| Walking the talk: Ian Botham (centre)
How Beefy is getting bigger
Indian cricketers could learn a thing or two from Sir Ian Botham, the former Somerset and England legend who now spends much of his time making money. But there is a difference.
In marked contrast to the pampered members of the Indian cricketing pantheon who exploit their star status to make as much money as possible for themselves through shameless product endorsements, Botham undertakes charitable sponsored walks to raise money for Leukaemia Research.
Despite the credit crunch, 52-year-old Botham last week raised £100,000 in three days with his Great British Walk Against Childhood Leukaemia. He is walking through nine towns in nine days, starting in Taunton, Somerset, and finishing tomorrow in Durham.
He explained why people were being so generous: I think people are fed up with the credit crunch and bankers playing Russian roulette with our money. I think they relish the chance to do something positive. Its great, the response we have had.
Nicknamed Beefy, Botham has grown in stature since his rabble rousing cricketing days. He became interested in raising money for research into childhood leukaemia after an encounter with a sick child in a Taunton hospital in 1977. Since then he has walked 5,000 miles and raised £11million. When I started walking, the survival rate for children with leukaemia was 20 per cent, said Botham, who has acquired folk hero status. Now it is 87 per cent.
By comparison it seems the walk Indian cricketers are most familiar with is the one back to the pavilion in their haste to get to the next lucrative TV shoot.
| Scarred: Hannah (top) and Sarah Foster
For tabloid newspapers, nothing sells a murder trial better than to have a pretty English girl at the centre of the drama and that of Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, a 40-year-old Indian delivery driver, has two.
One is the victim, Hannah Foster, 17, and the other is her sister, Sarah, now 20, who has been accompanying her parents to Winchester Crown Court where Kohli has gone on trial. Charged with kidnap, false imprisonment, rape and murder.
Hannah was not only an attractive young girl, she was highly intelligent, the prosecution counsel, Nicholas Haggan QC, told the court. She achieved 11 GCSE A star passes. She was going to medical school.
Hannahs body was found dumped in brambles by the roadside not far from her home in Southampton on March 16, 2003. Two days later, Kohli fled to India. He was picked up by West Bengal police living under a false name on July 15, 2004 and extradited to Britain on July 28 last year.
His DNA matched the semen left from when Hannah was assaulted and raped in his van, the court has been told.
The case against this defendant was now clear and utterly compelling, declared Haggan. It was he who abducted, raped and murdered Hannah. He snatched her from the street, he drove off with her in his van, he found somewhere quiet, he raped her, he then strangled her and he dumped her body.
A weeping Sarah, overcome by the graphic descriptions given to the jury, had to be comforted by her parents.
Since Kohli is an Indian national, the Hannah case will bring further unwelcome mentions of India and Indians, following on from the rape and murder of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling in Goa.
| Sartorial wonder: The winning design for the British Bridal Sari
First, there was a competition in the UK to find the best designs for a British sari.
This was a great success for it brought forth motifs which reflected life in Britain everything from sea shells in the west country to women in burkhas in Harrow in north London.
Now, there has followed a competition to find the most attractive designs for a British Bridal Sari.
The best design, in ranking order, were those by Londoners Munawar Ahmed and Aarifa Chowdhury, followed by Dahmina Mistry and Emma Partridge, both from Loughborough.
The standard of entries was very high, says Susan Roberts, an Englishwoman who has been one of the prime movers behind the project to develop a British sari and who runs Bridging Arts, an organisation which seeks to bring different cultures closer together through arts.
The whole project has been given extra sparkle by top sari retailer RCKC who will be making up the top three designs into saris, she says.
They will be available in India but will probably be cheaper in London than Shoppers Stop in Calcutta.
High flying women
When Naresh Goyal was announcing his alliance with former rival turned new best friend, Vijay Mallya, I happened to be returning to Hearthrow on Kingfishers new service from Bangalore.
If Kingfisher, like Jet, has built up an enviable reputation as an excellent airline, it is because of the courtesy and cool professionalism of young women like Sonal Singh (from Chandigarh), Neha Kataria (from Mumbai) and Sweksha Pandey (from Lucknow), who happened to be part of the cabin crew on my flight. They love their work and have been trained by Mallya to treat their passengers as guests.
I do hope their jobs are secure. I also hope that Mallya, who was brave enough to start the Bangalore-Heathrow service when other airlines were going under, will extend his international routes to other cities in India, especially poorly served Calcutta.
Behind me sat a woman with shoulder stripes she was a pilot with Kingfisher. Mallya clearly believes in equal opportunity.
Living abroad brings home how lucky India is in its gifted and achieving women in time I hope Sonal, Neha and Swekha are promoted to be senior executives with Kingfisher. They like many of the others who nearly lost their jobs with Jet are a great credit to the new India.
(Bengali) Girls on top
After Singur, every little bit that lifts Bengal helps. One should not be jingoistic but in the ICC ODI ranking for women, the worlds top bowlers are led by Jhulan Goswami of India, followed by Isa Guha of England.
My youngest brother, Dipankar, died suddenly in Calcutta and was cremated a few hours before I arrived. We had been looking forward to an outing to the Oxford Bookstore in Park Street. He promised but would not quit smoking. Although not strictly part of the shradha ceremony, I tossed a solitary Wills Flake Filter cigarette into the Ganges in his memory.
|Formula queen: Farah Khan
Farah Khan, the hugely talented Bollywood choreographer turned director who struck gold with Om Shanti Om, is due to hold a three-hour masterclass in London on Friday at something called the Mayfair Media Club, an organisation whose existence, like so much that is really important in life, had previously escaped my attention.
Those willing to part with £75 are promised a comprehensive insight into the specific dynamics of Bollywood.
Actually, how to make a blockbuster can be summed up in less than a minute: 1) make sure the heroine was in her pram when the hero was in his prime, and 2) the film should consist of bits and pieces taken from other peoples films and passed off as your own but keep some money aside for legal expenses in case others do not share your sense of humour.