Monday, Jun 27, 2022
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A Native Return

Amita Malik met Salman Rushdie during his emotional India trip

A Native Return

Finally, it was the police presence that dispelled the suspense. That afternoon of the Commonwealth Book Awards ceremony, coming up the stairs of the Oberoi, I found the corridors and indeed, both sides of the road all the way past the Golf Club, littered with gun-toting men in khaki. It was sure confirmation that Salman Rushdie was really coming and I made up my mind to be there on time. In the evening, when I got there, I didn’t have to park a mile away, in fact, I was allowed in without a second glance. Moving to the banquet hall entrance, I negotiated the beep-emitting door-frames and body-searches, only to be stopped with a stern "Aap 7:30 ke pehle andar nahi ja sakte." A long wait in the lounge followed before a second security check was conducted. This, of course, was after the sniffer dogs had gone.

I wasn’t there just to see the man again, there was more to it. By a remarkable coincidence Zohra Sehgal rang me up the day before Salman arrived: "Uzra is in town." Knowing that Zohra’s sister Uzra is Salman’s mami (maternal uncle’s wife) and the adorable Pia of Midnight’s Children, I volunteered to give Salman Uzra’s phone number in case he turned up and I got close to him.

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