| ENGLAND RETURNED: Lord Bhikhu Parekh
The real meaning of England returned
How many of todays young couples exchanging chocolates, cards, flowers and protestations of undying love on St Valentines Day will still be together 50 years from now in the year 2060?
Many if they are anything like Bhikhu and Pramila Parekh who are marking their 75th birthdays by holding a party for family and close friends.
But, first, lets go back to the year 1959. Bhikhu, then a student, and Pramila arrive in Britain shortly after their marriage back in Gujarat on April 14, 1959.
I wasnt married off to stop me from marrying a white girl — we had been courting for three years, Bhikhu assures me.
The couple have trouble finding a flat because so many have No Asians or Irish warnings. One landlord recognises Bhikhus Indian accent and says the flat has gone but when an American colleague telephones, it becomes available. Money is so tight that the couple sometimes dont have enough coins to feed the gas heater in winter.
More than half a century later, Lord Parekh is a now a member of the House of Lords. He is a distinguished academic who has lectured at many universities, including Hull, Harvard, the LSE and McGill, and been vice-chancellor of Baroda. He has written numerous books on race, sociology and philosophy — his new 500-page work, Understanding India, will be published by Oxford University Press next year.
I am proud of his achievements, says Pramila, but she is the one who has probably kept him grounded by remaining totally unaffected by his elevation to the peerage.
Hull in Yorkshire remains the couples home though they also have an apartment in Baroda where they spend a third of the year and where Bhikhu likes to do his writing. His wish, he confides, is to spend my last days in India.
Pramila turned 75 on December 30, 2009; Bhikhu reached the milestone on January 4, 2010.
They are hosting a celebration lunch in late April at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where one of their three sons is a professor — incidentally, all three sons went to Oxford.
We thought this will be an occasion to thank all those friends who have meant so much to us over the years, explains Bhikhu.
He recognises his deep debt to his country of adoption, something that often gets overlooked when Indians meet to shower honours on themselves during orgies of self-congratulation.
England has given me everything, says Bhikhu with feeling.
| Voiceover: Shazia
Bachchan Bol, the new vogging service launched by Amitabh Bachchan last week, could be followed soon by Priyanka Chopra sharing intimacies with phone users in India.
Then, perhaps, we will have Sourav Ganguly and other IPL cricketers telling us what they think about, say, dodgy lbw decisions.
Beyond Twitter, beyond Facebook, Bachchan Bol is the new frontier in social media, I am told.
The actor, Ravi Kishan, who specialises in Bhojpuri films, has already been signed up.
I have all this from Shazia Nizam, one of four innovative women in London who have set up Inside India, the company behind the new vogging concept.
One of Shazias partners is the Bollywood writer, Jessica Hines, author of Looking For The Big B: Bollywood, Bachchan And Me.
Jessicas contacts in Bollywood should prove helpful in attracting big name voggers in future, agrees Shazia, who adds: Jessica is currently in India.
With 500m mobile phone users in India — and the number growing at 10m a month — Shazia is confident that Inside India is on to a winner.
Her new service, Star Diaries, will be launched in Britain within six weeks, Shazia tells me. Then we want to roll it out in the UAE, South Africa, Pakistan, southeast Asia, Singapore, but the hub will be London.
Perhaps she can be encouraged to take on Shashi Tharoor for it would be so educational to hear his Tweets in extended audio: Had a full English breakfast with the Brits, a long luncheon with the Latvians, tea with the Tanzanians, kocktails with Karan, dinner with the Danes and a naughty nightcap with a delegation of Norwegian women. But then foreign affairs cannot be left in the hands of plebs.
|Are they related? A line drawing of Akbar and Hrithik Roshan as Akbar
Moghul make up
At the risk of being dismissed as flippant, I, in common with millions of serious students of history, have taken my knowledge of the Moghul emperor Akbar from the Bollywood blockbuster, Jodhaa Akbar.
If I were aiming for high marks in a history essay on Akbar, I would be tempted to argue that the Moghul emperors make up man made him up to look like Hrithik Roshan.
This is based on a careful study of a contemporary portrait of Akbar, ink on paper, which is included in a wonderful new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery just off Trafalgar Square, London.
This unusually intimate study of the Emperor Akbar (b. 1542, r. 1556–1605) seems to have been drawn from life when the Emperor was about 50 years old, reveals the note in the catalogue. The unnamed artist has captured Akbar in a thoughtful mood… ….. this little drawing is evidence that artists working for Akbar were also capable of insightful character studies.
So, in between feeding the pigeons, Indian visitors should pop in and see the 60 entries in The Indian Portrait (1560–1860), between March 11 and June 20.
The exhibition has been curated by two experts well known to me — Rosemary Crill of the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Kapil Jariwala, whose publications include Film Fantastic: Indian Movie Poster Art.
There is also a portrait of Amar Singh. This is not Big Bs younger brother, alas, but someone almost as important — it is of Amar Singh II of Mewar taking his ease.
As an added incentive to Indians, entry is free.
|Missing McQueen: Young fashion designer Rishti Diwan considers it a “big loss”
Gifted Calcutta girl Rishti Diwan, who was once offered a job by Alexander McQueen, is mourning the passing of the British designer at the age of only 40. It happened when Rishti, one of the most promising of her batch, had completed her one-year MA at the London College of Fashion in 2006.
Rishti, now happily settled in San Diego with her neurologist husband, Rohan Gandhi (also a Calcutta boy), tells me: I did go to his studio but could not work with him because I was getting married.
Rishti, who had been aware of McQueen since her own student days at NIFT in Delhi, recalls: I went to see one of his shows at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. His death is a big loss.
French lingerie model Vanessa Perroncel, 33, offered £250,000-500,000 by tabloids to do a kiss and tell on her fling with sacked England football captain John Terry, 29, has decided to hold back — for the time being. Reports suggest Terry has bought her silence with a cheque for £750,000.
Meanwhile, Terrys wife, Toni, has apparently decided not to divorce her husband, provoking a bitchy woman columnist to rage: What can she possibly see in her £170,000 a week husband?