With unprecedented security on the eve of the Jaipur Literature Festival, it seems like it's only a matter of when Salman Rushdie arrives rather than if.
It would have been just another cold night before the literature festival, except that it isn't.
As author-invitees join the organisers at the night-before dinner at the Taj Rambaug Palace, Diggi Palace, the hotel that has been the venue for the Jaipur Literature Festival for years now, wears a solitary look.
A stark contrast to last year when the dinner was an open affair, hosted on the lawns of Diggi Palace and the authors mingled freely with journalists and anyone else who bothered to join in on a cold January evening.
A cursory glance around the venue reveals that the organisers have geared up to host a really large crowd. There are far more seats for starters and the journalists get a centralised media centre and a dedicated corner, where authors will hold press conferences and give out interviews.
Also, this year you may not be able to just walk in as you did in the previous years. Registration against a photo id is a must.
Even as preparations for the festival continue in full swing, one cannot also help notice the heavy police presence in the area. At least a dozen police cars are lined up with no less than 40 policemen patrolling the area.
Auto rickshaws drivers are being discouraged from parking their vehicles there even as cars are being screened thoroughly and high-ranking officials are paying late-night visits to ensure things are in place.
While the 'official stand' of the festival remains unchanged -- ('our invitation stands') and the governments claim to have no clue about Salman Rushdie's itinerary, the local media has been taking more about 'when' he arrives rather than 'if'.
Rushdie's booking at the Rambaug Palace is reportedly cancelled, and the man remains untracable as always.
However with voices in the liberal society getting stronger and the seciurity detail getting more intense than ever it is becoming clearer with each passing hour that should India's 'Prodigal Son' choose to return -- and we suspect that he probably has -- he will be received with arms wide open.