of my heart was missing. I was reading The Martian by Andy Weir and I had only finished half of it. And not because the book was bad, it’s actually a really beautiful book, the story is inspiring and the imagery is absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed reading it. It was just the time that was the problem. But one day I just picked it up and finished it in 3 days.

It felt so good to pick it up again and read. I love the smell of books, I love to have them on my hands when I read them. E-books are not my thing. I tried reading a few E-books but failed each time, I could not even get past the first page. But an actual physical book makes me happy. There are times when I end up reading an entire night or when I re-read books multiple times because of how they make me feel. Some stories are so touching or they are so interesting that reading once just isn’t enough. My soul feels at peace and there seems a balance in life when I read.

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