During his recent stay in Mumbai, Salman Rushdie discovered the un-magical realism of the lives of the city’s eunuchs.
This, while William Dalrymple shifted his gaze from the Mughals to the plight of Devadasis in northern Karnataka and Nalini Jones met a newly-wed couple in Bangalore who discovered they were both HIV-positive.
It’s not a reality-inspired fiction that’s on the writers’ minds. It’s AIDS.
Along with 12 other celebrated authors, they are participating in a unique initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to promote public dialogue about the disease in India and abroad.
Rushdie, however, left Mumbai ahead of schedule due to threats from fundamentalist forces, the police said.
The authors will visit communities or families affected by HIV/AIDS in the country to explore different aspects of the epidemic. Their writings will be like news magazine reports compiled together, said Parmeshwar Godrej, who has been closely involved with the project.
“I met widows and orphans and will write about how life goes on despite HIV,” said Jones, from Bangalore.
Vikram Seth, Kiran Desai, Amit Chaudhuri, Siddhartha Deb, Nikita Lalwani, Sonia Faleiro, Shobhaa De, Jaspreet Singh, Siddharth Dhanvant Shangvi, CS Lakshmi, Sunil Ganguly and Mukul Kesavan are the other contributors to the cause.
The anthology, with a foreword by Amartya Sen, will be published in August. The Gates Foundation hopes it will humanise the epidemic. Around 2.5 million Indians are living with HIV, with some of India’s most marginalised communities hardest hit by it.