Nasir Abid remembers his time with V.S. Naipaul, and his reminiscences are just as revealing of the famous author as the book was about India.
Nasir Abid, a Lucknow journalist, spent five days with his favourite author VS Naipaul, escorting him around the old city when he was researching his last non-fiction book on this country, India: A Million Mutinies Now. If you’ve read the book, you would have read about him. Naipaul features him in the book under the changed name of ‘Rashid’. Like Naipaul, Nasir aka Rashid also kept a diary about their five days together. His description of the Nobel Prize winning author is as revealing as Naipaul on ‘Rashid’. Commemorating the passing away of the legendary writer last week, here is the Naipaul you would have never read about in the dozens of articles and books on him.
Call me the man who met V S Naipaul. It all started innocently enough. A journalist telegraphed from Bombay that he was coming to Lucknow with V S Naipaul.
I was quite excited. My friend Azad and I decided to go to the airport to pick them up. We got stuck in a traffic jam and reached the airport late. Naipaul hates people being late but this time we got away with it.
In spite of the intense summer heat, he was wearing a summer suit and a felt hat, shirt with the collar buttoned but without a tie, white socks and loafers, the kind in which the socks show.
His skin was dark walnut. The felt hat hid his thick head of hair. His expression was fixed in a perpetual grimace, lips pursed as if he was just about enduring being stuck in a place like this. There was not a hint of a smile.
I told Naipaul that A House for Mr. Biswas was one of my favourite books by him.
“It just got written,” he replied modestly. “I am fond of Biswas too.” Modestly because in one of his interviews Naipaul had said that he knew that “it was going to be a big one”.
From the airport we went to a friend’s office in the city to pick him up for lunch as it was quite late by then. I was still going nineteen to the dozen and my excitement must have got through to Naipaul.
While the friend was getting ready to leave, I said to Naipaul that I was sorry that his brother Shiva had died so tragically young. “Did Shiva stay with you when he came to England?” I asked, knowing that Naipaul had already settled by then. He replied that Shiva had rung him up and he had invited him to stay but he had not taken up the offer. I had found it strange for in India, with its extended families and friends of friends landing up to stay for days and weeks on end; Shiva had not stayed with his own brother. By this time I was realizing that while I considered Naipaul an Indian, he obviously had different values.
There was a story in Esquire about which I had to ask Naipaul. Apparently, a reader was not convinced of the writer Ved Mehta’s being blind. He was sure that someone who described events and people in such detail could not possibly be blind. One day, at a party, he saw an Indian sitting and staring vacantly. He decided to check his theory, and went up to him and shoving his face close, stuck out his tongue. No reaction. He then put his hands to his ears and flapped them. No reaction. By then, the host noticed what was going on, rushed up to the man and dragged him away. “Why on earth are you making faces at V S Naipaul?” he asked.
Naipaul laughed and said that it wasn’t true. But like all jokes, it has a kernel of truth in it: his celebrated impassiveness. Naipaul credits London with having given him this detachment.
At the restaurant, Naipaul asked me what I did for a living. I said that I was a copywriter. He was pleasantly surprised, as he had not expected a small place like Lucknow to need a copywriter. In the course of the conversation, I told him that I had been to London for six months, bumming around, working in Kentucky Fried Chicken as a cook, and later as a salesman for the Combined Insurance Company of America. I had been trying to sell accident policies of six months’ duration, going from shop to shop on the high streets of London. I got thrown out often and spent my time trying to get a word in edgeways, saying “See you in six months’ time.” I told him how a butcher had shown me his cleaver and told me to run along, when I started my sales pitch, the barber had begged, “Don’t sir, please don’t.” I had asked him to give me a haircut, and ended up paying him instead. The antiques dealer, a Jew from France, had commiserated with me and advised me to go back to India.
Naipaul said that Jews have soft hearts.
After lunch, we went for tea to Kwality restaurant and Naipaul broached the subject of the book he was working on. He said it was to have a chapter on Lucknow, and could I help? I asked him if he had read anything about Lucknow’s Muslims. He said no. His excuse was that he wanted things to be fresh.
Fool that I am, in my lofty style, I said, “All right, but the book must be sympathetic and not denigrate the Muslims, as you did in Amongst the Believers”.
Naipaul looked surprised and said that Believers was sympathetic. I could have sworn that he meant it. I believed that if I showed him the right kind of people, I would be able to influence the book, little realizing what a fool I was being. Naipaul knew exactly what he wanted, as the theme had already been worked out, and I was not going to be the one to decide who and what he would write about.
We went to the hotel and Vinod explained how Vidia (we were all on first name basis by now) wanted to bring out how Muslims had been marginalised in independent India. This was 1988, when a lawyer named Pandey, petitioned the courts, stating that the locks on the Babri Masjid were preventing him from exercising his fundamental right of praying there. A judge named Pandey ordered the locks to be removed. All hell broke loose, dividing the country as never before.
I explained to Naipaul that now it was the judiciary that was being used to attack the Muslims. First it was the Padma Khastigir case. She was a judge in the Calcutta High Court who admitted a petition from a person from Bangalore that the Qur’an, in all its editions, should be banned, as it was anti-national. The Pavlovian Muslim reaction was to go berserk. All over the country there were agitations. Padma Khastigir got cold feet and another judge was appointed who threw out the petition, saying that the Qur’an was a basic document like the Bible and other religious texts and could not be banned.
Next was the Shah Bano case. She was a divorced Muslim woman from Bhopal who had filed a petition against her ex-husband for maintenance. Under Islamic Shariat law, once the woman gets her alimony, she has no claim on her ex-husband. The case wound its slow, torturous way through the various courts and ended up in the Supreme Court. There the Chief Justice granted Shah Bano maintenance, starting his judgment with words to the effect, that if a religion does not protect its followers then it becomes the duty of the courts to do so. Muslims regard the Qur’an as the very word of God and such statements were blasphemy to them. In the end Rajiv Gandhi, as Prime Minister got the judgment set aside by an act of Parliament. This gave the BJP a stick to beat him with. If you can pass an act to change the law to appease the Muslims, then would you mind doing it once more and get us the Babri Masjid land through an act of Parliament too? The argument was flawed, of course, as the Shah Bano amendment was not taking something from one person to give to another. But the BJP’s propaganda was having its effect. Grievances against Muslims, real and imagined, were being aired and the sense of insecurity amongst them was acute. I doubt the polarization amongst the two major communities of the country had been as acute since Partition.
I explained to Naipaul that Partition had been the worst thing that could have happened to the Indian Muslim. Till then both Hindus and Muslims had been spread out all over the country. But with Partition, Hindus for the first time in the history of India had come under one roof and Muslims had put themselves under three roofs and consequently made themselves weak.
Most of the pre-independence leadership of the community had left for Pakistan. The Muslim had lost his language—Urdu; education was practically non-existent in the community and slowly but surely the Indian Muslim was becoming ‘a drawer of water and hewer of wood’.
Naipaul heard me out and we agreed to meet the next morning. Not a word had been noted down while I had been speaking but when I read India: A Million Mutinies Now I found that he had quoted me verbatim. Naipaul has been blessed with a photographic memory, which he has trained to perfection. I read in one of his numerous interviews that whenever someone says something to him, he repeats it twice to himself mentally. I am sure that he can recite every word that he has written or uttered. He remembers not just the words but the gestures and expressions that went with it. This was in sharp contrast to Vikram Seth who asked me to show him around old Lucknow too. He was a constant source of embarrassment when he took out a huge register and started making notes. The shopkeepers of Chowk must have thought that a tax survey was in progress.
The next day, on the way to the old city, Naipaul asked me, “Nazear, how would you describe your life?” It was always Nazear, never Nasir; always Veenod, never Vinod. Although I am sure that Naipaul spoke and understood Hindi perfectly, this was just an affectation to show that he was different from us lesser mortals.
“Well Vidia,” I said, “I would say that I lead a pretty rudderless existence.” “Nazear,” he replied, “yours is the life I would like to write about.”
There was an embarrassed silence. It was like bringing out matrimonial ads week after week and then marrying the girl next door. After a little hesitation I agreed. What else could I say? In hindsight, I realise I had had no idea what I was letting myself in for.
Personally I did not think there was anything in my life worth writing about, no great events, no meetings with remarkable men, just a chronicle of mishaps and failures. But then I was not V S Naipaul. He knew exactly what he was looking for and had reached the conclusion that my story fitted perfectly with his scheme of things. I am sure the book was already mapped out in his mind; all that was needed was to flesh it out.
In the Chowk area, we went to the street of the silversmiths. It later becomes workshops of Muslim chikan embroidery workers and their suppliers. Naipaul noticed and remembered everything. He was like a government inspector, disapproving and censorious. He thought little of the workers’ creativity and said they were churning out pretty basic stuff. In the middle of the road there was a table on which a tape recorder was braying. I told him that it was asking for donations for the mosque and telling the faithful what good things Allah had in store for them if they were generous with their contributions on earth. Naipaul did not contribute.
We came to the residential quarters. On seeing a new building, Naipaul asked what was that for. I told him that it was a seminary put up by someone who had returned from the Gulf. Naipaul disapproved.
We went back to the hotel room. The conversation this time was about books and writers. I told him that he had now reached the stage where his comments could make or break a writer.
Naipaul acquiesced. Salman Rushdie came up. Naipaul said that the present crop of young Indian writers in English were more interested in selling themselves, which was what had put Rushdie in his predicament. I asked if he had been a signatory to the open letter to the Ayatollah signed by 120 writers that they should also be treated as the authors of the Verses and punished accordingly. Naipaul said that a copy had come before he had left for the present trip but he had put it away in the drawer. No way he was going to put his neck on the line for some young fool who did not know where to draw the line.
Paul Theroux was mentioned. I said, “He has this obsession about his looks. He keeps mentioning them in his books.” Naipaul said, “Well, Paul is a very good-looking boy. But he has this weakness for black prostitutes.” The pot calling the kettle black, I realised later from one of his interviews, how he had been a frequent visitor too.
Naipaul did not think much of A Passage to India, a book that I had read seven times. He said that nothing happens in it. I said a silent prayer of thanks since that means no rape took place. The London Review of Books was no good either. He said it in such a way as if he was sure that I would agree with him. Bowing before experience, I concurred.
During the conversation, confusing Isherwood’s A Meeting by the River with Naipaul’s A Bend in the River, I said that I did not like Bend. Naipaul looked embarrassed and said, “That is one of mine. Why did you not like it?” as if referring to one of his children, which I suppose books are to authors. I said that I did not think that the brother who had western orientations should have been portrayed as a homosexual. It came out that I was referring to the Isherwood book and the air was cleared.
I told Naipaul that The Guardian was my favourite paper. He told me that when he was in England he read The Telegraph. That is understandable as it is the bastion of conservatism.
For dinner we went to Azad’s house, a class fellow of Vinod and husband of Parveen in the book. There he met Amir, the Raja of Mehmoodabad. You could see the gleam in his eye. At last he had found a suitable subject. When returning from dinner, the moment we got into the car he asked me to arrange a meeting with him and find out if he would agree to be a subject in his book. He needn’t have worried. Amir was even more interested than he. When I returned to Azad’s, he asked me to invite Naipaul to his place.
The next day, we sat down to write the story of my life. Naipaul has these small notebooks in which he writes in his neat longhand. He has this rather irritating habit of saying, “Yes! Yes!” to everything you say. These Yes-Yes’s sounded synthetic and condescending to me, as if he were trying to show that he was with me, carry on my dear fellow, you are absolutely right. He let me ramble on. I realised I had told him some things that I did not want known. I asked him to remove them but did not see him cancelling them out. To make sure that they had been removed, I asked him to read out his notes. This he did without reading out the part I had asked him to remove. When I reminded him of it, he assured me that they would not be in the book. He kept his word.
After a while, Naipaul said, “Let’s go and eat.” Naipaul ordered a single vegetarian dish and one Indian bread for himself. When I ordered a single dish too, he said expansively “No. No order some more, I want you to have a nice meal.” I was touched.
Anthony Burgess was mentioned. I said that I had read how he had decided to write a book because his doctors had given him only six months to live. “Yes,” said Naipaul with a dry chuckle, “and he hasn’t stopped writing since.”
No sign of literary brotherhood here.
I told Naipaul that I had always wanted to be a writer but did not know how to go about it. I asked him if he could give me some tips. “I think a lot,” Naipaul said dismissively. That took care of me, I guess.
I asked Naipaul what he had wanted to be before he became a writer. He told me that he had wanted to join a firm and be a company executive. I could just see Mr. Naipaul in a bowler hat and pinstripes going to the City of London every day…
After lunch we went to Amir’s where Naipaul was introduced to Amir’s wife. During the conversation Naipaul commented on some characteristic of Amir, which reminded him of Nehru. Amir’s wife promptly said that Amir was better than Nehru in some respects. We were all over-awed in the face of such sacrilege but Naipaul looked impressed at such devotion.
After a while, Amir’s wife went into the inner chamber and I excused myself so that Amir could tell the story of his life. Three hours later, I was having a cup of coffee in Kwality restaurant, when Amir’s manager came to get some sandwiches packed. I realized that the session must have been still going strong. The manager confirmed this.
As a copywriter, I did not have to be in the office the whole day. Anyway, I had told my boss that I would go to the office in the morning to check if there was any work, see to it and then carry on to Naipaul’s hotel. The next day, I was late and Naipaul was livid. “You’re late! Let’s hope the Raja will forgive us for this.”
I told him, “Look, I am not working for you, just helping out. Don’t worry about the Raja. I’ll explain things to him.”
The Raja had impressed Naipaul.
“He is a prince amongst men Nazear, I’ll say this,” he said.
“Yesterday must have been a very long session for I saw the sandwiches being packed at a very late hour,” I said.
“You mean the sandwiches were not from the Raja’s kitchen?” he asked, surprised.
From the tone of his voice I could guess that the Raja went down a notch or two in his estimation.
On the way, I also spoke of the touching portrait he had painted of his father in Finding the Centre. Naipaul was surprised that I had read it, as it had not been published in book form till then. I said that I had read it in the inaugural issues of the re-launched Vanity Fair.
“You know they paid me $ 75,000 for it,” he said.
I whistled silently in admiration. His agent told them to take it or leave it, and they took it. I asked Naipaul what happened to the film that was being made of Guerillas, the book that had launched him in America. It was shelved but they paid him a $ 50,000 retainer for it.
“You know, Vidia, in An Area of Darkness on the first page you mention a character asking you, ‘Have you got any cheese?’ He probably meant cheez as in ‘things’. He was asking you if you had any smuggled goods to sell.”
Naipaul said some of his friends later did tell him that, but it did not seem that he was going to worry himself about that at this late date.
One more session with Amir took place, after that, during the day, since he had hardly seen the city except for that single trip to the old quarter, I decided to show him some historical buildings.
We went to the Residency, where the British had sheltered during the First War of Independence in 1857 and were besieged by Indian freedom fighters. Generals Havelock and Campbell subsequently rescued them in an operation called the Relief of Lucknow, about which Tennyson had written a poem.
In front of the main building, there is a marble plaque, which tells the story of the siege detailing how many of the British died and how brave they had been. I decided to have some fun. As I read from the plaque I kept muttering, “The bastards, the bastards.” Naipaul kept quiet but when he relates the incident, he says that all my Shia sympathies came to the fore and I showed no sympathy for the besieged British. Never once did it strike him that I must have been to the Residency many times before and this was nothing new. Maybe he thought that it made good copy and he put it in. Nor did it occur to him to ask why I should have any sympathy for the British, who had taken my country and killed my people? I think this incident also explains the title A Million Mutinies Now.
On the road between sites, we would talk. To whom was he dedicating this book? I asked. He said that he hadn’t thought about it. I recommended Amir but he did not seem to be pleased with the idea. He seldom dedicated his books to anybody, he said, and besides he hardly knew Amir enough to dedicate his book to him. At the Husainabaad Imambara, he expressed his admiration for its architecture, especially the steps leading up to the mosque, which had been placed at a very pleasing angle.
We went to the Butler Palace; this had been built by Amir’s grandfather and named after Harcourt Butler, Governor of the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, who had bought the capital back to Lucknow from Allahabad. It now housed the Institute of Philosophical Research. Its library had row upon row of books on philosophy, untouched by anyone. I asked if he had read any philosophy. Naipaul said that literature was his subject. I quoted Stevenson, and, in my anxiety to appear clever, said, “Of books there is no end.” Naipaul promptly corrected me, “Of the making of books there is no end.” The director of the institute got to know that Naipaul was in the library and sent a messenger to invite him for tea. We went inside and even before sitting down Naipaul made his excuses and we left as fast as we had come. I think Naipaul lost himself a fan.
On the way back to the hotel we talked about Naipaul’s theory on elites and how essential they were to society by being role models, for lesser mortals to look up to. He said that he could very easily have gone with the trend and become a socialist and built himself a much wider readership along the way, but instead he chose to be true to his beliefs.
I asked Naipaul if he had ever contacted his aged relative again, who had come on his haunches in An Area of Darkness to ask for money for litigation so that he could get the family land back. Decades had passed but the memory still angered him and he said something dismissive.
On the way back, I was sitting next to the driver. As we approached the hotel, the driver asked me if we would like to buy some chikan clothes, the local handicraft, since he knew where we could get it cheap. I said No.
Naipaul asked me what the driver was saying. I knew the driver was asking for trouble and said, “Nothing, nothing.”
But the nearer we got to the hotel, the more desperate the driver became. He could see his commission vanishing. He kept pleading. Again, Naipaul asked what he was saying. I thought it better to tell him as he was getting quite excited. Naipaul went berserk. “Tell him we will report him. Rascal! Tell him we will report him. Look in front, you.”
His reaction was out of all proportion. Defeated and dejected, the taxi driver dropped us at the hotel.
In the room, we found the bellboys cleaning. Naipaul made them shift the bed and vacuum under it. He told us that the fluff that collects there plays havoc with his asthma. The bellboys humoured him. The man, who returned his shirts, freshly laundered and ironed, was made to stand there until every button was checked. Naipaul told me that once he had found a button missing and had sent for the manager. Instead of sympathising, the manager had told him, “Your buttons! They break my buttons too. What to do with them!”
Tea was ordered. Naipaul did not tip the waiters in cash, but when signing the bill he would write an amount and circle it. I do not have any idea what the international convention is, but I doubt if the waiters ever got to see their tip.
While having tea I told Vidia that I had met his mother in this very hotel. He was taken aback. “My mother! In this hotel! When?”
I told him that a travel agency had arranged a ‘roots’ tour for Indians in the Caribbean. They had camped in Lucknow and from here moved on to Gorakhpur, Gonda, Basti, Bahraich and other places from where their ancestors had come.
“Didn’t you know about it?” I asked him. “When did you last meet your mother?”
“Thirty-eight years ago when I left for England to study,” he replied.
I told him about a lady I had met whose husband was an American academic. She told me that Naipaul’s father and her mother were brother and sister. Naipaul looked blank. I gave him some more details but he looked as blank as ever. He told me to be careful of such people and not to be taken in by them, as if advising me not to buy smuggled goods.
I asked if he had any children. He said that he didn’t; that constant travelling made it impossible for him to take the responsibility of bringing up children. He mentioned that both Vidiadhar and Surajprasad were his given names, and had caused much confusion at school, so much so that his mother was called by the principal to clarify. I told him that Naipaul was a corruption of Nepali. These were Brahmins of the Dubey group from the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh who had gone over to adjoining Nepal in search of livelihood and had become known as Nepali Dubeys, which had got corrupted to Naipaul in the Caribbean. He did not show any interest in this gem of family history that I had dug out for him.
Naipaul told me about a Muslim boy who was living in Bombay with his large family in half a room, partitioned by a curtain made out of jute bags. Naipaul had advised him to get out of Bombay and make a life for himself abroad. But the boy said that he could not bring himself to do this as his first duty lay to his parents. Naipaul could not understand this and was genuinely sad that the boy had not taken his advice.
More meetings were arranged for him. There was Roshan, a follower of the straight and narrow path. After five minutes I could see where the conversation was heading. I noticed that Naipaul did not interrupt and ask the person to come to the subject he wanted to discuss. He took digressions patiently. Realizing that nothing was going to come out of this, I made my excuses, promising to be back in a few hours time.
Naipaul was disgusted. “Nazear what a self righteous man. What a fool.”
I expected this so I kept quiet.
The thing is that Roshan was the only man to arrive on time. On the dot. Naipaul used to get very angry when a person was late. “I do not force them to come, the least I expect is that they come on time.”
I tried to explain that sometimes, even with the best of intentions one could not be on time in Lucknow. Never once did it strike him that maybe they come because of me, because I asked them to. Lucknow was not exactly abuzz with the name of Naipaul.
For my next offering, I suggested a lady magistrate, who had been the first to pass judgment based on the revised laws after the Shah Bano case, about which I had told him earlier. I went to see her in her chambers. She was sitting there with her lawyer husband. She had never heard of the famous V S Naipaul but her husband had. “Yes, yes Naipaul. An Area of Darkness. I have heard of him. We’ll come.”
So we agreed to meet at the hotel’s restaurant at 4 pm. Naipaul tried his best to make them relax and feel as comfortable as possible, ordered tea and made small talk before getting down to brass-tacks. He commented on how ugly the teapot was. Ever the gracious host he started pouring tea. As if on cue, the lid fell off. You should have seen the disgust on the great man’s face. The husband told him proudly that he had allowed his wife to continue using her maiden name. We tried to bring up the subject of what had led to her being in the news. She kept whispering to her husband in Hindi.
“You go. You go”, as if she wanted to discuss some gynaecological problem with her doctor. So us men folk went out to stroll.
Two cigarettes later it was all over. They left and Naipaul turned to me. “Nazear what kind of a magistrate is she. She doesn’t know a thing. How can she pass judgment on Muslim law, without having any sympathies and without knowing any Muslims.”
I thought that this was a very shrewd observation on his part.
“She kept saying, ‘Please don’t use my name. Please don’t use my name’. I kept telling her, ‘Madam, rest assured your name will not appear’.”
We both laughed.
I said, “Vidia, I am afraid that your sarcasm was wasted.”
“Tell me Nazear, do Indian men like this kind of woman?”
“Well, Vidia, you could see how proud he was of her. She is educated and brings money into the house, not to mention the prestige that goes with being a magistrate; at the same time he is happy that she is not a flirtatious type.”
“Are they Brahmins?”
“Dubeys, Vidia, Dubeys. Same as you.” I did not notice a warm glow suffusing as he found a fellow Dubey.
After the Dubeys, there was Parveen, of the book. She must have been a welcome change as Naipaul found her ‘very serene’. I translated for her. After she had finished telling her story I asked Naipaul “Vidia, why don’t you tell her a little about yourself.”
Naipaul declined saying there was nothing to tell.
The five days were coming to an end. I asked Naipaul whether he was satisfied with his trip to Lucknow.
“Nazear, you haven’t given me any pictures.”
“Pictures Vidia! Now you tell me! Where am I going to arrange a photographer at this late hour?”
“Not photographs Nazear, you have read my books; you know they contain lots of word pictures and your account hasn’t given me any. You must give me some word pictures. We will talk on the way to the airport”.
I had felt the resentment building up inside me. Something snapped and I said, “Oh I am coming to the airport with you now, am I?”
Now I admit that it was very rude on my part. Nothing justifies it. But it had been five days. All my illusions about writers and writing in general and Naipaul in particular were in tatters. Five days of looking after the great man, missing office, missing lunch, arranging interviews. Handing over my contacts of a lifetime, just because I had idolised him once and wanted him to write a sympathetic chapter on Lucknow.
Of course I realised immediately that I had been extremely rude. But it was too late.
Naipaul said stiffly, “I appreciate all that you have done for me.”
I still feel he should have asked.
So we went back to the room instead and I gave him vignettes of my life from Lucknow and Ranikhet. I noticed that Naipaul used to love it when the story was about the English. More sales I suppose. All these were written down in those notebooks of his, of which he seemed to have an endless supply.
It was time to part. We went downstairs to pay the bill. The manager was there to thank Naipaul for honouring the hotel with his presence. A taxi was called. Naipaul sat down and said, “Airport” to the driver. I said, “Goodbye Vidia”, but there was no reply.
Thinking that he hadn’t heard me I said it again. As the engine started and the car started moving I said it for the last time. He was gone. As it is, I was feeling bad about my behaviour and he clinched it with this. That hurt and after so many years still hurts.
Within months of his visit, India: A Million Mutinies Now was on the stands but I did not have the heart to buy it. I wanted to put Naipaul behind me.
Naipaul had advised me to change my name for the book, as the material might prove to be dynamite. Bowing to his experience, I agreed, though it did not do me any good, as everyone who knew me recognised me in it immediately.
When the wounds healed somewhat, I bought a copy, but to be honest I have not read the whole book. I marvelled at his memory.
The first version of this article was in the form of an interview, mainly because I was very unsure of my writing ability, and wanted to preserve the fiction of Nasir and Rashid. It was sent to the Times of India in Bombay and soon I got a phone call from the then Resident Editor.
Had I really sent this interview?
Was it true?
Did I stand by what I had written?
The Resident Editor must have given much thought to the matter but in the end decided to spike the article. As if Naipaul’s reputation could be spoilt by one disgruntled non-entity.
This article was first published in the June 2002 issue