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To Sir, with queries


THIS PAST month I met Sir V.S. Naipaul twice - once at Khushwant Singh's home and then at Bhaichand Patel's. In fact, when the latter invited Naipaul for a dinner get-together he'd already done the deed - somewhere in between the Bambaiyya star parade he was slotted to air his views on the political scenario, from the political platform of the BJP. Sir Vidia is a respected literary figure and it did come as a disappointment to hear his comments which bordered on the Right Wing slant and what seemed pathetic is that he is said to have given a clean chit of sorts for the destruction of the Babri Masjid. A lordship giving his approval to destruction! The entire fabric of minority community got a lifetime jolt, for, who would have imagined that in a democracy a structure was actually encouraged to be destroyed... And so with this backdrop one had warned Bhaichand that his little partying could get thoroughly spoilt.

"No, no problem... ," was the host's okaying go ahead. There arrived Sir Vidia and his lady Nadira. To begin with Naipaul seemed to have recognised me to a certain extent. With that I'd thought the conversation would flow rather effortlessly... But with women being blessed with the sixth sense Nadira took hold of the chair placed on the other side of Sir Vidia and in spite of the host trying to make her sit elsewhere she shook her head and immediately took on the mothering act - putting daal into the bowl and fried bhindi and salad and curd on his plate and repeatedly asking him whether he wanted this and that. As she got up to fill up her plate one started the conversation on how little he was eating. "After a certain age one shouldn't eat much ..I have begun to eat little ... " And what is he writing these days? "Nothing really...after a certain age it gets difficult." But isn't writing an ongoing exercise? "No, it gets difficult to write after a certain age ... I'm already 72-year-old ... suppose I was doing business I would have carried on but with writing it gets difficult."

Is he planning to switch over to politics, in the backdrop of his going to the BJP office here? "No ... no ... not at all." What does he feel will be the outcome of these elections? "Can't say... haven't really travelled around... just went till Nasik and otherwise been here... ".

Hasn't it been one of his longish stays here in India?

"Yes, but we leave in about 36 hours...yes back home... " And just about that second Nadira returned. Any further queries directed at him were answered in that `keep off ' style by her! It seemed sad he couldn't or didn't manage to answer any further. With a smile playing on his face he seemed to be overtaken by all that mothering.

HUMRA QURAISHI

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