Thursday, 28 June 2012

On Naipaul’s watching a mujrah, his visit to red-light district and his foresightedness

A Lucknow newspaper has started a column named ‘The Awadh I saw.’ People who have lived in Lucknow for long are recounting their experiences of the city in the column.

The latest column that I found quite interesting was written by Ram Advani, the owner of Advani Bookshop, one of the oldest bookshops of Lucknow.

Advani in the column has written about his meetings with VS Naipaul when the writer visited Lucknow.

According to Advani, Naipaul had visited Lucknow in 1965 or 66. Naipaul wanted to see the red-light district of Lucknow and asked Advani to take him there. Advani had refused.

Naipaul came up with another demand – he wanted to watch mujrah.

Advani in Naipaul’s presence phoned Sunny Singh, the co-owner of Carlton Hotel in Lucknow and asked him if he could arrange mujrah for Naipaul.

Sunny Singh said it would be a costly affair. Naipaul said, ‘Money is not an issue.’

The mujrah was organised for Naipaul in room number 102 of Carlton Hotel. Advani writes that Naipaul was happy to watch the mujrah. After watching the mujrah, Naipaul visited the red-light district of Lucknow.

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Naipaul visited Lucknow once again in the eighties for doing research for the book he was writing on India. Nasir Abid, a copywriter with an advertisement agency in Lucknow was Naipaul’s guide. Naipaul stayed in Lucknow for five days and Abid took him around the city.

Advani in the column quotes Abid – ‘Summing up Naipaul as a human being, I would better not like to comment. But as a craftsman, he was excellent.’

Advani ends the column by saying, ‘Today, when I look back, I feel honoured that a man of Naipaul’s stature visited my shop and exchanged notes. As an individual I was disappointed with him. But as a writer, there can be no doubt that he was par excellence.’

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Is Naipaul a man with great foresight?

Today, newspapers, magazines and news channels are conducting surveys to find out, ‘Who is the greatest Indian (living or dead)?’ Many Indians has accepted that Mahatma Gandhi is the greatest Indian and so the hunt is also on for the ‘second greatest Indian after Gandhi.’

Did he foresee that today we would be debating who is the greatest Indian or the second greatest Indian?

Naipaul’s first novel, published in 1957 was ‘The Mystic Masseur.’

The protagonist of the novel, Ganesh writes a book named ‘101 Questions and Answers on the Hindu Religion.’

Question number forty-six of Ganesh’s book is, ‘Who is the greatest modern Hindu?’

Answer – Mahatma Gandhi.

Question number forty-seven – Who is the second greatest modern Hindu?

Answer – Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru.

Question number forty-eight – Who is the third greatest modern Hindu?

This question remains unanswered.

Naipaul was off the mark, but only a bit.

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Some time back, I received a friend’s request on facebook from a person named Harry D.

I was puzzled. I did not know any person by that name. I clicked on Harry D’s profile and photograph.

Harry D was actually Hari Darshan Chaturvedi. He was two years junior to me in school and at present works as a software engineer with an American company.

So Hari Darshan Chaturvedi had become a more hip Harry D on facebook.

The full name of Ganesh, the protagonist of The Mystic Masseur, is Ganesh Ramsumair. He goes to England and becomes G. Ramsay Muir.

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