Many of you know that I’m married to the novelist Marina Budhos, and that our personal stories frame our book on sugar — the first one we’ve written together. Well in a way another story of ours shapes my reactions to the leaks. “How did you two meet” we get asked often enough, as surely most couple do. Here’s how — we were both in the world of Indian writers (that is novels for adults written by people from India or of Indian background)– Marina as she was writing and publishing her first novel, House of Waiting, and me through my friends Sanjay Nigam (Snake Charmer) and Shashi Tharoor (Great Indian Novel). Marina happened to know Shashi’s then wife and I knew him. In fact I was hoping he would write the volume on India in the Land and People series which was then editing for Harper kids books. Shashi was, in his day job, employed at the UN where he worked closely with his boss, Kofi Anan. Very often Marina and I would be invited to their house for parties — we were each the extra used to round out gender and number equations.
This set of parties happened to take place during the Bosnia-Serbia-Croatia crisis. So at Shashi and Minu’s there was good food, your cup was constantly filled with nice wine, and in the room were all sorts of number 2 and 3 people from various missions, as well as reporters from key newspapers. Everyone knew that we were all there to speak our minds as individuals about art, society, culture, politics — and, most crucially, the current crisis. We debated the Vance-Owen plan for solving the issue. Everyone also knew that the mission members would bring the conversations back to their bosses, the reporters would file away what they’d heard as background. Nothing was said officially yet everything was said as some part of the underground building and planning to resolve the situation. No good would have come from a reporter telling the world what we said — with one too many drinks too late at night. And yet the parties were carefully planned and managed by our host precisely in order to shape world events.
It was great to get to be there — but not because I would tell anyone anything I heard. But just because one saw diplomacy, flirtation, gossip, noise, and crucial efforts to build bridges taking place all together, all at once. And in the midst of all that, Marina and I got talking about Henry James and Edith Wharton — and now we have two kids. So that’s my take on Wikileaks — it is fascinating to see the diplomatic world at work, as a participant observer, not as a document dump.