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Life with Lavendar in London town

Friday, 17 April 2009

Javed Akhtar

Last night I had a work event on at the Nehru Centre which I was not too keen on going to. The event was a poetry reading and Q & A with Javed Akhtar; a famous poet, lyricist and scriptwriter from India. My reluctance stemmed from the fact that the reading was going to be in Urdu - a language which I do not know except for one word - Shukria. My boss hustled me along nonetheless.

Just go for a bit, she said. Then you can slip out.

Yeah right, I thought. I'm going to be stuck there for the whole night.

When Javed came onstage, I immediately felt a sense of familiarity about him. A few minutes it occured to me why. He was a male version of my boss. Except from a distance, he seemed less tired.

He started to speak in English. He welcomed the audience and made witty jokes. His eyes sparkled and he looked liked he was constantly smiling on the inside. He was one of those people who when onstage, light up. Effortlessly.

I sat up straighter in my seat.

Javed recited his poetry for about 30 minutes. In that time he spoke mainly Urdu but from time to time, he spoke some lines in English. Maybe about 10 sentences. When that happened something in me lit up too.

During the Q & A, someone asked him about what it was like to be an artist to which he replied, Schizophrenic. I was still laughing when he went onto explain that he regards creative endeavour as a paradox. Being that you have to keep loose and open and fluid for the ideas to arrive but when they come, you must then force them into an infrastructure and operate to a rigid system to deliver those ideas.

He talked about form and the importance of training which he summarised by saying: You have to learn to draw a straight line before you can bend it.

Someone else asked him what his source inspiration was to which he replied, Deadlines.

I stayed till the very end. I couldn't have left as I was glued to my seat.

Eventually my boss hustled me out in the same way she had hustled me in.

Wait one moment, she said, I have to say Hello.

So we stood with a crowd of others and waited for Javed to exit the auditorium. It seemed that everyone wanted to pay their respects.

When he came out he went straight over to my boss. His eyes lit up upon sight of her and they smiled at each other and exchanged greetings in Urdu. I was so delighted to see them two of them together but I wasn't sure why. He smiled over at me, probably wondering why there was a lone Chinese person present amongst a crowd of Indians. I beamed back. I felt so lucky to have heard him speak. What a guy. Magic.

When we left, I asked her what she had said to him.

I told him off for giving me a fake mobile number the last time we met

We laughed and went home. Inspired and smiling on the inside, and out.

Thank you Mr Akhtar. Shukria.

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