Sir Salman at 60—how knighted he is?

Amarnath Tewary

Anything you want to be, you can be / You can be just what-all you want --- croons ayah Mary Pereira at baby Saleem Sinai's cradle-side, the famous Midnight's Children. Today he is sixty and knighted too, passing through the 'pangs of birth, tantrums of childhood, traumas of adolescence, anomie of adulthood' and of course, through crucifixion of controversies and chronic debates.

However, growing up with India where he was born Saleem….or, Sir Salman is euphoric. A sexagenarian sophistication for both !

Amarnath Tewary
Patna based special correspondent of
The Pioneer

Four books and four marriages after the knighthood finally came in his life with thrilling experience. "I am thrilled and humbled to receive this great honour, and am very grateful that my work has been recognized in this way", said the godfather of post-midnight Indian novelists.

But, unfortunately, this too ignited the controversy and debate, especially from the Muslim world. Once again the brilliant weaver of 'dreams into reality, mystery into magic and truth into fantasy' was accused of insulting Islam through his award.

The Knighthood was benighted by the protestors.

Earlier, as we can all recall vividly the voice of rage and protest raised from Iran whose spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini had issued fatwa ordering Salman's execution for his "blasphemous depiction of Prophet Mohammed" in his novel The Satanic Verses in 1989.

The novel was even banned in many countries, including India , with large Muslim communities.

This time Iran again took the lead and summoned the UK ambassador in Tehran Geoffrey Adams and protested the Knighthood as a "provocative act" by the British government. When Iran fumed how could other Muslim countries lag behind?

Soon Pakistan too followed the footsteps and told the UK envoy in Islamabad that the knighthood to Salman was the British government's "utter lack of sensitivity".

Further, it filtered through Indian border from north and Muslims in Kashmir too took out protest rally and burnt effigies against the honour bestowed on one of the greatest contemporary English novelists of the world.

Though Britain wasted no time in denying that the award to Salman was intended to insult Islam but the fire and fume continued to spread far and furlong.

But, nobody from the protestor's side took the pain to know what and how Salman Rushdie was responsible for his Knighthood award conferred on him by the British government. It is purely a government's decision whom to delight with knighthood and whom to not and---the government in power reportedly plays a decisive role in selecting the candidate.

Why can't the Muslim world take it as an honour for themselves as Salman not only phonetically sounds but racially belongs to their community?, argues many a common people in India.

Doesn't Iran in 1998 had disassociated herself from the much condemned fatwa controversy against him, saying the 'Iranian government would no longer support the fatwa'?.

Since then the acclaimed writer-in-cage has been able to take fresh breath of air, pleasure of the company of his fourth female companion of the tall, dusky blonde Padma Lakshmi and luxuries of trouble free travel across the world.

He even visited India on a number of occasions with Padma by his side hand-in-hand, sometime in long revealing gowns and sometime in flowery frock flowing above tanned tibia bones.

Last heard, the insatiable Salman once again is poised for another separation even though the friends say they respect each other.

Respect is reared but intellectual compatibility survives!

The son of a successful businessman Sir Salman soon became the most visible face of Indian glitterati, literati and chatterati class parties confined only to cities known as metro or mega cities.

Salman, as he said, loves visiting India and Bombay where he was born on June 19, the year that India attained her Independence in 1945.

Very few, though, know that glittering novelist Salman Rushdie has been a student of History at Cambridge University and has done his schooling from Rugby school in England.

Started his career in advertising the writer in Salman soon reared its compelling face and the result was the first fiction Grimus in 1975 which was generally ignored by the then literary crowd and establishment.

But six years hiatus and Salman was catapulted to literary fame with his magic realism Midnight's Children in 1981. The response was beyond expectation even for the young 34 years old Salman Rushdie.

This one novel established Salman'a name as a scintillating writer in English and it even brought him the famous Man's Booker--- later, Booker of the Bookers [1993].

And then six came after--- Shame in 1983, The Satanic Verses in 1988, Haroun and the Sea of Stories in 1990, The Moor's Last Sigh in 1995, The Ground Beneath of Her Feet in 1999 and the latest Shalimar the Clown in 2005.However, none of them brought fame and glory as an irresistible novelist to Salman as Midnight's Children.

The fourth one Satanic Verses which described a fictional battle between God and evil portrayed in fantasy, farce and philosophy brought him only the controversial fame.

Salman the master of perpetual storytelling could only be seen and read in Midnight's Children—and to some extent in The Moor's Last Sigh as many aspiring writers like me believe.

Interestingly, most of the set of Salman's plot in his writing has been based in India and Pakistan.

When the fatwa ban was over by Iran Salman even made an appearance in the hit movie Bridget Jones's Diary in 1999.

Post Satanic Verses Rushdie has never shied away from controversies and once again with his Knighthood he has been caught into it, however, for millions of his devout readers and hundreds of [over] ambitious writers like me, Salman will always be Sir Salman.

The Don for his capacity of startling imagination and intellectual resources.



Let me first admit that I have not read a big deal of Salman Rushdie. I could read only a half of Midnight's Children and opening 50 pages of Moore's Last Sigh. But that does not stop from agreeing with Amarnath on the celebrated writer's knighthood.

Muslim world, I read somewhere, gave Osama bin Laden an award roughly translationg to protector of Islam. First, knighthood or no, a writer remains as big for readers. Second, giving a reaction award to somebody, famous or notorious.

Relgion or dharma, coming from Sanskrit "dha (do)" does not give powers to individuals to go against individuals. That is why I like sufism that says .. "jo tu maange rang ki rangai, mera yowana girbi rakhle khwajaji" or khuda ko dhundha to wo bhi Ali ke ghar se mila.

Hail holy light to Salman and his writings and also his creative freedom. His knighhood at 60 is just a token. He is as much a great writer, with or without any appendage and decorative baggages.

As always, great work, Amar.




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