American TV host and author Padma Lakshmi hit headlines when she started dating Booker Prize winner, writer Salman Rushdie. At least, Indians took a keen interest in her around then, for her Bollywood debut Boom is quite forgettable. So far, she has only authored cookbooks but her latest book, Love, Loss, and What We Ate is her autobiography. The host of Emmy Award-winning show Top Chef has shared several details about her life. She talks about her affairs with Rushdie, Teddy Forstmann and Adam Dell, as well as, being abused sexually as a child, her modelling days, body issues and more.
The book starts with her affair with Rushdie, the circumstances around the marriage, the pressure of the fatwa, her vulnerability as a struggler in American showbiz industry, and the guilt of breaking his marriage.
One recalls that Rushide had called her vapid, vain and irrational in his memoir Joseph Anton. In her memoir, however, she presents her side of things. The table seems to turn, as one realizes that Rushdie had been quite insensitive to her medical condition that had rendered sex painful. Instead of caring for her, he calls her a “bad investment”.
She doesn’t deny that she was smitten by him, that the idea of dating someone acclaimed enticed her. Or that she was worried her showbiz career would go downhill after her divorce. Rushdie has said: “A book is a version of the world. If you do not like it... offer your own version in return. This is what Padma seems to have done. She does, at places, tells the reader to sympathies with him, but the details she offers, makes it difficult for one to.
With candour she also discusses her dates and affair with billionaire Teddy Forstmann, and the court case over paternity of her daughter with venture capitalist Adam Dell (brother of founder of Dell Computers). It’s interesting to know what ensued between her and the high-profile men she dated.
However, the book becomes boring, taxing and painfully descriptive at many places. She digresses far too many times. Nice to get those recipes she offers, but inconsequential details about what she ate as a child are agonizing. Also, one has to remember that the book her side of the story, not a holistic picture. A casually thrown fact, like cheating on two men at the same time, can’t be dismissed as being a vulnerable person’s attempt to find a footing. Yet, it’s good to hear her talk about her humble family back in Chennai, her several struggles and surviving strategies. Also, some personal pictures would have been welcomed. In the book, she owns up her life and courts the controversies that came with it.
Title: Love, Loss, and What We Ate
Author: Padma Lakshmi
Publisher: Harper Collins
Price: Rs 699