| QUEENS’ WAYS: A picture of Maharani Indira on Moore’s book
Indira vs Indira
However, some of the rulers were very good and genuinely cared about their people, which is perhaps more than can be said about today’s politicians. The cover photograph is of the late maharani Indira, a Baroda princess who eventually became Regent of Cooch Behar after the death of her husband. She was the mother of Gayatri Devi, the present dowager maharani of Jaipur (Ayesha). (I love dipping into the latter’s autobiography, A Princess Remembers.)
Many of the maharanis were indeed wilful women but they combined beauty with brains and personality. Lucy says she is no great lover of royalty as such. “Actually, I am a republican,” she admits. Nevertheless, what comes across in her book is a sympathy for the princesses and perhaps for the princely order. It is not that she thinks the princely states should not have been absorbed into the Indian Union but she feels overall the princes have been treated shabbily. Promises made to them were not kept, not least in the 1970s by the other Indira, who removed all their privileges at one go.
Lucy, whose father worked in Mumbai in the 1990s, wanted to write about Indian women and has used four Indian princesses, including Indira and Gayatri Devi, as her vehicle.
The royal houses are now consigned to history, and this has not necessarily been good for India. “I tried hard to be objective but in the context of what they were asking for, they got a raw deal from the British government and from Congress,” concludes Lucy.
It is hard to disagree with her.
Following the wedding of Mittal’s daughter, Vanisha, in France in June, it is now the turn of Lord Paul to preside over the festivities when his youngest son, Angad, marries media lawyer Michelle Bonn in London on October 10. There will be a reception in Delhi on October 25 and another is planned in London next February.
Lord Paul, who was raised to the peerage in 1996, and his wife, Aruna, are currently on holiday but when they return to London, they will have to busy themselves with whom not to invite. Mittal excluded the entire British and Indian media.
Swraj, a Calcutta man, is taking the trouble between now and early October to launch a Penguin India book, Raj Bhavan of Kolkata: Two Hundred Years of Grandeur, “inspired by HE The Governor of West Bengal Hon. Mr Viren Shah and Mrs Anjana Shah”.
Asked whether his wedding will be as big as the Mittal affair, Angad, who now helps run Caparo, jokes: “We haven’t got the money.” He adds: “It will be small, for family and friends. It will be at London Zoo for sentimental reasons; there will be a Hindu puja and a Jewish service, as Michelle is Jewish, and a registry wedding.”
Young Angad seems to have picked wisely. “Michelle loves the law, fighting for the underdog,” he says. Angad, who also has a film company, tells me he has severed his business links with his old director friend, Kaizad Gustad. “I am not surprised he has ended up in jail,” he adds.
Brick by brick
Monica has in the past enjoyed trips to India to see the Taj (“so astonishing it makes you catch your breath”) and taken “long overnight train journeys to Calcutta and Orissa, and what’s so fantastic about those train journeys is how you can see the whole Indian life cycle from the train”. Bangladesh' Alas, no.
“Just before Brick Lane was published, I wanted to go back to Bangladesh with my husband to see where I was born,” says Monica. “But I couldn’t get a visa — it was a big blow at the time, but I’m still hoping that I’ll be able to some day.”
Last week, following the bomb attack in Dhaka on Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the opposition leader, several members of the Awami League in London made the following allegations to me: 1. Bangladesh is coming increasingly under the grip of fundamentalist forces. 2. Members of Begum Khaleda’s government have links with the fundamentalists. 3. Both al Qaida and the ISI are now active in Bangladesh. 4. There is no doubt that the attack on Sheikh Hasina was an attempt to assassinate her. 5. Arms are slipping across the border from Bangladesh to terrorist groups in Northeast India. 6. Money is being raised through some London mosques and organisations and sent to terrorists back in Bangladesh. 7. Fundamentalist speakers are coming from Bangladesh to give rabble-rousing speeches at some London mosques and are then flying back home again.
What these Awami Leaguers want is support for “the secular forces in Bangladesh”. At the moment, however, Bangladesh is not on the British radar screen.
Giving it back
On the face of it, the latest intimate pictures of Grant and Jemima looked snatched. But these days, celebrities do deals with photographers whereby posed pictures are made to look as though they have been taken by the paparazzi.
It could be that Imran made Jemima so unhappy by imposing a rigid regime on her that she is now getting her own back by publicly humiliating him.
A friend has told the Daily Mail: “She has two children by Imran and he’ll really hate the pictures.”And columnist Amanda Platell wrote in the Evening Standard: “After years with the relentlessly humourless Imran Khan, Jemima deserves all the bottom-squeezing she can get.”
Born in Bolton to Pakistani parents (hence as many Pakistani as Union flags are waved at his bouts in Athens), there is something of Mohammed Ali’s cheekie chappie about him. He reckons he is on his way to being the best in the world, and, if the assessments of boxing experts are anything to go by, that could well be true.
The British are taking him to their heart. There is an irony about Amir, as one sports writer pointed out: “Too young to compete for Britain in a senior event, but old enough to win an Olympic medal.”