I have been wrongly accused to have written the novel “Hindutva, Sex & Adventures (Roly Books, 2010). But in my 25 years of journalism, books and conferences, I never hid behind a pseudonym to say what I think and to defend Hindus. There are four other foreign correspondents who could have very well written this book; Mark Tully, John Eliott, Bernard Imhasly and David Housego. Of all these, Mark Tully is the only one who time and again indicated he had ‘soft’ sympathies for Hindutva.
However angry I am at being falsely accused, I do think that Mark Tully, who is a decent guy, or whoever wrote this book, has raised very pertinent issues, by having a dialogue between the hero Andrew Luyt, who slowly sees that Hinduism is the basic structure of India – and Imla, his Indian journalist girlfriend, who like most Indian journos, is a diehard secularist. Thus I cannot resist posting a few extracts of the books:
…Like most western journalists, and in spite of being born here, Andrew came to India with a fair amount of goodwill and an aspiration to do justice to this huge and diverse subcontinent. But, also like most correspondents, he also landed armed with a number of prejudices, picked-up here and there during his strict protestant education: poverty, castes, gods and goddesses, fakirs, elephants, sacred cows and maharajas…
On the second day, he was invited by a British colleague to a party. He had heard that Delhi parties were famous for being boozy and late. It was in East Nizamudin, a place he would come to love and where he would live. But this time he got lost, not having grasped yet the maddening illogic patterns of street numbers in India. It was in the apartment of another foreign correspondent, a Frenchman, known for his love of women and stupendous capacity for drinking and it was full of journalists, both Indian and Western. The apartment was wide and beautifully furnished with teak antic pieces, there was a lot of alcohol, quite a few stunning women- mostly Indian – the foreign ones did not look like much to Andrew – and one could hardly hear oneself talking. Andrew, still a little shy, in spite of his booming voice, stuck himself in a corner and just observed. The western journalists wore all white cotton trousers, white open shirts, and had a seriousness about them that stuck Andrew. The Indian journalists had a glass of whisky in one hand, a cigarette – or sometimes a pipe – in the other, and loudly talked of politics to the western journalists who listened to them enthralled.
For the first time Andrew heard words, which later would become part of his vocabulary:
- Gosh, said, a chap from the London Telegraph, whom Andrew had briefly met once, these Hindu fundamentalists will bring curse to this country; see how they are claiming that most the mosques in India, including the Babri Masjid, are built on destroyed temples…
- Yeah, replied another chap, whom Andrew had never met, in a German accented-English, we journalists, have to do our bit for India’s persecuted minorities, you know, the Christians who are attacked in tribal ideas, or the Muslims who do not get the same education as Hindus and are nowhere to be found in the top layers of Indian society.
- Right you are, continued the Telegraph chap. I am actually compiling a report of Human Rights abuses in India. We need to preserve Secularism, which I believe we British bequeathed to this country, he concluded, rather pompously, thought Andrew…
All these new words, plus the smoke, noise, and movement, left him slightly stunned after the quietness of British parties. Dinner was served at 11 pm, which struck him as rather late. He ate quickly, mumbled a goodbye to his host and went back by rickshaw to the Claridges, again baffled by what he was encountering in India
He started hunting for a place in Delhi, which was easier said than done. Even in those times, foreign diplomats, who were ready to pay anything for a house in posh areas of Delhi, had helped to make rental prices skyrocket to ridiculous heights: 75.000 Rs for a big flat in Golf Links, or one lakh for a house in Jorbagh. The owners were usually rich Punjabis, who asked for 50% of the money to be paid in black in foreign accounts and demanded one – sometimes two – years in advance. One day Andrew went to see a flat in Sujan Singh Park, near the Ambassador hotel, where lived the famous writer and journalist Kushwant Singh. The owner was a fat Sikh who had rings on every finger. Flat was nice, but when Andrew requested to see the servants’ quarters, he was shown a dump of a room without any windows and when he asked about the bathroom, the fat Sikh replied
- they don’t need bathrooms, they can use the public toilets in Khan Market !
Andrew, in spite of his British self-control, nearly slapped the guy and left without a word. He would discover much later that rich North Indians often paid and treated very badly their servants and whenever he saw in papers that a servant had murdered his or her masters and fled with their money, he remembered the servants’ quarters in Sujan Singh Park. Finally he settled for a run down flat in East Nizamudin, overlooking the shrine of the Muslim Sufi saint, Nizamud-din Chishti, a district which then was not yet as popular as it would become with intellectuals and journalists. He remodelled it, hunted Delhi’s antic markets for old colonial furniture and made it in a haven of peace. Ultimately, he would become known as the ‘Knight of East Nizamuddin’….