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Salman Rushdie’s satanic Versus

If you want a slightly better-looking version of Gaddafi you might cast <b>Imran Khan</b>,says Rushdie.

Ego’s are fragile things and just how fragile was on display Saturday night’s Gala dinner at the India Today conclave where celebrated author Salman Rushdie was the keynote speaker. His presence had generated considerable interest because of the threats from radical Muslim groups that had prevented him showing up at the Jaipur LitFest a couple of months ago.

This time,there were protests of a different kind,not outside the venue but by some of the more keenly anticipated speakers,starting with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee,J & K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah,newly crowned chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav,and the man originally scheduled to speak at the Gala Dinner,Pakistan cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan. While the others cited “other urgent business” as reason for their no show,Imran’s cancellation was,as he stated,because of his refusal to be at the same event as Rushdie whom he accused of “causing immeasurable hurt to Muslims all over the world” in his controversial book ‘Satanic Verses’ (banned from being imported and sold in India).

Though Satanic Verses was written almost 25 years ago and it no longer is an issue involving his security,the Booker Prize-winning author seems to have taken Imran’s snub quite badly,or maybe it was a case of a bruised ego,but he ended up devoting a considerable amount of his speech in hitting back at Imran Khan,often below the belt,mocking him as “Im the Dim” and also asking the audience if they caught the resemblance between the former cricketer and the late Libyan dictator Gaddafi. “Have you noticed the physical resemblance between Imran Khan and Gaddafi?” the author asked with a wide grin,adding: “If you were making a movie of the life of Gaddafi and you wanted a slightly better-looking version of Gaddafi you might cast Imran Khan.”

Continuing his tirade,he went on to quip: “Imran is afraid of facing my bouncers. Imran knew that he would share the stage with me.” It was quite unnecessary and a bit crass and boorish and it certainly took away from the essence of his speech — creative freedom and liberty. More so when he made fun of Imran’s playboy lifestyle and the many women in his life,conveniently forgetting that he himself has been married four times and is currently divorced and often seen in the company of well known or attractive women. For a man of his undoubted literary talents and intellectual ability,it was probably his least inspiring moment. More so,considering that seated in the front row were two of Imran Khan’s closest friends in India,Parmeshwar and Adi Godrej. It was a satanic side of Rushdie that few had seen before,and would not like to in future.

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First published on: 21-03-2012 at 10:01 IST
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