CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Caroline Sandon: From Burnt Norton to Bollywood

09:55 03 March 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 SandonBurnt 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

Yesterday, 10:46

Getting outdoors is great for physical and mental wellbeing, staving off the winter blues, and balancing the naughty-but-nice indulgences of Christmas. Sian Ellis picks 12 days of festive fun to enjoy in the beautiful Cotswold countryside

Read more
Friday, December 2, 2016

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 8 special locations that are made even more magical as Christmas approaches

Read more
Monday, November 28, 2016

It may only be a year since Tracy Spiers last visited Chipping Campden, but this warm and creative community isn’t one to rest on its laurels… least of all at Christmas time

Read more
Sunday, November 20, 2016

There’s a tangible sense of belonging and being part of something special with the Bath Road and Suffolk communities as Tracy Spiers discovers

Read more
Monday, November 14, 2016

There aren’t many places in the Cotswolds that can boast having a dinosaur and a palace on their doorstep...Tracy Spiers takes a magical tour around the Oxfordshire town of Woodstock as it gears up for Christmas

Read more
Monday, October 31, 2016

It’s that wonderful time of year again when we warm ourselves by roaring bonfires and enjoy dazzling firework displays that light up the skies. Gather your loved ones, wrap up warm and enjoy an evening of Guy Fawkes celebrations in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, October 24, 2016

Nestled in the valley between Broadway and Cheltenham, the charming town of Winchcombe is famous for its Cotswold stone cottages, narrow side streets and delightful independent shops. Take a look at our guide to help you make the most of your visit to this historic town that’s bursting with character.

Read more
Monday, October 24, 2016

Being a region so steeped in history, there are plenty of locations in the Cotswolds with spooky stories from over the years. From bloody executions, eerie apparitions and headless horsemen, and with Halloween just around the corner, we pick 23 of the most haunted locations throughout the Cotswolds to visit if you dare

Read more
Monday, October 17, 2016

With a fantastic line-up, breathtaking BMX antics and plenty of family friendly events, Lakefest 2016 was a hit for Pamela Hudson and family

Read more
Monday, October 17, 2016

We spoke with Richard Smith from Classic Lodges, who manages Charingworth Manor in the Cotswolds, to find out what sort of things you should look for when choosing a wedding venue.

Read more
Friday, September 30, 2016

Want a quick break from the Cotswolds, without spending half a day on the motorway or wedged into a seat on a cattle-class flight? A quick jaunt down the M5 and you too could be jumping the waves on a Devon beach

Read more
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Candia McKormack experiences the extreme highs and lows of an astonishing comedy with a dark – but warm – heart at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre

Read more
Thursday, September 22, 2016

Filter or no filter, these locations are picture-perfect!

Read more
Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Cotswolds is a county 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

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:


Family Business Awards link

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



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search