Thursday, May 11, 2006

Are Page Three lions inveterate lady killers?

If you write well, does it automatically make you a lady killer? The case of Salman Rushdie makes me want to almost believe in the heresy. Also, my limited experience as a fairly successful copywriter supports the theory. Somehow, people associate word conjuring with magic. Then, they hypnotize themselves into believing that the wielder of such arcane power must be a Pied Piper to the opposite sex. Sex appeal is to the mind of the believer what beauty is to the eye of the beholder, after all. The Page Three coverage of the Rushdie goings-on when he was last in Bombay (not Mumbai – not even when pronounced “Moom-baa-ee” in the FM deejay style) threw up some unwittingly tongue-in-cheek revelations. I wondered, for instance, what hardbound first editions (of Rushdie, I take it – and already autographed!) “strategically placed in the dining area” were meant to be doing at an intimate dinner in his honour (as the fly-on-the-ceiling report put it). Were they doubling as first edition coasters, pray tell? Or, were they a sly dry run for the secret Christie innovation, The Supper Auction – inspired by, I suspect, The Supper Theatre? Also, the intriguing reference to Padmalakshmi (who one report described as “draped around” Rushdie at the same do) complaining to Dé: “I hardly get to spend time with my boyfriend”. Dé added: “The boyfriend smiles indulgently.” Was the indulgence, his fawning hagiographer never clarified, aimed at her girlish tendency to tell little white lies so blatantly? Or, at the fact of the life lived on Page Three that he was the reigning Lion King in Bombay’s Page Three jungle and Padmalakshmi didn’t get ‘it’ (neither the attention nor the point)? And, while Bombay and Madras (not Chennai) had to be satisfied with Rushdie and Padmalakshmi, New Delhi had a galaxy of NRIs and POIOs attending a mega confab and being regaled by the President himself. In the honour list was Shashi Tharoor, senior UN official and author of the then ‘just published’ Nehru, The Invention of India. Nehru was fond of big dams to build which the Indian State callously reduced to penury farmers and Adivasis who had little or no land and banished them from the Indian mainstream. Now globalisation and consumerism have further reinforced the process. The identity equation of today reads: “I consume. Therefore, I am.” Ironic, isn’t it? (P.S.: It’s good to know that the marginalized of the world now have the World Social Forum speaking on their behalf.)

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