celebrity might have kept such matters private for fear of ridicule. It would be uncharacteristic of Imran to do so.
Liberals who laughed last year are shaking their heads at the prospect of Imran Khan as Prime Minister in 2013. (There is no danger of Imran being co-opted by the establishment before that because he believes the Zardari government to be the worst in Pakistan’s history.) Fundamentalists who once wanted to ban cricket coverage on TV because the sight of Imran rubbing a red cherry on his trouser-front was titillating many a feminine libido, are scratching their beards in wonder.
Imran remains unfazed. He does not give his critics the pleasure of revenge; he ignores them with an aristocratic hauteur that doubtless doubles their rage. It isn’t that he is icy cool by temperament. He once came close to hitting me when I asked an awkward question during a TV interview in which Gavaskar was the other guest. Fortunately, he preferred restraint and our friendship survived. This is probably the moment for full disclosure. He has praised my book, Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan, handsomely in this autobiography. I cannot say that this review is immune from affection.
But it is no exaggeration to note that Imran is a man with significant achievements and splendid ambitions. Irrespective of what he does in the future, his finest work will be, in the opinion of many, the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital, which specialises in cancer care for the poor, and is a tribute to his mother, who died after a long and painful struggle with cancer in 1985. Imran raised the funds personally, rupee by difficult rupee.
Imran’s track record in politics would have destroyed anyone with less confidence. He has lost more elections than he is ever going to win, some so comprehensively as to be humiliating. He once contested from seven different constituencies and lost all. When, in an Armycontrolled general election, he did get through, Musharraf rather spoilt the limited pleasure by disclosing that he had rigged the results.
Imran says that he led his team to victory in the 1992 World Cup when all seemed lost and he was playing with a torn cartilage in his shoulder, because he had lost the fear of failure. Such courage has helped him survive till this moment, when his popularity has suddenly acquired critical mass. His former wife Jemima once asked him how long he would pursue politics despite such abject failure. “But I couldn’t answer,” writes Imran, “simply because a dream has no time frame.”
It is time for that dream to come true.