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April 17, 2000


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The Rediff Interview/ Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie

'A lot of things which people say I have written is not there at all in the book'

PART I: 'If somebody is trying to shut you up, then you should try and talk louder'

Is beech, aap Bharat aana chahate the aur ek controversy thi. Is par aapko kya kehna hai? (You wanted to come to India earlier but there was a controversy about it. What do you have to say on the matter?)

This question of exile, jab aadmi nahin aa sakta apne shahar mein, yeh bahut buri baat hai. And mujhe bahut dukh tha is baat ke baare mein. I think if you knew my friends, mere dost jante the ke yeh sabse dukh ki baat thi ki main Hindustan mein nahin aa saka. To yeh bahut khushi ka din hai mere liye. Meri ummeed hai ki yeh 12 saal ke baad aya magar ab bahut dafe aaonga.

(It was very bad that I could not visit my country. All my friends know how sad that made me. Which is why these are very happy days for me. I hope now that I will visit again not once in 12 years as I have done this time, but far more often.)

Par Bharat ke Mussalmaan jo aapse naaraz hain, unko aap kya kehna chahte hain? (What do you have to say to the Muslims in India who are upset with you?)

Kitabon mein yeh baat hamesha hoti hai ki koi log ek kitab ko pasand karte hain, koi log nahin pasand karte hain. Agar aap meri kitab ko nahin pasand karte hain to band kardena. Banned karden aur chhod den. Kitab aisi hai ki aagar aap nahin paden to woh aapko kuch nahin kar sakti hai. Magar Hindustan mein bhi bahut log hain jo meri kitab ko pasand karte hain aur woh bhi important hai.

(There are people who like a book and people who don't. If you don't like my books, then close the book and forget about it. If you don't read a book it is not going to do you any harm. But it is important to remember that there are people in India who like my books too.)

Salman Rushdie To yeh main keh raha hoon ki jo bhi hua tha woh bahut din ho gaye, takariban barah saal. Is period mein bahut logon ne meri kitab padhi hai aur pasand ki hai aur pasand nahin bhi ki hai. Yeh purani kahani hai. Aur ab mein sochta hoon ki ek moment hai jab hum nayi kahani shuru kar sakte hain. Aur yeh meri umeed hain ki ab hum sab yeh kar sakte hain. Mein bhi Hindustani Muslim khandan ka hoon. Yahan koi jhagada nahin hai aur nahin hona chahiye. Aur meri umeed hai yeh jhagada chhod den. Yeh purana jhagada hai.

(What I am trying to say is that it is 12 years since all this has happened. And during this period, a lot of people have read and liked my book just as some people haven't liked my work. All this is an old story. It is time for us to start a new chapter. I too belong to an Indian Muslim family. We should not fight over such matters. This is an old battle.)

Is kitab par jo vivad hua, controversy hui, usse kya aapko dukh hai? (Do you feel bad about the fact that there was so much controversy over the book?)

Yes, yes of course. I am very sorry that it happened. I wish it had not happened. But the past is the past. Jo ho gaya woh ho gaya. (What has happened has happened.) The thing to do now is to look at the future. That's what I have been trying to do. Meri umeed hai ki hum sab yeh kar sakte hain (I hope we can do this) because you can't stay stuck in the past.

Jis tarah aap ke aane par demonstrations huye Delhi mein, us par aap ko kya kahna hai? (What do you have to say about the demonstrations that were held in Delhi in protest against your visit?)

If people want to demonstrate, unka haque hai. They have the right to do it. I appreciate the fact that this was done in a civilised, peaceful way. If we object to each other then we should express our objections. In a democracy we do that but we remain civilised with each other and that is what I hope we can do.

Jin logon ne demonstration kiya, agar unse aapki baat ho to aap unse kya kahenge? (If you could speak to those who demonstarted against you, what would you tell them?)

I will say I am very sorry that you don't like it. Bahut afsos ki baat hai ki log yeh samajhte hain ki yeh woh cheez hai jo woh nahin hai. (It is very unfortunate that people think this book is something it is not.) This is the reason for not wanting the ban kyon ki logon ko padna chahiye. Padne ke baad shayad nahin pasand aaye magar pahle padhna chahiye. (People should read the book and decide whether or not they like the book.)

Before you attack a writer, before you say he should not come to India, before you say he should be killed or whatever, at least read his work because you will find ki bahut sari cheez jo log kahte hain mere bare mein woh is kitab mein nahin hain. (A lot of things which people say about me is not there in this book.)

Bahut doosri cheezen hain jo log kehte hain ki is kitab mein hain par woh nahin hain. So what has happened is that people have been worked up. People ko gussa aa gaya kyon ki log aise cheez kehte hain ki Rushdie ne yeh kaha woh kaha. Ab main kya kah sakta hoon? But if they read the book they find out for themselves. To pehle paden phir sochen ki gussa aana chahiye ki nahin.

(In fact, a lot of things which people say I have written is not there at all in the book. What can I say to all this? If people read the book for themselves, they will know whether or not to get angry with me.)

Aapko baar baar controversial lekhak kaha jata hai. Kai log kahte hain ki aap vivad paida karne ke liye hee likhte hain? (You have the reputation of being a controversial writer and that you write only to create a controversy.)

Well, that's not true. But what I think is that any serious writer tries to understand what is happening in the world and he tries to give his response to that and that's what I tried to do. Jaisa mein dekhta hoon vaisa mein likhta hoon. If you like that you like it nahin pasand ayi to nahin pasand ayi. Main kya kar sakta hoon? (I write on things the way I see them. If you don't like it, what am I to do?) I can only write what I see and that's what I have always tried to do and I will always try to do.

Jab aapne Satanic Verses likha to kya aapko lagta tha ki itna halla hoga? (Did you ever imagine that there would be such a controversy over the Satanic Verses when you wrote the book?)

Who would wish on themselves all that has happened to me? You would not want to spend 12 years the way I have spent them. Satanic Verses mein jo Islam ka hissa hain woh relatively chhota hai. Kitab ka subject yeh nahin hai. The novel is about bahut se log jo England gaye hain, unki kahani hai. Yeh jo Islam ka mamla hai, woh do chapter hai, 500 pages ki kitab mein yeh do chapter hain aur ab log samajhte hain ki poora kissa yahi tha.

(The part on Islam in the Satanic Verses is very small. It is not the subject of the entire book. The book is about Indians who have gone to England. The bit about Islam covers only two chapters in a book of 500 pages. Now people think that the whole book is on Islam.) I am really sad in a way that these two chapters have distracted attention from the rest of the book.

Fatwe ke dauran zindagi ne aapke lekhan par kahan tak asar dala?

I feel that if somebody is trying to shut you up then you should try and talk louder. If somebody is trying to say don't sing, you should sing better.

Fatwe se aapki private life kahan tak prabhavit hui?

My private life is separate from all this and wasn't affected in any way.

The interview continues tomorrow. Don't miss it!

Photographs: Pana India

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