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Archer at Xavier’s

Have you ever gone back to school and ended up chatting with a world-famous author who you had grown up reading? Well, if you are a Xaverian, it seems you have! Master storyteller Jeffrey Archer addressed the 35th reunion of Alumnorum Societas (Alsoc), the old boys’ association of St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, held on Saturday evening. The event was attended by alumni members as well as current students of the school. And when it’s Lord Archer on the mike, everyone is, well, a “prisoner of mirth”.

“Headmaster or is it Rector? Listen carefully, because I know you set standards. Come on up with me, stop messing about. Stand there! No one else tells him, isn’t it?” asked Lord Archer as laughing students gathered near the stage.

Describing his journey from bankruptcy to international fame, the man who has sold over 300 million books peppered his talk with advice for the students. “If you lose everything, if something goes wrong, it doesn’t mean you’re finished, it doesn’t mean you’re beaten. You can fight back. You need some guts, you need some courage, you need some energy. But don’t let it worry you.”

Cricket expert and columnist Kishore Bhimani had a ‘journalist’ question: “In The Fourth Estate, what you have done is a cross between two media personalities, Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell. Has writing about real personalities ever got you into legal issues?” “No, no legal problems because Robert Maxwell was dead by the time the book came out. And Rupert Murdoch, I knew he was never going to sue me! It was never worthwhile. And I had to get near the truth to make the book,” Archer replied.

He encouraged the audience to ask him questions and they had many — from if his short story The Perfect Murder was inspired by real life to if he had really met Big Al in prison. By the end of the talk, he had turned even non-readers into dedicated fans.

“It was so much fun! Jeffrey Archer didn’t even spare our Jesuit Fathers,” grinned a student.

After the hour-long session of jokes and jibes, students, parents and alumni queued up to get their books autographed. While some had brought out much-thumbed copies of their favourite novels, others had bought fresh ones.

The talk was followed by a performance by Javed Ali of Jashn-e-bahara fame (Jodhaa Akbar). The young singer belted out the title track of Ishaqzaade, Nagada nagada from Jab We Met, Ek din teri raahon mein from Naqaab and other Bolly hits as alumni members caught up over sips and bites.