Kamila Shamsie, ebullient and erudite, says she is not a political person. She wouldn’t want to talk about India-Pakistan relations, but has only one plea to the powers that be. Can’t they at least ease the travel hassles for people to cross the border? When she comes to Delhi from Lahore, she has to spend the good part of a day at the Foreigners Registration Office. Getting a visa to the cities she wants to visit in India to promote her latest book, God In Every Stone, is not an easy thing. The easy charm with which she endears herself to her fans and friends at the British Council lawns in Delhi at a session to discuss the book seems to have missed the bureaucrats on either side of the border. It’s tough not being able to travel freely in the biggest market for her books—she reckons Pakistani authors writing in English sell more books in India than the US, UK, Canada and Pakistan put together.
Plot On Hustings
It’s poll season and there are many books lined up on the theme of the election—biographies of leaders, books on controversial poll issues (for instance, Gas Wars by journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, due to be out this month) and election analysis. But the first fiction book off the block is The Candidate, by journalist and Outlook contributor Anirudh Bhattacharyya, a satire in which a well-meaning first-timer, Jay Banerjee, finds himself completely immersed in the rough and tumble of an Indian election. Is he based on Arvind Kejriwal? No, says Anirudh, when he thought of the plot for his book, Kejriwal was still a little-known activist fresh from the IRS.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Have just picked up A God in every stone, simply because the title accords so well with my own philosophy in life. To some the words might seem almost blasphemous.
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