WOULD she show up or wouldn't she? Her media-savvy reputation suggested she would, but her tenor over the phone had been uncertain. Would she come by car, taxi or metro? Would she be surrounded by German body-guards who would frisk you for concealed weapons in full public view? These questions posed themselves as the clock ticked way past 11 am, the appointed hour for a rendezvous with Taslima Nasreen at the Block House cafe in West Berlin.
Finally, at 11.30, on an unusually sunny February morning, a short South Asian woman appeared at the pedestrian crossing at the other side of the road. It was the fugitive Bangladeshi writer sporting a long overcoat and short hair, accompanied by a lone, very Bengali looking male escort. There were no burly, goggle-sporting bodyguards in sight and in all probability she had either come by bus or walked from her undisclosed residence not far away.
"I'm Taslima and he is my brother Kobir," she said smiling a weak, half-suspicious smile, upon entering the cafe. The customary shedding of the overcoat revealed a pair of bright green slacks, matching sweatshirt and calf-high leather boots. Regardless of whether it was an expression of her hardening defiance or a bid to look inconspicuous in a western milieu, Taslima looked sultry and glamorous—cutting a remarkably different image from the well-publicised wire photo of the sari-clad author of Lajja who created a furore in Bangladesh and went underground before her dramatic flight to Sweden. She had moved to Berlin last July on an invitation from DAAD, the German academic and cultural exchange service.
"Why do you want to interview me," she asked, walking towards an empty corner table, "No one is interested in Taslima anymore. There is nothing new to say or write about. Nobody is bothered." Her apparently cultivated indifference and icy...