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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


He is one of the most blogged about author on my blog. He has been sent the links for these posts. He has read them. He has thanked me profusely for it and wondered why he deserved the honour. Yet, an hour before his book launch, as I enjoy the Latte he is treating me to, he finds himself in the midst of an animated bunch of bloggers (Sharon, Zafar) and asks us all:
"What is a blog?"
Yes, my tone bears those exclamation marks.

In the company of friends that tone doesn't seem strange. He has for the longest time urged me to shed the 'Captain' address. While he was at SQ, I had the perfect excuse. "It isn't everyday that I meet a real Captain who is happens to be an award-winning author too."

After he retired and started training pilots, the Captain was stuck like glue. And they knew it was alright. After all, Dil and Elmo feel like my Sri Lankan family. Over the three years that I've known them, they've opened their home and their heart to not just me, but my family as well. They have hosted us in The Riverhouse (read Sam's Story), they have given us a first hand account of the AFLAC projects and they have shown us how easy it is to fall in love, all it takes is the heart. But I must stop feeling special because this is how anyone who knocks on Dil, Elmo's and AFLAC's doors feels.

That explains why on the day he launched his collection of short stories - Rainbows in Braille, over 22 nationalities were in attendance. There were pilots, their wives, prison officers (Elmo had done talk there as part of the festival), people from the Singapore Airlines office (where he was till a couple of months ago), and others from Sri Lankan Airlines (his new professional abode). That also explains why despite a gruelling day of sessions and interviews Kunal Basu and Janet de Neefe showed up to make a special man feel even more special.

Zafar has captured the spirit of the evening in this post making it easy enough for me to skip the details.

I'd like to use this post to answer Jessie's question post session - was all of it scripted?

Some parts were, others weren't. Getting Janet and Kunal to speak before the Q&A with Elmo was part of the plan. I loved Janet's observation about Elmo's ability to capture the extra-ordinary in the ordinary and his sign off - "Blue Skies." Kunal, in his speech, turned out to be just the kind of friend an author needs. He spoke about literary tensions when authors happen to be together, with Elmo, its just feelings of warmth all round. Elmo in turn made it clear that everything that had happened in his life was thanks to Dil.

Getting Dil to speak wasn't part of the plan. I was just curious about hearing her out and I'm glad it worked. Just as did the accounts of tennis matches lost, tennis matches to be won and other co-pilots speaking about what an honour it was to have shared the cockpit with the Captain.

I spotted leading terror expert Dr Rohan Gunaratna in the audience too. In fact, the first time I met Dr Gunaratna was at the launch of 'Sam's Story.' And he summed it all up vividly:
"Elmo has tremendous capacity to observe and chronicle human life. Whenever I meet him, we end up discussing things. I still remember, in one discussion we were debating whether there are good people or bad people. In the end, we came to the conclusion that there are no good people and there no bad people, there's only good circumstances or bad circumstances. And as the previous speaker (Kunal) alluded, he has tremendous capacity to empathise with other human beings which is why his books have struck a chord with readers everywhere and are selling so well everywhere. We thank you and we salute you, Elmo."

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