London: In the second and final extract from his new book, Salman Rushdie recalls the collapse of his relationship with his third wife Elizabeth West and his fateful meeting with Padma Lakshmi, who then became his fourth.
Rushdie writes about himself in the third person, titling his book Joseph Anton – the alias he devised in hiding, the Daily Mail reported.
In early August 1999, the author of ‘The Satanic Verses’ met the model under the Statue of Liberty.
His current wife Elizabeth had stayed in Bridgehampton with Milan and he drove into the city with Zafar, Martin Amis and Isabel Fonseca.
Then under a Chinese lantern beneath the great copper lady he came face-to-face with Padma Lakshmi and at once he realised he’d seen her before, or her picture in an Italian magazine in which he had also been featured.
At that point, Rushdie remembered thinking “If I ever meet this girl my goose is cooked.”
They talked for only a few minutes but managed to exchange phone numbers and the next day when he called her the line was busy because at that exact moment she was calling him.
At home there was another great quarrel about the things that had become the things they always fought about.
A week later Padma said to him at Mark Hotel in New York “There’s a bad me inside me and when she comes out she just takes whatever she wants,” and even that warning didn’t send him sprinting home to his marital bed.
He flew to Los Angeles to see Padma and on his first night there she provoked a bewildering quarrel. He moved out of her apartment into the Bel-Air Hotel, booked an earlier flight back to London, and called Padma to say that the spell had been broken, he had come to his senses and he was going back to his wife.
He called Elizabeth and told her that his plans had changed, but within hours the Illusion was at his door begging for forgiveness. By the end of the week she had turned him around again.
He went back to London and the Illusion sent him emails of blistering desire. “Just wait. I only want to please you. I’m just waiting until I can kill you with happiness.”
When he looked back on those days through the disillusioned eyes of his post-divorce self he didn’t fully understand his own behaviour.