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Adding metal to Mittal

Did Kamal Nath’s intervention help Lakshmi Mittal win his battle with the French-dominated Arcelor'

There are reasons for thinking that it did.

Kamal Nath made it clear to Jacques Chirac when the French president visited India earlier this year: “You mess with Mittal and I will send my boys around to pay you a little visit ' I know where you live.”

Well, he didn’t quite use those words but last week at a press conference at India House, the commerce and industry minister disclosed: “This is what I told the French when the French president came to India. I said I am only responding to your reaction: ‘You stop reacting, I’ll stop responding.’ And I said governments should not involve themselves in this. So they stop saying what they were saying about ‘Indian management culture’ and that ‘this is not an Indian company but a company of Indians’. If they had just said, ‘This is a Netherland company and we’ll settle it with the European Union,’ I would be quite happy because it is a Dutch (registered) company.”

“The Arcelor-Mittal deal is a demonstration of India’s entrepreneurial and intellectual abilities,” he declared proudly. “It also reflects that globalisation is not a one-way street. And countries will have to realise this sooner rather than later. The same governments (which opposed Mittal) are now applauding the deal.”

And he predicted: “It’s something that is going to happen in the future. Investment of Indian companies in the UK was more than the investment of UK companies in India last year. You get on the Net and see vice-president Dick Cheney’s speech ' he said India is creating jobs in the United States.”

He wouldn’t be drawn on Mittal’s complaint to me that progress on his Jharkhand project was a “little slow” ' “I really don’t know what he wants out of Jharkhand but, really, things like this are best left to shareholders.”

Had he congratulated the Indian steel tycoon on his momentous victory' “Yes, we have spoken and I have congratulated him,” confirmed Kamal Nath, with Nehru portrait’s looking down benignly on him. “I think he deserves congratulations. Why not'”

A dog’s life

Kamal Nath was accompanied on his visit by a team which included his head of press, Shipra Biswas, a kind lady who spends half her salary feeding 150 stray dogs in Delhi every morning and protecting them from wanton cruelty.

She tells a terrible story of puppies tossed into a bag and left on live railway tracks.

“For these poor creatures it is a hopeless struggle everyday just to stay alive,” she said. “There was a gruesome case of a pregnant dog who was beaten to death last year in the campus of the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. How much the poor creature must have suffered in her dying moments' Honestly, animals are so much better than humans.”

A friend, to whom I related the story of Shipra, asked the obvious question which I had forgotten: “Who feeds the dogs when Shipra is away'”

SCI-FI: Susan Greenfield

New frames

Britain’s most high profile woman scientist, Baroness Susan Greenfield, who is professor of pharmacology at Oxford and director of the Royal Institution, will be in India in October to promote a new film on British science.

As a scientist myself, who has, sadly, forgotten all the maths and nuclear physics I probably didn’t understand in the first place, anyway, I found it absolutely fascinating to listen to her talk about the human brain last week at another of (Calcutta girl) Pinky Lilani’s schemes ' Women of the Future Awards.

Not content with running the Asian Women of Achievement Awards, Pinky has now come up with a new way of picking out talent among women under 35 of all races, not just Asians.

The keynote address at its launch was delivered by Prof Greenfield, 54, a distinguished neuro-scientist, on the subject of the human brain, her speciality.

In the old days, children read books but now they watch television and this can have long-term consequences, she suggested.

“Your brain is dynamic and evolving, you are an individual,” she said. “Our brains are highly sensitive to inputs.”

In other words, feed the brain the equivalent of hamburgers and don’t be surprised if the old grey cells tell you Rang De Basanti is a good film.

Prof Greenfield enjoys being in India and is impressed with the general enthusiasm for science, especially among women, and how scientists “balance” their work and their religion.

At Oxford, where she is conducting research into whether early detection and possible arrest of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases are possible ' “this isn’t the reality yet but my dream” ' she has set up two organisations to consider all aspects of the brain. These are the Oxford Centre for Science of the Mind, a multi-disciplinary research organisation, and the Institute for the Future of the Mind.

The lady is a very important scientist. When she visits India, her hosts should ingratiate themselves with her by giving her lots of mini-skirts which she loves wearing ' partly because that enrages fuddy, duddy men scientists whose brains are not as good as hers.

RADIO GA-GA: Sharon Ann Holgate

Particle woman

The summer afternoon passes pleasantly over Pimm’s shared with Sharon Ann Holgate, whose English rose looks are heightened by her pretty outfit. She could pass for a history teacher in a posh prep school but she is a physicist and writer who has nearly completed a textbook for undergraduates called Solid State Physics: An accessible introduction for undergraduates.

Last year Sharon wrote and presented a documentary on BBC Radio4, The Indian Particle Man, on the physicist Satyendra Nath Bose (1894-1974), who impressed Einstein and gave his name to the sub-atomic particles called “bosons”.

Sharon and a colleague, Julian Mayers, have been shortlisted for a '2,000 award given by the Association of British Science Writers which seeks to “set standards of excellence in science writing”.

Bose’s grandson, Falguni Sarkar, who featured in Sharon’s documentary, is working on a biography of his grandfather. He has pointed out that there is “an entire field of physical and statistical inquiry called Bose-Einstein Statistics”.

In the adda houses around Shyam Bazar, as I discovered on a recent trip to Calcutta, they discuss little else.

Tittle tattle

Incidentally, Pinky Lilani, who has worked to give women in Britain a much higher profile, tells me her trips to Calcutta won’t be as frequent as before because her mother is emigrating to America.

From Calcutta, her mother Sherbanoo (“Sherry”) Nathani explains that since her husband, Salim Nathani, passed away 18 months ago, she has not one relative left in Calcutta.

“I will be moving to Washington in September ' my son, daughter, brother are there,” she explains. “But Calcutta has been the only home I have known. My father came here from Bombay when he was 17. I was born here, married here, and my house is in Chowringhee near the Calcutta Club.”

She will say farewell to Calcutta with mixed feelings and, at 77, does not know whether she will see the city again: “There is a lot of warmth here. People take you as you are, not for what you are.”

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