I shook Salman Rushdie's hand!
Last Friday I met Salman Rushdie at an event hosted by the South Asian Journalist's Association. The event was at Columbia University, and speaking were Rushdie and his wife, actress Padma Lakshmi. The event was set up rather poorly (my opinion). It was basically organized as a press conference with all the excited journalist types pushing to the front to ask inane questions ("Salman, were you surprised by the reception of 'The Satanic Verses'?"). Both Mr. Rushdie and his wife were very intelligent and at several points, Rushdie looked like he was quite enjoying putting down these journos. At one point someone asked him (another inane question), "Salman, I'm a moderate Muslim who was offended by 'The Satanic Verses'. What do you have to say to me?" Of course, there really isn't much else to say, except what Rushdie said: "Well, if you close the book, it will stop offending you."
A couple of things that bothered me:
-the inaneness of the questions. Here's another exchange:
Questioner: "Salman, what are you working on now?"
Rushdie: "I usually don't like talking about my books until they're done and published. There'll be plenty of time to talk about them then."
Questioner: "So is it set in India?"
At another point, Rushdie was talking about Indian writers writing in English, and some moron shouted from the audience "you mean South Asian authors". Rushdie just shrugged it off and went on about how he's so impressed by the bright new Indian writers!
-Everyone calling him 'Salman'. The man is 'Mr. Rushdie'. He's not your pal, don't talk to him like he is.
-the set-up. I've already mentioned this, but basically the press conference feel with lots of people making too much noise in the back ruined the event. Rushdie didn't even make a preliminary speech. The organizers just made him jump right into taking questions. Frankly, I'd rather hear what Rushdie has to say, not what you have to ask him (especially if your questions are going to be so dumb). I had to squeeze my way to the front to be able to ask him a question, and thanks to the generosity of the organizer, I got in the last one.
I asked him what his assessment is of progress made in the Islamic world towards liberalism etc. His response was very pessimistic. The one positive point in his answer was his appreciation of my question (yeah, so I'm bragging - you got a problem with that?!)
Oh, another gem from the evening - another moron said he (the moron) was writing an article about how modern-day American outsourcing to India is like the British conquest of India. Rushdie looked quite bewildered!
One more - someone asked him how he could write and say the things he does since he's a Muslim (not authentic, you see). Rushdie's response: "I'm as muslim as your fingernail!" (kill the apostate!!)
After the gig was over I went up and shook his hand. I'd left my copy of "Midnight's Children" at home (like an idiot), so I couldn't get that signed. Whatever. I got to meet a great man and it was fun!
**In other news, I took the LSAT recently and bought an iPod. Sorry for not blogging recently, but I don't think I have any readers so it probably doesn't matter!!