Now I’m an easygoing guy. Which nowadays means I have strong likes and weak dislikes. So in hindsight maybe I should have just gone with the flow and had the “on the rocks” drink with a little water to release the fine yada yada smoke flavor. But how would I know that my acquaintance – now an ex-acquaintance – was going to be deeply offended by my mixing whiskey with cola? In fact, not knowing what can cause someone to be offended is where the problem lies.
Unlike, say, Salman Rushdie, I’m not a big fan of free speech. While true writers tend to make it their business to take readers out of their comfort zones and assumptions, I have no intention of expressing my views, opinions, thoughts, and beliefs. If the insurance expert Franz Kafka thought that “a book must be the ax of the frozen sea in us”, my penchant is for books and writings to be the frozen pieces behind which one can hide one’s thoughts and feelings. .
Would Rushdie, for example, have skipped the novel That Shan’t Be Named (NTSBN) and gone straight on to write Shame’s (1983) glorious The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995) if he had directed the Salman Ruckus that he would have created writes NTSBN? I doubt.
I don’t think Rushdie would have cared about a pair of flying and falling jinns that NTSBN could possibly conjure up a violent literary review that would see the novel’s Japanese translator murdered, its Italian translator stabbed multiple times, its Norwegian publisher shot three times, his Turkish translator targeted by a mob which set fire to the hotel he was staying in and killed 37 people in the process.
Oh, and Rushdie himself was stabbed multiple times last week in the US – 34 years after the Rajiv Gandhi government banned the import of NTSBN into India (reading, owning or downloading the novel remains legal ); 33 years after the Iranian state put a bounty on his head; and 24 years after Rushdie came out of ‘hiding’ after Iran’s president said the Rushdie case was ‘completely over’ and his foreign minister said no action would be taken to threaten life of the writer and that no one would be encouraged to do the same.
But, it turns out, a lot of people didn’t get the memo — or, more accurately, threw the memo in the trash.
This would actually be the perfect time for the Indian government, no longer an appeasement of Islamic fundamentalists who pose as harsh literary critics, to lift the import ban on NTSBN. It will be a legitimate show of force against crazy, evil and dangerous mullahs and their supporters like the chancellor of Jamia Urdu Aligarh, Rafiq Zakaria, who in 1988 said: “If Salman Rushdie says what he wrote is fiction, then he is a liar”. ‘ – a curious reversal of the usual accusation that made-up stuff is presented as fact these days.
As for my latest project, I honed my skills in precognition – the practice of predicting the effects of actions made famous by Philip K Dick in his short story “Minority Report”, in which the US state uses for the foreseeable future ‘precogs’ to tackle pre-criminal – criminal acts before they take place. Until then, I will not write what I believe, suspect or know, of fear that someone, somewhere out of nowhere, will take something I’m spelling or pronouncing wrong and set out to “cancel” me, figuratively or literally.
As for having my whiskey with cola and drinking it too, I will continue to have it in the privacy of my own company and that of a few trustworthy and accommodating people. After all, it is a free country. Still.