Where was Rushdie on Tuesday night?

Author Salman Rushdie, in famous pursuit by controversy and rumour consistently for years now, gave fresh juice to the grapevine in the past two days.

The novelist – hounded by religious fanatics across the world — is in the city to promote his film Midnight’s Children, based on his Booker-winning book and directed by Deepa Mehta. Late on Tuesday, there were whispers about him being admitted at the Masina Hospital in Byculla.

Cops get a call on Tuesday night that Rushdie was to visit a friend near Masina hospital in Byculla

They rush security personnel to the area to tighten vigil

The elaborate arrangement of the men in uniform leads to rumours that Rushdie was admitted at the hospital. But hospital sources rubbished the claim

Later, sources close to the writer said he was having dinner with a childhood friend in the area. Illustration/Amit Bandre

What first churned the rumour mill was the heavy police bandobast near the hospital on Tuesday night. Sources informed MiD DAY about the security detail. They claimed that around 30 policemen and personnel of the Rapid Action Force were standing guard at the hospital. When contacted, Byculla police officials said the security arrangement was in view of a visit by a very important person but could not confirm anything.

It seems that the word on the street reinforced itself overnight, for on Wednesday morning the buzz was that the author himself was admitted to the hospital. So much so that the men in khaki even dropped by at the facility to ask in hushed tones whether the author was indeed admitted there, as a hospital source claimed.

But cops at Byculla police station helped in unscrambling the buzz. Senior Police Inspector Lakhanlal Mathure from the station said, “We got information on Tuesday that Salman Rushdie was visiting one of his friends near Masina hospital. So we put up a police bandobast in the area for his security. However, we did not receive further information of whether he visited the area or not.”

It was hospital authorities that finally put the rumours to rest. A senior doctor at Masina Hospital said, “Rushdie did not visit the hospital on Tuesday night nor has he been admitted at our facility. Even police officials from Byculla police station arrived to confirm if he was admitted to our hospital.”

MiD DAY learnt from sources close to Rushdie that he had visited a childhood friend living near Masina hospital for dinner. He was not visiting anyone at the hospital nor was he admitted there.

Incidentally, the author was to head to Kolkata to promote the film but had to cancel his trip after the West Bengal government did not allow him to visit amid fears of a backlash from religious groups, sources claimed.

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