<div style="display:inline;"> <img height="1" width="1" style="border-style:none;" alt="" src="//googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/viewthroughconversion/1028731116/?value=0&amp;guid=ON&amp;script=0">
6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Cotswold Life today click here

Caroline Sandon: From Burnt Norton to Bollywood

PUBLISHED: 09:55 03 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:07 07 April 2015

Novelist and writer Caroline Sandon at Oxford Literary Festival, Christchurch College, 2014. PHOTOGRAPHY: Geraint Lewis

Novelist and writer Caroline Sandon at Oxford Literary Festival, Christchurch College, 2014. PHOTOGRAPHY: Geraint Lewis

Geraint Lewis 07831413452.geraint@geraintlewis.com

Author Caroline Sandon returns from the Times of Mumbai Literary Festival with memories of something ‘unique and extremely special’

Burnt Norton by Caroline Sandon Burnt Norton by Caroline Sandon

The publication of my novel, Burnt Norton, has led to my attending a large number of literary festivals both to listen and to speak. However, when I went to the Althrop festival in June last year I did not expect to leave with an invitation to Mumbai.

Althrop involved a fantastic lunch. I am not sure that I would have known what to say had I been sitting next to Boris Johnson, whom I had just watched sparring with Charles Spencer in their joint “talk”. However, I was fortunate to be sitting between Charles Moore, the former editor of the Daily Telegraph and biographer of Margaret Thatcher, and Suhel Seth, a charming Indian gentleman who looked fabulous in a white brocade coat and silk trousers.

Unbeknownst and, as it turns out more relevantly, to me, Suhel was the patron of the Times of Mumbai Literary Festival. When he asked if I would like to speak at the Festival I assumed that this was polite conversation and that, after that day, I would never hear from him again. But I did…

That evening I received an email with promises of first-class travel and five-star hotels. I was told that the organisers, Bachi Karkaria and Namita Devidayal, agreed with Suhel’s suggestion and hoped that I would consider joining them in December. Needless to say, it did not need much consideration. Shortly afterwards I found myself at the Indian Embassy getting myself a visa and at the GP getting my jabs. Then there was my presentation to write.

On December 3 my husband, Conroy, and I left Heathrow, care of the Literature Festival’s travel partners Turkish Airlines. Unfortunately, the first class element did not extend beyond my ticket. I admit to a certain pang of guilt when I turned left in the plane (for the first and probably only time) while my husband turned right, but this was soon forgotten when I met my travel companion for the next few hours. Mira Jacob had also written her first novel and was coming from the US. We chatted, laughed and according to a well-known literary agent sitting behind us, kept the other passengers awake for the entire flight!

Having never been to India before I did not know what to expect. The explosion of noise (mostly car horns), colour and smell hits you immediately. However, it can’t quite rid you of the astonishing aerial view of the second biggest slum in the world, which sprawls up to the barriers of the airport, to such an extent that the barbed wire boundary fence doubles as a washing line.

Then started the whirlwind. From the moment the plane touched down the delegates were treated like celebrities. There was a car to take us to the hotel, a reception committee at the hotel and, best of all, I had just taken my first bite of a chocolate in our room when I realised it was a tiny replica of my book. Alas, it is ruined for posterity!

The following morning, Friday, we were taken to the Bollywood Mehboob Film studios, the oldest working film studios in India. Here again we were escorted around the lot, given a great goody bag and looked after by courteous and charming hosts.

What could go wrong? Well, it was at this point that I found that my novel was missing from the bookshop. If I had been concerned that I didn’t deserve the attention I was getting I was now sure that I didn’t. I felt like a fraud. What author travels thousands of miles without a book to sell?

A kind Indian author explained that this was a rite of passage and that I had passed my first test. I am afraid it did little to reassure me. I also thought that the manager of the book shop was slightly mad when he assured me he would have it printed by the following morning. Little did I know. Apparently, just as a fitted suit can be produced overnight, so too can hundreds of copies of my book!

After watching several of the other delegates give their talks we got ready for what turned out to be the first party of many. I found myself talking to Richard Morrais, the author of the One Hundred Foot Journey. It was fascinating to hear about his experience of his book being turned into a film with Helen Mirren and Om Puri.

On Saturday it was time to experience downtown Mumbai. I learned very quickly that traffic lights are meaningless both to pedestrians and cars. The rule is simply to alert everyone to your presence by repeatedly sounding the car horn and, as a pedestrian, not to run because apparently running is more unpredictable than simply walking into the path of a car. Having said that, I did not see a single crash!

The architecture in Mumbai is beautiful. It is staggering, and a little scary, to imagine the construction process not least because a common sight is a construction worker standing on a narrow ledge outside the 10th+ floor of a building without a safety harness. Think House of Commons with a distinctive Indian twist. You have the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Rajabal clock tower, Mumbai University, The Telegraph Office, and, of course, Victoria Station terminus. The station is not for the faint hearted, but neither is Mumbai. The population is enormous as is the gulf between the haves and the have nots (and the myriad gradation in between). It is impossible not to feel guilty about the things we take for granted when confronted with young children living and sleeping on the streets.

Sunday, and my turn to speak.

First, I watched Suhel Seth give a talk on the Indian economy and the state of government. My charming friend from Althrop became India’s answer to Joan Rivers; his jokes were fast, furious and cutting. “Your question is ridiculous and so is your T-shirt,” he told one bemused member of the audience who dared to ask a question. But the Indians seemed to love him, or at least most of them did!

Then came the book to film talk with Om Puri and my new friend Richard, then William Dalrymple, and then of course there was me.

Esther Freud, daughter of Lucien, an actress and author of many acclaimed books, read TS Eliot’s Burnt Norton and then stepped aside for my presentation. My title ‘House as Hero’ accompanied by slides of Norton past and present seemed to interest my audience and they were certainly extremely encouraging. Many questions followed. So many that I forgot to mention that my book was on sale in the bookshop! Can you believe it? All that fuss, all that way and no one except the last few stragglers learnt that Burnt Norton, my Burnt Norton was for sale and I would be signing shortly!

After further talks and further cups of tea we thanked our hostess Bachi Karkaria who put this incredible festival together and went back to our hotel, tired and elated. Conroy had loved the festival as much as I did.

When we packed up and left the following morning we came away with warm memories. We had many new friends from all over the world and we had been in India not just as tourists, but as part of something unique and extremely special.n

-------------

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/erratica/heroine-vixen/

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Cotswold Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Cotswold Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Cotswold Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & about

11:43

Blow away the cobwebs with a walk that takes in Solsbury Hill, Suffragettes and a Regency poetry contest. Inspiring views of Bath, secret lanes, mysterious stones and a cosy pub await!

Read more
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sssh… Don’t tell anybody but we think we might have found the prettiest streets in the Cotswolds. Which one is your favourite?

Read more
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Britain is home to many an unusual tradition, and the region of the Cotswolds is no exception. Here are 11 of the strangest pastimes from this corner of England, including cheese rolling, duck racing and wool sack racing!

Read more
Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Candia McKormack goes Llama trekking in the Forest of Dean and falls head-over-heels for a llama with a llorra charm

Read more
Monday, January 8, 2018

Thousand Word Media captured a year in the life of a 400 year old ash tree at Snow Farm nature reserve on the Laurie Lee Wildlife Way, owned and managed by the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

Read more
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Snowdrops bring great joy in the early months of the year, signifying the warmer weather ahead. We pick 9 of the most magical places to explore these beautiful flowers

Read more
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Cotswolds are abundant with picture perfect locations ideal for a ramble. Gather loved ones, wrap up warm and blow away the cobwebs with one of these winter walks in the region

Read more
Friday, December 15, 2017

The Cotswolds is a region of beauty: with mesmerising views of the scenery, beautiful landmarks to discover and rolling green countryside to explore, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a walk. We pick 8 walks for you to try and have found the nearby pubs to prepare for your ramble or reward yourself when you finish!

Read more
Monday, December 11, 2017

We never tire of pretty pictures of the Cotswolds. Here are ten of the best shared on Instagram this week…

Read more
Monday, December 4, 2017

Be inspired by the stunning vistas and evocative Iron Age and Roman heritage of Crickley Hill in the footsteps of poet Ivor Gurney and fellow composer Gustav Holst

Read more
Monday, December 4, 2017

Escaping into the peace of the woodlands is the perfect way to alleviate stress with landscapes boasting ancient beeches and oaks, stretches of pretty flowers and an abundance of wildlife awaiting you. In association with the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, we bring you eight enchanting woodland walks to try...

Read more
Friday, November 24, 2017

Tracy Spiers gets in the mood for Christmas by donning a pink Santa hat and heading to Oxford ahead of its festive celebrations

Read more
Monday, November 13, 2017

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Friday, November 10, 2017

Our peaceful patch has been a hotbed of fictional criminality, playing host to dozens of small-screen murders. Here are just some of the places where the lead pipe abounds

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Latest Competitions & Offers

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory
A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad
Cotswold Life Application Link

Local Business Directory

Cotswold's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search