| Padma and Rushdie in happier times. File picture
London, July 2: Make no mistake: it is Padma Lakshmi who has walked out on Salman Rushdie, not the other way round.
“Salman Rushdie has agreed to divorce his wife, Padma Lakshmi, because of her desire to end their marriage,” the author’s spokesperson in New York, Jin Auh, said on his behalf after more than a year of speculation.
“He asks that the media respect his privacy at this difficult time.”
The phrasing of the announcement says it all — he did not want to divorce her, he probably pleaded with her to stay, but she had made up her mind.
Of course, no one outside the marriage really knows why Padma found the prospect of continuing to be married to Rushdie so unappealing.
He had three previous wives, it’s true, but Padma was the only one Rushdie really wanted. She was his first Indian girlfriend. Perhaps that was the secret why a man, used to being lionised by western women, was fascinated by her.
Even Islamic hardliners infuriated with the knighthood bestowed on him by the British government for “services to literature” may have some sympathy for the man who has lost the young woman he really desired.
He is 60. She is 36. When they married in Manhattan in 2004, he bent down and put on her shoe in a tender gesture of love. For him, winning her was probably better than winning the Booker for Midnight’s Children in 1981 or even the “Booker of Bookers” 25 years later.
Rushdie’s close friends will allege Padma married him as a good career move. Before marriage to Rushdie, she was not an A-list celebrity, not even a D perhaps. Now that she has established a career of sorts and got a slot presenting a TV show called Top Chef, it is time for her to dispense with him and move on to someone younger and richer, they will say.
She loses the chance to go to Buckingham Palace for the investiture but has obviously decided the split, long rumoured, can no longer be postponed.
Rushdie’s first wife was the late Clarissa Luard, to whom he was married from 1976 to 1987 and with whom he has a son, Zafar Rushdie.
His second wife was the American novelist Marianne Wiggins; they were married in 1988 and divorced in 1993. She hid with him during the fatwa years, but then got fed up and left.
His third wife, from 1997 to 2004, was Elizabeth West; they have a son, Milan Rushdie.
There have been many reports that Rushdie’s marriage to Padma was in trouble — the latest in The Mail on Sunday only yesterday.
The couple’s relationship began eight years ago after they met at a celebrity party in New York.