|ROYAL BEAUTY: The cover of Gayatri Devis autobiography; (below) the Maharani in London
London remembers a princess
This portrait of Gayatri Devi, seated in a wheelchair, with Gaj Singh of Jodhpur standing by her, was taken on May 26 at a British Museum reception to mark the opening of an exhibition of paintings loaned by the Mehrangarh Trust.
It was probably the last time the erstwhile Maharani of Jaipur was photographed in London. Her passing was marked by sympathetic obituaries in British newspapers.
Jaipur will also figure prominently in a V&A exhibition, Maharaja: The Splendour of Indias Royal Courts, from October 10, 2009, to January 17, 2010.
Gayatri Devis mother, Indira Devi, does feature in the exhibition as a legendary beauty, I learn from the V&As Deepika Ahlawat, who has been working as a research curator on the exhibition, along with her colleague Anna Jackson, the curator.
We cover several Jaipur rulers including Jai Singh II, Ram Singh II, Madho Singh I, Madho Singh II and Gayatri Devis husband, Man Singh II, using film, paintings and objects, including the jewelled sword given by Madho Singh II to the Prince of Wales in the early 20th century, which we are borrowing from the Royal Collection, says Deepika, who is about to leave for India for her seventh trip for the project.
My paperback copy of Gayatri Devis immensely readable autobiography is inherited from my fathers library, while a fancy hardback edition was bought in the Rambagh Palace bookshop three years ago.
Deepika reassures me: We will be featuring A Princess Remembers in the exhibition bookshop.
Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention for this years Booker Prize nominations?
To the curious incident of the Indians on the longlist of 13 released last night.
There are no Indians on the longlist.
That was the curious incident, remarked Sherlock Holmes. (With apologies to Conan Doyle and Silver Blaze).
There has been a whispering campaign in the last few years alleging the organisers of the Booker Prize for fiction were not doing enough to promote indigenous English talent. This year the Booker longlist of 13 books is an Indian free zone.
Whether this is deliberate or otherwise is hard to say but in a revealing article in The Times last November, the British comedian David Baddiel admitted to a narrow minded prejudice against English novels written by Indian authors.
Not a racial one, hopefully, but a literary one: a prejudice that Indian novels are likely to be magical, mythic, sweepingly historical, quirky of humour, and spring from the tradition of folk tale; all things I dont want in a novel, wrote Baddiel, who was a 2002 Booker judge.
My request last week for the full list of 132 novels from which the longlist of 13 was selected was politely turned down by the Booker regime on the baffling grounds that it was confidential.
| HAIL AND FAREWELL: Shiv Shankar Mukherjee
Shiv Shankar Mukherjees retirement from the diplomatic service, confirmed last week, after only 14 months as Indian high commissioner in London took me — and many others — by surprise.
With retirement one always knows there is a particular date when you have to go so it is not something unexpected and it has been a wonderful innings, he told me at his farewell party. London itself has been short but it has been productive so I leave quite satisfied at having achieved quite a lot of the goals I set myself.
He described the 1.5m-strong Indian community in the UK as probably the most important element in the bilateral relationship, a community that is highly respected, that is 2 per cent of the population here and generates 4 per cent of the GDP. One of the highest priorities of any high commissioners work here will always be interacting with the community and using them as the bridge that they are for the bilateral relationship.
Nothing as yet.
Mukherjees deputy, Asoke Mukerji, becomes acting high commissioner, before the new man, Nalin Surie, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, arrives as the leaves start to fall in the autumn.
Incidentally, since Mukherjee was standing by the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi in the great hall of India House, it is worth drawing attention to Gordon Browns ambition when he, too, retires.
In an interview last week with the weekly Eastern Eye, the Prime Minister revealed: I want to write something at some point about the contribution of Gandhi to our civilisation.
Marli Anwar is a determined 23-year-old in London who abandoned her law studies at Reading University to become an actress. During a year spent in New York learning acting at the TVI Actors Studio, she met and became friends with another student from London, 31-year-old Khadifa Wong.
The two enterprising girls have now set up a film production company that is trying to raise £10,000-15,000 to shoot the pilot of rather a catchy idea they have developed — a parody of TV reality shows but depicting what happens to three British girls, two Asian and one English, when they arrive to seek acting fame and fortune in America.
They say that although they are British born and bred, they still feel marginalised as women of colour by casting agents in the UK.
They are more open in New York — even if a role is for a Caucasian, they will see you, says Marli, who has a part in rather a chilling but impressive 18-minute British film called Indigo.
Marli, who plays Mina, the awkward daughter in an Indian family in the UK, explains: The title refers to Indigo children who have special powers of healing.
Indigos cast includes Bhasker Patel, a veteran Indian actor in Britain. The story revolves around a troubled Indian boy, Hanesh (Varun Mann), who can save a wounded pigeon and a motorcyclist in a traffic accident and whose stab mark heals when he sticks a knife through his palm, but who is held back from reviving his father as he suffers a heart attack.
Producer Jules Mascarenhas and writer and director Jack Price are on tenterhooks as they wait to discover whether Indigo has been accepted for competition at the Venice Film Festival.
Bollywood should take note of just how much can be packed into 18 minutes.
Meanwhile, I have told Marli her idea could also work well in India — what happens when three British girls arrive in, say, Mumbai to seek fame and fortune and choose to ignore a list of casting directors they were advised to avoid.
For the many disappointed students unable to get tickets last week to Amartya Sens lecture at the London School of Economics, which coincided with the release of his latest book, The Idea of Justice, there was live streaming of the event.
The live webcast allowed anyone who could not attend the lecture to watch it as it happened on our website, explains the LSEs Nicole Gallivan. We do not do this for every event, but we do try to do it for events as popular as Amartya Sens!!
Aware of Sens global appeal, we have also posted an audio recording of the lecture on our website, Nicole says.