| Model for Howrah? St Pancras International
Fast train from Howrah
Is St Pancras International, which has been restored at a cost of £800 million and is now the home of Eurostar services to Paris (2 hours 25 minutes at 186 mph to Gare du Nord), the model for a similar refurbishment of Howrah railway station?
I would like to think so. The redbrick gothic façade of St Pancras, behind which is located W.H. Barlows landmark iron and glass engine shed, is reminiscent of the outside view of Howrah (which I last used to get to Santiniketan about a year ago on what was a four-hour journey).
The blending of the old with the vast new glass and aluminium structure has transformed St Pancras into what one reviewer calls the worlds most impressive railway station.
To date I have not had the chance to avail of the champagne bar at St Pancras but it claims to be the longest and largest in Europe (no doubt with prices to match). There are hopes that it will become a popular assignation point much like the Oyster Bar in New Yorks Grand Central.
In theory, you should be able to get a return ticket to Paris for £55. But the pricing is a con. When I checked on the Internet it was just over £100. When I actually booked 48 hours later, the price had risen to £144. A friend who made the booking a week later had to pay £200 two days before travel. Britain could do its own Lalu to ensure passengers are not ripped off.
Over two years ago, Victoria station in London was used as a location for a Bengali film, Ballygunge Court, by its director and producer Pinaki Chaudhuri and producer Ganesh Bagaria. So as to encourage an imaginative modernisation of Howrah, I would like to suggest St Pancras International as the backdrop for the next Indian film that is shot in London.
Next week: modernisation of Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport and how to persuade Air India to go back to three flights a week from Heathrow to Calcutta rather than the current two. Without proper connectivity, economic development will bypass West Bengal.
| In her shoes: Carla Bruni (left) and Jackie Kennedy in her trademark pillbox hat (right)
Indian protocol officials who hinted that an unmarried Carla Bruni would raise serious moral issues if she accompanied Nicolas Sarkozy to India robbed the nation of valuable publicity. Pictures of the Frances First Girlfriend would have gone round the world had she been made welcome.
Now, London, which takes state visits in its stride, has gone crazy over Carla. That she is now officially married to Sarkozy is only a minor technical point. She accompanied Sarkozy to the Palace of Westminster, attended a banquet at Buckingham Palace and stayed at Windsor Castle. Prince Charles, the old flirt, was even moved to kiss her hand.
Most significantly, she wore what looked like a pillbox hat, thereby inspiring comparisons with the late Jackie Kennedy. Perhaps we are witnessing the birth of a new Camelot by the banks of the Seine.
As for the institution of marriage in Britain, the proportion of men and women getting married is below any level found since figures were first kept nearly 150 years ago. The number of weddings held in 2006 was the smallest since 1895, when the population was little more than half its present level.
Tax rules make it more profitable for many couples to cohabit rather than marry, which is why the Tory shadow home secretary David Davies has accused the government of having fuelled family breakdown.
Figures, from the Office for National Statistics, showed that in 2006, the marriage rate among single men was 22.8 in every 1,000, among women 20.5. When marriage rates were first calculated in 1862, the level was 58.7 for men and 50 for women.
Among orthodox Muslims, there is certainly a problem with young girls being pushed into forced marriages. However, what is also apparent is that the pool of highly educated, well paid but unmarried Indian girls in their thirties and forties in London is steadily growing.
Suman Bhargava, who set up the Suman Marriage Bureau with her late husband, Ramesh, in Southall in 1972, says: I have a lot of professional Asian girls in their 30s on my books. The men get wives from India but the girls are afraid to get husbands from India. Generally the men from India tend to be of a lower class and often divorce their wives once they have a UK stamp in their passports. Then they get a new wife from India.
Greater love hath no man for Watermans, the Asian arts centre in Brentford, west London, than he whos prepared to drive two hours in pouring rain in heavy London traffic to get to a new play, A Perfect Ganesh.
Watermans, which has put on a number of artistic ventures from India, including notably Tumhari Amrita (Shabana Azmi and Farooque Shaikh), Saalgirah (Anupam and Kirron Kher), and Partap Sharmas Sammy! A Word that Broke an Empire, was facing closure following the decision by the Arts Council to cut off the venues £500,000 a year grant. Sadly, not a chirp was heard from India in support of Watermans but then Indian actors and actresses tend to be a selfish lot who come to London either to make money or to revive flagging careers at home.
The good news is that Watermans might yet survive with the help of £200,000 a year from Hounslow Council and money from other sources.
A Perfect Ganesh, by American Pulitzer nominated playwright, Terence NcNally, tells of a two-week holiday in India during which two women discover themselves. In the Watermans production, the two American women have become British.
A Perfect Ganesh is funny and moving in parts but not quite a perfect play. The crudely drawn and stereotypical American picture of India that emerges is not what we are used to in London. Say what you like about the Brits but they are usually sophisticated and subtle when dealing with India.
Whats in a name? A lot, according to psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, of University of Hertfordshire.
Celebrities who give their children distinctive names do them a favour, he suggests.
For example, Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof, second child of singer Bob Geldof and the late TV presenter Paul Yates, has a soft-sounding (first name) name with positive connotations, making it attractive.
The 19-year-olds profession is going to nightclubs and throwing a strop if she is made to queue like lesser mortals.
What is one to make of the Christian name India, as in India James, 16, who, with her sister, Fawn, 22, stands to inherit much of the £650 million legacy of her grandfather, Soho porn king Paul Raymond, who has just passed away at the age of 82?
He will be remembered fondly by visiting executives from India to whom his Raymonds Revue strip bar gave much happiness.
Sorry Azza. Unlike the former Indian Test captain, who will forever remain stuck on 99 Tests, David Beckham won his 100th cap for England last week. Maybe if he hadnt played England would not have been beaten 1-0 by France. Beckham also got a yellow card.