Codes, Science and Religion; The three words instantly bring in the picture of a Dan Brown novel. After all that’s what he bases his fiction books on. Dan has always given historical facts a new dimension. Whether it is the description of Mona Lisa in Da Vinci Code or following the ‘Path of Illusion’ in Angels and Demons or the mathematician Susan Fletcher trying to break the complex code or Dante’s Inferno brought forward in altogether opposite way. Penguin gave Delhi the chance to witness Mr. Brown speak live in front of them. The early bird registration hurry, infinite wait for that one confirmation call and pass and the endless fight for just one more extra invite, all ended. And the lucky people who could achieve all the above were sitting in the Siri Fort Hall with gleaming smiles.
The Penguin Annual Lecture has a history of calling the ‘finest minds’ of its time like Amitabh Bachchan, APJ Abdul Kalam , Chris Patten, Dalai Lama, Amartya Sen and Thomas Friedman. The only Publishing house to hold such an annual lecture for the Indian audience, Penguin raises the bar with every passing year. The 8th edition saw renowned author, Mr. Dan Brown, basking in the glory of authoring 6 bestselling novels which are published in 52 languages.
The event was in partner with Headlines Today. Hence none other than journalist Rajdeep Sardesai was the host for the night. He introduced Dan by showing candid pictures from the film sets, his book launches and his life. So when Dan took to the stage, surprisingly on time; the crowd was all ears to the one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World (TIME, 2005). The author admitted that he was moved by the generous welcome here and was feeling great to be able to return to India after 30 years. His start wasn’t as interesting as his novels, probably because he couldn’t kill anyone in the first 5 minutes. He talked about his childhood and how he wrote his first book with help from his mother. Over here he made a strong point as to how eager he was to come here. Because otherwise who carries the exhibits to support his words in a lecture. Moving on he showed the father and mother’s car license plate, making clear how he always lived between the battle of Science and Religion. His father was a mathematics teacher and his mother church organist. The family background easily formed the reason why he chose interplay between science and religion as backdrop. The audience kept applauding to cheer him up on his original one-liners he spoke throughout.
“All religions have the same basic truth”
“God of Gaps”
“Particle Physics agrees that even matter is trapped energy”
“Writing is an isolated pursuit”
After this the moderator Rajdeep Sardesai was back to take the lecture forward by asking him questions. He started off with inquiring him whether India and Hinduism would ever appear in his novels. Dan was taken aback and said for that he would have to know about India and its culture in depth. Dan answered all the queries thrown at him in a witty manner. Saying to every critic of his, “He is a great man”. Asking people to state their point of view publicly rather than being furious and burning the books. He even went on to say that he did not expect the level of controversy Da Vinci Code created. On being asked if he resembled Langdon, his fictitious novel character, Dan said that he wished he could be Robert. The interests are pretty much the same but yes Langdon is far more intelligent!
And when Rajdeep rotated the mic in the audience, everyone was rushing around to be able to grab that mic. The audience had many questions which even by the end could not be answered. Mr. Sardesai must have had a tough time choosing the person who speaks, because simultaneously at a point 2-3 were speaking in their mics from different corners of the auditorium. The hall which was mostly full of his college-going fans eagerly wanted to just ask him one question. Among the audience inquisitors, Rajdeep did allow one person to get her copy of Angels and Demon signed. Next people wanted to know something about his next book, which he definitely did not. And the last very obvious enquiry, led to a big round of applause and laughter. On being questioned of the book which inspired him to write, he ended up answering ‘Hardy Boys’.
The night ended with the boys and girls rushing towards the stage in order to get the chance of an autographed book, but the bodyguards were well ready and within seconds Dan Brown vanished from the stage, probably because of a hidden passage(:P). Penguin lecture did keep up to the expectations. The only curiosity I have is after an all India airing of the show, how Dan will manage to come with something new within 48 hours for his next lecture in Mumbai on 12th November 2014. Mumbaikars wait and watch.