Salman Rushdie is one of the most renowned writers in the world. The ‘Satanic Verses’ author is also the former husband of Padma Lakshmi, so here’s what you need to know about their love.
Sir Salman Rushdie was, for a brief time, “Mr. Padma Lakshmi.” The author — who won the Booker Price in 1981 with his second novel, Midnight’s Children – married the actress and culinary icon in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, internal and external issues resulted in their marriage going sour. Before the decade was up, they had gone their separate ways, searching for the next chapter in their respective stories.
“For me, it was wonderful because I finally had somebody who understood me because he too was Indian and he was also living in the West, and he was very nimble in navigating those two worlds,” she told PEOPLE when discussing her 2016 memoir, Love, Loss and What We Ate. Salman was born in Bombay, India, in 1947. While working as a copywriter for an advertising agency, he began a literary career that would be marked by international acclaim and death threats. He made his debut with 1975’s Grimus, followed by Midnight’s Children and Shame (1983). It was his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, that earned him infamy, with many in the Muslim world denouncing it for what they believed to be blasphemous references to the life of the prophet Muhammad. With a fatwa on his lead, Rushdie continued to live his life – and find love – as he did with Padma.
How Padma & Salman Met
Rushdie and Laskhmi’s paths first crossed in 1999. The two met at a party in New York City. At the time, he was still married to his third wife, Elizabeth West. Padma, at the time, was an aspiring model and actress. She appeared opposite Mariah Carey in the now-infamous Glitter, and in 2006, she would land the role that would come to define her career: hosting Top Chef, a role she’s had for 15 years.
The couple met in Central Park for their first date and wound up in bed together. “He seduced me with his words,” she told PEOPLE. “I was pretty hooked.”
“I love him to pieces,” a then-28-year-old Padma said of Salman to Tatler magazine in 2000, per the New York Post. “I think he’s shown an amazing amount of grace in the face of unprecedented strife. That’s what turns me on: his dignity…He’s young at heart.” She also took the blame for, at the time, the criticism Salman received for spending too much time on the Hollywood party circuit. “The only reason Salman goes out to clubs is because I drag him out,” she said. “He just loves his books. He misses his library in England sorely.”
Padma & Salman’s Married Life
“For us Indians, he’s like [Ernest] Hemingway,” Padma during that PEOPLE interview. “Imagine a young woman in her twenties, who loves books and who had published her little cookbook [1999’s Easy Exotic: A Model’s Low Fat Recipes From Around the World] and in comes this guy,” she said. “I mean, he was the best thing that ever happened to me by a mile. The fact that somebody of that stature and caliber was even interested remotely enough in me to want to take me to lunch was kind of unbelievable.”
Padma and Salman’s romance lasted from 1999 to 2007. After living together for three years, the couple married in April 2004. There was, unfortunately, no happy ending for this love story.
The early years of their marriage were “blissful,” according to Padma. However, she wrote in her memoir that health and professional issues strained their relationship. Padma suffers from endometriosis, a painful uterine disorder (she would later co-found the Endometriosis Foundation of America to raise awareness.) She was in such chronic pain that at points, she was bedridden and unable to have sex. “I think that Salman took it personally, and I think that he felt rejected,” she told People, “and I can understand that.” In her memoir, she wrote that the lack of intimacy resulted in him calling her a “bad investment.”
Rushdie wrote about their marriage in his 2012 memoir, Joseph Anton, which shares the title of the security code name he used. Written in the third person, per The New York Times, Salman wrote, “Her feelings for him — he would learn — were real, but intermittent. She was ambitious in a way that often obliterated feeling. They would have a sort of life together — eight years from first meeting to final divorce, not a negligible length of time — and in the end, inevitably, she broke his heart as he had broken Elizabeth’s.”
Salman also touched upon the other contributing factor to their marriage’s demise: as her career took off, so did his resentment. “I just wanted to also do something else on my own,” she told PEOPLE. “I just wanted my own identity.” Salman, in his memoir, suggested that she was competitive “and though he was blocking her light…she didn’t like playing second fiddle.” Despite this falling out, Padma told PEOPLE she still loves him and “consider(s) him still part of my family.”
After Padma and Salman’s divorce, she began dating Theodore “Teddy” Forstmann, billionaire CEO of the global sports and media empire IMG. During a break in their relationship, she connected with venture capitalist Adam Dell, the brother of Michael Dell, the founder of Dell computers. During this romance, they conceived a daughter, Krishna. At first, Padma didn’t disclose the father of her child, and Vanity Fair reported that Forstmann wanted to be the father (under the condition that she didn’t reveal to Adam or the public that he was the child’s true father.) But, Padma took a paternity test confirming Adam was the father (the results were later revealed in Adam’s early-2012 custody battle.) Forstmann died in November 2011 after a battle with brain cancer.
Adam and Padma rekindled their relationship in 2017. The three were quarantining together during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. That year, Padma celebrated her 50th birthday with a touching tribute, one that was full of gratitude. “I cannot ask for anything more,” she wrote. “I am truly blessed: a loving and attentive partner, a child that continues to be a miracle every day and work that I am proud of and fully engaged by with people I love.” She and Adam reportedly ended their on-again/off-again relationship at the start of 2021. In June, she was reportedly dating poet Terrence Hayes.
Salman dated a few women after his marriage with Padma ended. In 2019, he was reportedly linked with Rachel Eliza Griffiths, per Page Six. She was, at the time, a 40-year-old poet and artist.
Kids and Family
Salman fathered a son, Zafar (born 1979), with his first wife, Clarissa Luard, (married 1976-1987.) He and Elizabeth West (married 1997-2004) welcomed son Milan in 1997. Padma has no other children besides her daughter, Krishna.
Facts About Salman Rushdie
The Supreme Leader of Iran Called For His Death
After The Satanic Verses “mocked or at least contained mocking references to the Prophet Muhammad and other aspects of Islam, in addition to and a character clearly based on the Supreme Leader of Iran,” per History.com, the actual then-Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa on Rushdie’s head. Khomeini called on “all brave Muslims” to kill Rushdie. The book sparked protests in Pakistan and India, where it was banned. Rushdie apologized to the Ayatollah and Muslims worldwide in 1989 and 1990, but the protests and violence continued (he would later express regret for apologizing). There were numerous killings, attempted killings, and bombings as a result of the book.
In 1998, Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami said the fatwa was “finished,” per The Guardian, but due to the fatwa’s nature, it can never be over. It’s a decree issued by a religious scholar and can only be repealed by that same scholar. Khomeini died in 1989 without repealing the fatwa.
He Still Continues To Write
Following The Satanic Verses, Rushdie continued to publish novels and collections of essays. The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995), The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999), Fury (2001), Shalimar the Clown (2005), The Enchantress of Florence (2008), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015), The Golden House (2017), and Quichotte (2019) are part of his bibliography.
He’s A Knight
Rushdie was knighted for his services to literature on June 16, 2007, as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Birthday Honors. Muslims in many nations protested the move.
He’s a Spurs Fan.
Since 2000, Salman has lived in New York City. He supports the Tottenham Hotspur football club.