Veteran matrimonialist Salman Rushdie has a fresh take on marriage. It’s really all about ‘till dress do us apart’ says the celebrated author who has waltzed up the aisle four times. Will there be a fifth time? No, says Uncle Sal, marriage is not necessary. Yes, the grand institution of matrimony is all about women wanting to slip into a wedding gown but not the onerous duties of marriage. Now Salman may have hung up his tuxedo but that does not mean that he is past a bit of slap and tickle judging by the various lovelies on his arm. After all, as Groucho Marx said, “A man is only as old as the woman he feels.” And judging by the author’s record, neither age not custom has stalled his infinite variety.
Do we detect a slightly bitter note in his aversion to nuptials? We know that the beauteous Padma Lakshmi, Biwi No 4, left him mid-way while writing The Enchantress of Florence. A novel experience for a man who is known to love ’em and leave ’em. His proposition that weddings without marriages is a better option may find takers. For many women, this could be a winning proposition. First some poor klutz hands over a nifty engagement ring, then comes a wedding ring and gifts galore from all and sundry. So you corner that washing machine you have always wanted and that nice Wedgewood dinner set and maybe a ticket to the Caribbean for a honeymoon that you have no intention of taking in the company of your dearly beloved. Then come the day, there you are, your diet-diminished figure in a ravishing and expensive sari, salwar kameez or gown. If it can be a destination wedding in, say, Puerto Rico or Barcelona, nothing like it. You go through all that death do us part thing and then cast off the groom and move onto new pastures. Sal may not know it, but he has echoed what Mae West had maintained many years ago, “Marriage is a great institution but I’m not ready for an institution.” Yes, indeed. Salman is the new Gloria Steinem of literature. On a more devious note, it is possible that this is not really the boor’s last sigh but Sal’s way of ensuring that his millions are not frittered away in further pay-offs to future wives.
Will he stick to his resolve? Well, his track record is not too encouraging — a bit like Elizabeth Taylor who said she never slept with a man she had not married, which explains her multitude of husbands, Sal too seems a commitment junkie. Unlike his compatriot Vidya Naipaul, whose disdain for both marriage and women is well known, Salman seems to be quite sure of the ground beneath his feats. But clearly for moment, it’s four times bitten, fifth time shy for the man. With a new book for children on the way, Sal seems to have opted for the permanence of the written word a la Omar Khayyam. “The moving finger writes and having writ moves on/ nor thy piety nor wit shall… cancel… a word of it.” Quite a difference from the ‘I dos’ and don’ts of matrimony.