It seems that French writer-journalist Dominique Lapierre is only too aware that he is stepping into the winter of life. At the launch of the enlarged version of Freedom At Midnight (Vikas Publishing House,Rs 425) at the French embassy on Friday,Lapierre,77,was introduced to an official from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach). I am part of the heritage now. The Ambassador certainly thinks Im old enough to qualify, he quipped.
Age hasnt taken away his zest. As his wife,also called Dominique,looked on,Lapierre morphed into a feisty storyteller,leading a packed crowd of diplomats,writers and babus through the making of Freedom At Midnight,which he co-authored with Larry Collins.
The story of this book began at the French embassy in London where Larry and I met Lord Louis Mountbatten,independent Indias first Governor-General,for lunch. We asked about his last days in India. Soon,we were driving down to his Broadlands estate in the south of England. The real value of the estate lay in the basement where Mountbatten maintained an archive that included innumerable letters as well as scraps of paper on which Gandhi wrote.
It was a vast archive,since Lord Mountbatten noted down each and everything,even the colour of rose Nehru wore, said Lapierre to a sprinkling of laughter. And whats he writing now? Ask me in two years and Ill tell you, comes the repartee.