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TO get to Salman Rudhdie's house in Solan, you have to climb down 126 steps and the same number up to get back to the road. Since I was not up to it, I had to find other ways to get there. Help came in the form of a short-cut through the backyard of the district magistrate's house. And although it was not 126 steps, it was a pretty steep and narrow bridle path, lined with slippery pine needles, some of which had been helpfully swept aside for my progress. A painful stubbed toe reduced me to flimsy chappals but I somehow slithered up, trying hard not to look at the khud on the left. But having arrived, it was worth it. For one thing, the utter peace, with just a few birds singing and, to my delight, cicadas, just like in Japan. There was nothing between the house and a distant hill, allowing complete privacy. Whoever wants a front view of the house would need to take photos with a telescopic lens from that far-off hill. The lawn in front was beautifully green and velvety, and the young additional district magistrate, who was going to quit the house in a few days, welcomed us on the verandah with cold drinks and chocolate biscuits. Instead of showing any bureaucratic resentment at having to vacate the house, he turned out to be a Rushdie fan. It seemed incredible that the Himachal government, having legally lost possession of the house, was now going to be gracious about it.