It's been raining all week and Saptaparni's famous amphitheatre which provides such a dramatic setting for the book event is under threat. We checked weather forecasts knowing fully well the futility of such acts and finally planned for the indoors.In the end, We had two options - one indoors and one outdoors. We decided to go with the outdoors simply because it is such a beautiful setting. If it rains, we hurry back inside.
After a couple of reccees and checking the place on the D Day, the 16th of June, we finally landed up at the venue by 5 pm, Shobha, Anjali, Mansi and Sloka and I. Sloka went about setting up the music - mellifluous Kenny G tunes floating about the air. Meghana was ready with her script fully set to host the show. We were surprised to find Junie aunty and Mona at the venue before us - they had planned for heavy traffic and had come in much earlier than they had planned.
Venkatapathy Raju, former Test cricketer, National Selector (the committee that gave MSD the reins in the T20 World Cup Championships) and now Cricket Development Officer, Asia, ICC, came in early and we had a good part of the hour to kill. He patiently showed Anjali old pictures of his from his playing days. Jagannath Das of Telangana Today was with him. I needed to get my speech in order but realised there was not much time. Jaico's team of six led by Mr. Rao had set up the book counter, the back drop, tea and snacks and were all set.
People started trickling in. Mehernosh first, Amar a while later. As always he bought a book and got it signed and then he gave me his pen to sign other books. He has done this in all launches so far. My sister's came - Nalini, Mythily and husband Harsha, Lakshmi, Aswini and her husband Jagadip. Suresh and AP arrived with Satish Kasetty. Ramaraju was there and so was Dayakar. Kishore a movie buff and a tech whiz dropped in. Sunnie walked in with Varun. A gentleman whose name I did not get but who someone said was Mr. Jayaprakah Narayan's younger brother came with his daughter and another gentleman.
Reena and Ashok walked in. Bharadwaj and Shrini came with their cameras on my request. Vijay, Pankaj and Ramana from the class of 1991 OU MBA joined us. Prof U. Balaji came with his son Akshaya. From MCC Pavan, Suri, Sreenivas came along with NP Singh, former first class cricketer and Chairman of Selectors, HCA. Chandra Kammula walked in with his daughter Madhurya and gave me a lovely bouquet.
From the 80s gang Sanjay, Ranjan, Vardha, Kiran, Vasu (and son Aditya) came. From All Saints came Joseph Fernandes, Rajesh, Rahi, Joel. Madhavi came. Bhu lakshmi and her friend. Divya with Sreelakshmi. Anupama, Principal of Muffakam Jah College of Pharmacy came, so did Parijatha who was also my student at the UoH. Dr. Anuradha Jonnalagadda, Professor at the Department of Dance, University of Hyderabad, came as well. Nandita came.
Anita, the Principal of Anjali's school Daksha came with her niece Preeti. Radhika of Daksha came with her husband Surya. Ramesh and Pavani who are Mansi's parents came and so did Shreya's mother. Harsh came with his mother Vaishali. Kamakshi aunty who is among Anjali's favorite teachers. Priyanka, of Evening Hours, came with her father. Mamta, Monica, award winning interior designer made it. Sarita came and so did Manjari.
Jitu, Chandu and Smaran came. Kishore and Vinod. Sunil Jyoti, Purnima, Tarini came a bit late. Kanakaiah arrived by himself.
Achyut Menon, CEO of Options HR Solutions came. Suchismita, my student, and her husband Shuddha came. Sheila and Vajra came. Shanti and Sagarika, marathon runner now and my junior from OUCE came. Naresh Raghavan, author of 'Top Driver' came. Ajay Narne, Narayan Raju, Sumanth Badiga, Bhaskar came. Naren and Pratap, Himabindu, Chitra and Prashanth and Srikanth Tirumala were spotted. Chacha, the wonderful illustrator, came with his wife and young daughter Moksha.
Abhinay arrived a bit late. Gangaraju came and took my finger print on the book. Ram came. Amruta, Vinod Ekbote who started me out on my blogging journey and thus in a way this book arrived late, Narasimham, President of the Architect's Association of Hyderabad. I spotted Mallik, director of Naruda Donoruda, and Suresh from PES. Prasad Nimmakayala, Executive Producer of Ashta Chamma, Golconda High School, Uyyala Jampala came.
Suresh Babu joined us a little late as he promised. Purnima Nagaraja came just in time wih her daughter Dhrithi. The time was six. The sky was overcast. Jayesh was 15 minutes late and we wondered if the rain would hold. I was signing books, Anjali was signing books. And at about 620 Jayesh walked in. We headed straight to the dais and the program started off.
Meghana welcomed the audience and invited them to settle down. She called out for a cheer for all the fathers in the audience. She then invited Dr. Purnima on stage, followed by Venkatapathy Raju, me and then Jayesh Ranjan. After the bouquets were given and guests seated Dr. Purnima introduced the book. She made a forceful point about how children have a clear world view and adults complicate things so much. It was a fine introduction to the book and she read out parts of it - especially the part about happiness being our responsibility. She said Anjali was the one who wrote the book and how I was only the scribe. It was a powerful and impactful speech and she spoke with authority, energy, conviction and compassion..
The press was in hurry to catch the next day's edition and wanted us to unveil the book. With the permission of the Chief Guest Jayesh Ranjan we unveiled the books and completed the photo op. The books were packed so tight that we found it difficult to open - one detail that I had missed. But the book was opened and we launched the book.
Then Venkatapathy spoke in a fine speech laced with his typical humour. He spoke of how he focused on cricket and did not have time for books and books actually made him nervous. He recalled how we both went a long way back and how we used to pool our money on tours and then I would still save 100 bucks for both of us. He spoke of how we made our debut in the same Ranji match and played so much junior cricket and how I was more like a brother to him. He expressed surprise at my giving up jobs and writing and said he was proud of the fact I wrote four books already. Venkat was in fact my chief guest for the first book launch ten years ago 'The Men Within' in 2007.
When I was asked to speak I first invited Anjali on to the stage because the book would not have existed without her. I spoke then about the process of how the book came up and how I never intended it to be a book. I was blogging regularly and needed content and found this wonderful content provider in Anjali who was about two or three years old then. She did very interesting things like making friends with ants that bit her, realisng that the world works for us instead of against us etc. Over a period of time I realised that she was speaking a lot more sense and started to listen a little more carefully.
The more I listened the more profound and clearer was the content that came forth. I noted it down on my blog and over the years I accumulated over a hundred blogs based on my conversations or observations with her. I also spoke about what I think the book is about - that it is the softer voices that probably speak the truth and not the loudest but we have slowly lost the art of listening to the softer, diverse voices and are only listening to the loud ones. I then read two chapters - one about 'The knight is clever' and 'Do your own thing'.
Anjali then read 'I will beat Yashwant' chapter. She did a good job and as some of the people in the audience told me, did a better job at it than I did. We threw the field open for questions and there were quite a few - would sons have been different, why this move from fiction to nonfiction and will I get back to fiction again, would the book be a burden on Anjali, has she changed after the book, whats the next about, what was Shobha's contribution to it etc. It was a lively session and I enjoyed it. Anjali answered a couple of questions and confidently earning herself some applause.
Then the Chief Guest Jayesh Ranjan spoke about parenting. He spoke about how we say one thing but do not really do it - we rarely allow kids the freedom we promise them. He has a twelve year old girl and he said that she now has a mind of her own. In a recent interview with You and I he he had to structure his thoughts about her. He was also impressed with her insightful question into why Mustafizur was not laying for Sunrisers. He said he found a few interesting chapter including he Rakhi Day startup which he felt seemed like a good lesson for startups.
We wound up on that note. Dr. Purnima spoke another couple of fine lines about how daughter Dhriti, who was in the audience, spoke about how she found everything being "incredible" in the world and how that made her, Dr. Purnima, seek the incredible in everyone and find it.
The books were signed. I met all my friends again. A couple of interviews and we were done. I guess about 130 people landed up which was far above our expectations. Great work by the Jaico team and the Saptaparni team.
|Entrance to Saptaparni|
|Books for sale - an interested buyer|
|Old friends - Kishore, Srikanth, Suresh, AP and Satish|
|Meghana starting off the proceedings|
|Dr. Purnima Nagaraja reading a passage during her rousing introduction of the book|
|An early launch because the press was in a hurry|
|Test cricketer Venkatapathy Raju, 'Lachi' to us, old pal nay younger brother|
|Doing what he does best - keep everyone in splits|
|Me talking about the what, how and why of the book|
|A wide shot of the same - Anjali on stage|
|A view of the audience|
|Anjali reading her chapter|
|Chief guest Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, IT and Industries|
|Anjali fielding a question|
|A selfie with Parijatha and Anu|
|Suresh Babu who has come to all the book functions of mine despite his busy schedules|
|Post function chaos|