|Syal, Bhaskar: Knot matters
London, Jan. 2: The actress Meera Syal and the comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar, who are married to each other, have been included in the new edition of Who’s Who, which will be out tomorrow.
It is worth stressing that Syal and Bhaskar are married because Who’s Who 2007 reflects social change in Britain since, for the first time, homosexuals and lesbians list those with whom they have formalised “civil partnerships” under new legislation.
The singer Sir Elton John, best known for his rendition of Candle in the Wind at Princess Diana’s funeral, has confirmed David Furnish as his partner.
Among others, the Shakespearean actor, Sir Anthony Sher, has named Gregory Doran as his, while in the House of Commons, Margaret Smith, a Liberal Democratic MP, has listed Suzanne Main as hers.
Therefore, Who’s Who, which began in 1849 — tomorrow’s edition is the 159th and includes 33,000 entries, including 1,000 new names — places marriage between man and woman on more or less the same level as a civil partnership between two people of the same sex.
What is also noteworthy is that the children of first-generation Indian immigrants is now also qualifying for entry. Calcutta errand boy Raj Bagri, 76, who came to Britain and set up a metals company called Metdist, became chairman of the London Metal Exchange and a Tory peer, now has the pleasure of seeing his immaculately behaved son, Apurv, 47, included tomorrow in the new Who’s Who.
Father and son are familiar figures on London’s elite Indian circuit and invariably go around together. Apurv, who is now managing director of the company his father set up, always refers charmingly to his father’s Indian business friends as “uncle” — most English sons and many Indians, too, would use first names in similar circumstances.
Father and son have maintained an Indian joint family system — which these days is more easily maintained in England where the wealthy can buy huge houses or several smaller ones all in a row.
Another new name is the science writer Simon Singh, 42, who toured India a year ago, courtesy the British Council, to talk about his entertaining book on the origin of the universe, Big Bang.
Singh told The Telegraph today: “I am happy to have this kind of recognition. My grandfather came to Somerset in Britain in 1935 from the Punjab, my parents in 1951. They were among very few Indians in the west country.”
The Singh family has cause for a double celebration — Simon’s older brother, Tom, 57, a tycoon in the world of fashion, was honoured yesterday with an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in the new year’s honours list.
The publishers of Who’s Who, say that “since its acquisition by A&C Black in 1897, Who’s Who has consolidated its status of supreme national importance, proving to be invaluable as a research tool and a unique way of measuring social change. During the Second World War, Winston Churchill personally intervened to ensure its publication and full circulation was not affected by the paper shortage”.
It adds that among the new names “providing some glamour is actress Jennifer Seagrove who is also trustee of Born Free; her recreations include ‘trying to save the planet!’”
It is said the actress with the English rose looks did not do too much to save her marriage to Madhav Sharma, one of Britain’s most distinguished Indian actors who was her first husband.