The statement can be seen as a blow to Davidar, who is fighting allegations of sexual harassment and had earlier denied wrongdoing, even as he quit Penguin. His resignation was made public on June 9.
The statement did not elaborate on what exactly is a “consensual flirtatious relationship”.
Rundle had sued Penguin for $423,000, claiming that she was sexually harassed by Davidar, who was then CEO. She also sued Davidar for $100,000. While the author had earlier denied the charges, the latest statement is clearly an acceptance.
The statement strongly refutes the charge of sexual harassment. Davidar apologised to his wife (at the beginning and at the end of the three-page statement) and admitted to having kissed Rundle twice. The statement insisted that Davidar did not “force his way into Rundle’s room”, nor did he force the kiss.
Rundle had claimed that Davidar had pushed his tongue into her mouth, after forcibly entering her room while the two were attending the Frankfurt book fair in October 2009. The statement said Rundle told Davidar that she enjoyed the kiss and that she continued to meet him thereafter.
Author Ashok Banker, who came out strongly against Davidar in his blog (he claims the site’s server crashed due to the tremendous response), was quick to update his blog to say Davidar admitted all.
Banker had blogged that he was aware of Davidar’s past liaisons and was not surprised with the charge of sexual harassment. He had written that the Indian media and publishing world were refusing to report the facts merely to protect one of their own.
His blog had responses from two women who claimed they never had a problem while working at Penguin India in New Delhi, when Davidar was boss.
Magazine publisher Maneck Davar rubbished the charge that the media and publishing world had closed ranks. “While in any industry there will always be some powerful people, most of us are not speaking out because few know the facts.”
Shobhaa De, touted as a Davidar ‘discovery’, wrote that while the author and his wife Rachna were good friends, she was unwilling to comment on a case she does not know much about.
Davidar is the author of The House of Blue Mangoes (2002), which was translated into 16 languages and was a New York Times Notable Book. His second novel, The Solitude of Emperors (2007), was a finalist for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.