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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Monday, September 04, 2006


It's been a crazy couple of days. After months of talking, we finally got Literatti off the ground. Only to be inundated with questions like:
"Sounds mysterious - is it out of the Da Vinci Code"....

Unfortunately not.

Literatti's story began during a ride in Maniza's car. I remember we had both attended a fashion show by Deepika Gehani at the Arts House. Both of us were lamenting the fact that while there was so much South Asian art, fashion, theatre, dance and other cultural stuff happening in Singapore, we weren't hearing enough from our fantastic writers.

I had been to sessions, even moderated some where there were like 5 authors on the panel and 15 people in the audience including mine and my neighbour's kids.

Then I did this story on Shantaram and the sales figures freaked me out. 6,000 copies sold in Singapore and Malaysia alone (this was a couple of months ago).

So the interesting paradox was emerging. It wasn't as if Singaporeans are not into reading, give them the right book - they would. For those of you who have survived Shantaram, you'd know this is no easy read. Close to 1000 pages, it takes days, weeks even months to finish. The point though is if opportunities were created for authors to interact with their readers, loyal ones would show up, they would spread around and more people in turn would be reading.

Wishful thinking? Not quite. We spent a little over two weeks getting our first talk organised. Right from cards, posters, venue to food. It happened to be a whistle-stop tour by award winning author Romesh Gunesekera.

A call from Penguin's reliable Zhi Wei set things in motion. Next thing we knew, we had turned Maniza's house into a regular meeting haunt. Tripta was pulling all her marketing strings, Maniza was working round the clock getting everything from the venue to the food organised.

So much was happening so quickly that was barely a moment to register it all. I marvelled at everybody's willingness to go the extra mile to get this thing going.

The butterflies were there when we first thought:
a) Is Romesh going to make it?
He had two hours between getting off the plane and making to the Asian Civilisations Museum
b) Are people going to show up?

All's well that ends well, they say. And this one sure did.

Captain Elmo remained grounded for a few hours to help us take off successfully. As a moderator, he was outstanding. Romesh left me stunned with his reading. After all those reports of him being the 'quiet' kinda author, the reading came as a huge surprise, as did his engagement with his readers.

Zafar did a remarkable post on the talk. Since I had my eyes trained on the camera, didn't even realise so much had happened:

The crowning glory though was Romesh's admission the next day in the Off The Shelf interview:
"A talk like this wouldn't have happened anywhere else in the world. They would say why don't you land first and we'll organise something the next day. In Singapore, they were willing to do it just hours after I'd landed."

So as we have been asked so many times - "Are you ready for your next talk?"

You bet we are...
Now to search for the author....