…is don’t misquote Uncle Salman.
Amit Roy reports on the makings of a fine literary kerfuffle:
“Rushdie was irritated by a passage French wrote in the review. It said: “Most of India’s eminent writers live outside India, for economic and social reasons, so this is familiar stuff. The visiting insider-outsider can observe the old country with a would-be innocent eye. (‘Rajasthan is colourful,’ wrote Salman Rushdie in 2000, after a long enforced absence.) The cultural confusion of the expatriate — a common enough condition across the world today — has been mined to exhaustion. Mehta, though, soon puts this approach to one side in a book that is part-memoir, part-reportage.”
In a rejoinder, Rushdie’s letter (“Dreams of India”) said: “I should be used to being misrepresented by now, but Patrick French’s attempt, in his review of Suketu Mehta’s excellent Maximum City, to portray me as an out-of-touch ‘insider-outsider’ reduced to describing Rajasthan as ‘colourful’, prompts me to defend myself.”
Rushdie went on: “As a look at my essay A Dream of Glorious Return, published in Step Across This Line, will quickly show, I was talking somewhat satirically about the tourist-Rajasthan that was presented to Bill Clinton on his visit to India (“People wear colourful clothes and perform colourful dances and ride on colourful elephants and these are things a President should know”) while the non-colourful realities of the drought and so on were not drawn to his attention.”
Rushdie added: “It is quite improper to quote my essay selectively so that he can praise my friend Mehta by making me look foolish.””
French got off pretty lightly. Rushdie apparently offered to use a baseball bat on a reporter, though not without reason. The report is silent on a question that haunts the Babu: what’s the Salman swing like?