Two and a half decades back one writer from Mumbai burst on the literary scene with a book titled ‘Midnight Children’. He was Salman Rushdie a writer from Mumbai and also a Muslim. Till date Rushdie has written 19 books and won a plethora of awards. Though Rushdie was born in Mumbai he opted to stay in England, but that does not in any way detract from his love for India which he has professed a number of times.
Rushdie’s books have won critical acclaim and he was also knighted by the British government.. But the Indian government has been chary of Rushdie for political reasons and also for a backlash from the perceived vote bank, the Muslims.
This politics of vote banks is the forte of the Congress party. They tried it in 1988 under Rajiv Gandhi when the Satanic Verses banned. Rajiv may have hoped for a electoral advantage with the the Muslim vote, but he was defeated at the polls. Thus such politics don’t really work. Coming to Rushdie, it is to his credit that he has continued writing books and is one of the foremost writers of the English language.
Salman Rushdie writes excellent prose and his fertile mind conjures up weird and eerie scenes and plots. A reading of his Satanic verses brings out the writing and imaginative abilities of Rushdie. There is no doubt that along with VS Naipaul he must be the greatest Indian writer in English of all time.
Among the books written by Rushdie Luka and the Fire of Life, Shame, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Shalimar the Clown, The Moors last sighamong others have captivated the literary world. Rushdie has won recognition from all corners of the world except his birth nation India. He was appointed a Knight Bachelor by the Queen of England for his contribution to English literature in 2007.He also holds the title of Commandeur in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France. In May 2008 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters .
Rushdie’s book The satanic verses generated some controversy and a fatwa was issued for his death by Iran. The Fatwa was withdrawn in 1998. But in India a lunatic Muslim fringe continues to chant the ant- Rushdie line when even some Islamic countries like Egypt, Turkey and Libya have not proscribed the book. This is sad and one wonders where India is heading.
Rushdie is a much married man and has also been married to Indian model Padma. As Kushwant Singh the noted Indian writer remarked, Salman Rushdie in addition to his writing abilities is also a man who perhaps is well endowed to charm so many women as well..