Monday, April 21, 2008

Alexander McCall Smith

I met him! This evening. After a whole month's waiting. I was in a Borders bookstore on the magnificent mile in Chicago last month, when I saw a sign advertising that Prof. McCall Smith was visiting. Right away I was terribly excited. Ever since I picked up a copy of the "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency" five years ago in Kansas City my graduating semester, I have been a fan of Prof. McCall Smith's simple, beautiful and soulful writing. With my temporary and completely unintended renunciation of books upon my arrival in Iowa, I did not read much more of his work until last year, when I read several volumes of his books. Most of the books I have read this year were written by him. Anyway, I had made up my mind that I would drive to Chicago if I had to in order to meet him. I checked online to see his schedule, and saw that he quite conveniently was coming to Des Moines! That was nearly a month ago. And I finally met him today.

It was at the Hoyt Sherman Place Theater. He walked onto stage and started off his talk with a hilarious joke. His voice was deeper than I imagined it to be, and with a curious accent that did not seem to originate from anywhere. I had thought that I would detect a pronounced African or English accent, but although there were hints of the latter, it wasn't terribly apparent. I sat back and enjoyed his fifty minute long, witty speech. After that he was interviewed by one of the Des Moines Public Library board members. Her pronunciation was atrocious! She pronounced Botswana - "BAATSWANA". Alright, most Americans don't really pronounce the "O" in words - "Hot" is pronounced "Haat", "Tom is pronounced "Taam" and other such stuff... but to call Botswana "Baatswana" is as bad as calling Iraq "Eye-rack", and Kenya "Keen-yah". She also pronounced Mma. Ramotswe, "Mamma Ramotswe". I felt a sense of outrage! But poor Prof. McCall Smith seemed to be taking it all in his stride.

And now comes the interesting bit (to me at least). Feeling rather angry and upset at the interviewer, I got out a bit early to queue up for the book signing. And I was out so early, I was the first in line. I had brought along my copy of "The 2 1/2 Pillars of Wisdom", and waited for the writer to come out. He did a bit later. He touched my shoulder as he walked past me to the center table and said, "Come, let's get your book signed." He shook my hand and asked me my name. He seemed a tad surprised at the book I had brought along, although I cannot think why. Anyway, I asked him if there would be any more Prof. von Igelfeld books, and he said that there would be. I was ecstatic. I told him that I thought his talk had been enormously entertaining and he sweetly thanked me for coming. He then signed my book - "For Asha, with warmest wishes, Alexander McCall Smith". And he shook my hand a second time, thanked me for coming and said he hoped I would enjoy the books to come. I was in a daze. It was the first time I had shaken hands with one of my "current sweethearts".

I drove from there to Ankeny to dine with Robin - in half a daze. So many firsts - first author-autographed book. First time meeting one of my favorite authors. First time (and probably will be the only time) meeting Alexander McCall Smith. Life is good. Check the quote section for a short excerpt from one of the Prof. von Igelfeld books.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Wanderlust (2nd Edition)

Alright, here is the update that is about two weeks overdue. Over spring break and the week after I went on a long, long road trip. Only the first week was planned. The second week’s travel was completely unplanned. Over these two weeks, I travelled to the largest cities in seven states. Here is what my two weeks looked like: Ames – Minneapolis – Chicago – Ames – Kansas City – Omaha – Sioux City – Sioux Falls – Fargo – Minneapolis – Ames. Now that is the granddaddy of road trips in my book. So, lots of driving, lots of new places, meeting interesting new people. Every now and then I’d feel like I was on an adventure. I met some people I might never have met, and visited some places that I don’t think I would ever visit unless I decided to do this trip. I learnt a lot about myself these past two weeks. Or rather, I discovered a lot of new things about myself and the way I relate to others that I hope will eventually lead to me learning a lot about myself. All in all it was an interesting two week holiday. And one that was hard to return from. Pampering myself for two weeks has burnt a hole in my bank balance. I also had loads of work piled up. But, what better way to spend time and money than on myself! When I began writing this post, I thought I would say a lot more. As I read it now, I don’t think I have said nearly as much as I intended to. Maybe I’ll be able to say it all better after some time has passed.

On another note, Omana Auntie underwent a massive heart surgery the week after spring break. And after nearly two weeks in hospital, she is back home and nicely recovering. All is well at home. All is well at work. I am at peace.