Mr Rushdie is on to his fourth (or is it fifth?) wife and has, as the expression goes, played the field. One or two of his previous marriages have ended in ugly public brawls. Meanwhile, gossip columns of the British and American press were forever linking him to celebrity white women. We were told he had a glad eye; it was not in his nature to be a one-woman man. Enter Padma Lakshmi.
Now consider Vidia Naipaul. Sir Vidia has always been rather keen on women and sex, but was determined not to spend too much time in the pursuit. He confessed he preferred prostitutes because time for both the sex worker and this writer was critical. Naipaul's former literary editor, Diana Athill, tells a lovely story of how Sir Vidia asked her if she knew any "fast girls" so that he could get over the "business" quickly.
Enter Punjabi Nadira Alvi from Lahore. She too has transformed the "prickly" Nobel laureate and beautifully domesticated him. Sir Vidia's proudest possession currently is not the Nobel medal, but Augustus, his cat, who he spoils and engages in long existential conversations. My wife and I have an abiding memory of the Naipauls. We had taken them out for dinner and late at night dropped them at their hotel. Nadira had lovingly wrapped her arm around the man, who reportedly has a Brahminical dislike of touching people, and together they passed through the revolving door, the very picture of a happy, devoted and contented couple.
So, I am back to my original question: what is it about Indian and Pakistani women that tames the most awesomely gifted, ferocious, promiscuous and difficult of men? I don't have a clue, but if you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them.
Another reason why you should switch off the idiot box and regularly read Outlook.
The truth is that Ms Bharati was livid when Outlook Saptahik printed the secret letter and had a few furious words with our Bhopal correspondent who had managed to obtain it. "You have stabbed me in the back," she told him. Of course, one could argue that even her anger at the leak was feigned, but that would be giving Uma too much credit for hatching dark conspiracies. For all her histrionic faults, Uma Bharati does not have half the guile and news-management skills of her illustrious opponents.
Rushdie, whose new novel is out next September, said to me as I left, "You owe me one." When his long-awaited tome comes out, I won't be giving it to Pankaj Mishra to review. Neither will I offer it to Sir Vidia who anyway does not dirty his hands these days with book-reviewing of any kind.
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.
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