Interesting questions of gender and identity are raised at the Jaipur literary festival in India when I'm judged to have lost the egg and spoon race.

I don't wish to complain. But it's vitally important for writers and intellectuals to take a stand on issues of social justice, so I filed a letter of formal complaint, and personally complained to the judges and festival organisers, as well as the concierge and the waiters at my hotel.

The waiter said at breakfast, "More tea, Madam?"

I said to him, "Did I lose because I was a woman? It would seem to be the case. After all, the winner was a man."


He said, "Should I pour, madam?"

I said, "Let's dig a little deeper. The winner, novelist VS Naipaul, is 82 years old. The mind is willing, but do the legs obey? Whereas I'm in the prime of my life, physically, intellectually, and emotionally. Oh for Christ's sake! What are you doing?"

He said, "Pouring the tea, Madam."

I said, "I'm really struggling with this. I didn't ask you to pour the tea. I didn't instruct you to pour the tea. But now I'm stuck with the tea, and all the accoutrements of the tea - a cup, saucer, a spoon."

I held up the spoon, and examined it. There could be little doubt it was the same exact spoon that I used in the race. Coincidence? I think not.

Someone was sending a message.


Fergus Barrowman, my publisher at Victoria University Press, and widely recognised as the most reasonable, rational man in New Zealand letters, emails to say that he's pretty sure that a Kiwi was among the judges of the egg and spoon race - or knew the judges, and was in a position to influence the result.

"Make of that," he writes, "what you will."


It's obvious that envy and resentment are behind this. New Zealanders will never forgive me for winning the Man Booker Prize. The punishment began when one or two book reviews in New Zealand were critical of my incredible book The Luminaries. It continued when judges of last year's national book awards snubbed The Luminaries and gave the book of the year award to another author - and fobbed me off with the award for best book of fiction.

And now this.

Time to make discreet inquiries of the New Zealand High Commission in Delhi. Surely they can account for the movements of New Zealanders in India these past 48 hours.


The New Zealand High Commission in Delhi refuse to even attempt to account for the movements of New Zealanders in India these past 48 hours.

"Make of that," I email Fergus, "what you will."


"And another thing," I told the waiter at breakfast. "Fergus has been in touch with hard evidence based on a desperate hunch. He thinks it's possible that Naipaul - or a New Zealander who happened to be passing - glued his egg to the spoon."


He nodded.

"I'm glad you agree," I continued. "I find it hard to find a sympathetic audience at home. The way things are going, they're going to crucify me."

He nodded.

"Oh, you think so, too?", I said. "Good. New Zealanders just can't see things clearly. I mean they basically think of 2013 as the year 'they' won the Man Booker Prize! Ha, ha! So many people have said that to me, or to Fergus, who passes it on."

I paused for a sip of tea, crashed the cup back on the saucer, and ranted, "Oh for God's sake don't just stand there! Can't you see my tea has gone cold?"


I checked out of the hotel yesterday, and flew back to New Zealand.


I arrived today. The man at customs said, "Welcome home. Do you have anything to declare?"

"Yes," I replied, in a loud, clear voice. "Yes, I most certainly do."