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From Rajasthan Royals with love

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla last week inaugurated a stunning exhibition at the British Museum of 54 Rajasthani paintings from the Mehrangarh Trust at a ceremony where the erstwhile Maharajah and Maharani of Jodhpur, Gaj Singh and Hemlata Rajye, were present.

Some profound concepts are reflected in these remarkably detailed paintings from the 17th-19th century, it was explained to Charles and Camilla, by their escorts, Richard Blurton, the museum’s curator, South and South East Asia, and his young colleague, Sona Datta, one of the exhibition curators.

When Sona took one press party round the exhibition, Garden and Cosmos: the Royal Paintings of Jodhpur, one woman narrowly missed being thumped on the head by the heavy catalogue. Instead of listening to Sona’s illuminating briefing, this most irritating lady kept making constant interruptions designed to impress those assembled with just how much she knew.

The catalogue cover features one of the most dramatic paintings, dated c. 1775, Death of Vali, Rama and Lakshmana Wait Out the Monsoon, from the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas (1532-1623).

After the depictions of the lush gardens in the desert, the section called Cosmos encompasses such complex philosophical concepts as the creation of the universe and how the human form represents, in miniature, all aspects of the universe. One painting showed a king, who had lost all his worldly riches, being told by a rishi not to worry, explained Sona, since “your true riches lie within yourself”.

That made us impoverished journalists feel much better.

The exhibition, which was in Washington and Seattle before coming to London (May 28-August 23), will move to the National Museum in India in November.

“I cannot thank the Maharajah and the Maharani enough for them going to the trouble of letting us see these paintings and their truly outstanding hospitality to myself and my wife during our visit to Jodhpur in 2006,” said Charles.

I happened to be standing behind the hosts when Charles and Camilla were welcomed to Umaid Bhavan. Of course, this splendid palace was graced by the presence of two even more illustrious guests a year later in March, 2007, when Liz Hurley used the venue to take photos worth £1m for Hello! of her wedding to Arun Nayar.

Afterwards, wedding guests repaired to Mehrangarh Fort where they apparently spent the night discussing the finer points of the art collection now on display at the British Museum.

Returning back

Let me use the phrase Fr Cleary at Patna St Xavier’s told us never to use — “return back” (“if you return back, you are back where you started”).

Sanjay Wadvani, born 42 years ago at Woodlands Nursing Home in Calcutta, is “returning back” — I can see Fr Cleary giving me one of his pained looks from on high — as Deputy High Commissioner at the British Deputy High Commission in Calcutta. “Our Sanj”, if I may call him that, is now a senior diplomat with the British Foreign Office which he joined in 1987. He is an expert on China, having spent six years there.

Sanjay, whose late father was Sindhi and whose mother is English, grew up in Calcutta till the age of seven when the family shifted to Britain.

As the man in charge in Calcutta, Sanjay will work to strengthen relations between the region — the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as well as Bhutan are part of his patch — and the UK after he takes over from the present incumbent, Simon Wilson, sometime in July.

By way of thorough preparation, Sanjay has a mountain of briefing papers but is also managing to read a number of books, including one by Stanley Wolpert. I recommend the one I consider the most entertaining on the city, Geoffrey Moorhouse’s Calcutta (first published 1971), “but I already have that in my pile,” discloses Sanjay.

It would be good if he is able to put a bit of British business Bengal’s way, God and Mamata permitting.

“Head of post is an important job,” says Sanjay. “I am looking forward to it enormously.”

BOUNCING BACK: Naina Lal Kidwai

Goodwill banking

Like Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, India’s economy appears to be on the move after the general election. In fact, Naina Lal Kidwai, of HSBC, was positively upbeat when explaining why her bank had decided to go ahead with its long planned sponsorship of the Indian Summer season at the British Museum — after all, such events cost a great deal of money.

The expenditure did come up for review, admitted Mrs Kidwai, who is group general manager and country head of HSBC India, “but there was an unanimous decision that we must go ahead. I’m glad we stayed the course.”

Mrs Kidwai said that the bank’s internal analysts, who tended to be on the conservative side, were predicting the GDP growth rate of 6.2 per cent this year would move up to 8 per cent next year.

Mrs Kidwai popped into the Indian Garden in the British Museum’s forecourt where she spotted “green shoots of recovery”.

VERSE VOID: Arvind Krishna Mehrotra

Poet’s corner

Supporters of the Indian poet Arvind Krishna Mehrotra believe Oxford University should have offered him the post of Professor of Poetry, following the resignation last week of Ruth Padel and the withdrawal earlier of Derek Walcott, the West Indian Nobel Prize winner who chose not to run after allegations that he had been involved in sexual harassments of female students years ago.

Mehrotra’s supporters took heart from an editorial (Poetic Machinations) in the New York Times which said: “The only person who comes out well in all of this is Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, an Indian poet and literary critic who was the only other candidate for the post. Oxford would do well to confirm him and allow everyone to move along until the next election, five years hence.”

But Oxford has announced that “it is expected that a fresh election will take place during the course of 2009-10”.

What the whole situation is crying out for is an epic poem to celebrate what has been happening at Oxford. Your entries on a post card: first prize Gopal Gandhi’s Hindi translation of A Suitable Boy rendered in Sanskrit verse.

Kai hai?

Poor little thing but ER actress Parminder Nagra and her English photographer husband James Stenson have named their baby son Kai David Singh Stenson, her agent has told US Weekly.

Depending on the language, Kai can mean “keeper of the keys” or “sea” or “beautiful”.

Tittle tattle

The former actress turned businesswoman Shilpa Shetty will be addressing a news conference at Lord’s tomorrow to promote a Twenty20 clash between the Rajasthan Royals, last year’s IPL champions, and the Middlesex Panthers, the English equivalent.

There are those in London who say, perhaps unfairly, that anything Shilpa backs ends up on the losing side — eg Rajasthan Royals in the second IPL. It will be intriguing to see if she is able to break this alleged jinx when RR, which will include Shane Warne, Graeme Smith, Morne Morkel and Dimitri Mascarenhas, meet MP, represented by Shaun Udal, Owais Shah and Murali Kartik, at Lord’s on July 6.

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