| BONDING TIME: Lord Bhikhu Parekh with Lord Anthony Giddens. Ole Petersen is in the background
Yeh dosti hum nahin torenge
At last, we have an explanation from Lord Bhikhu Parekh, one of Britains leading academics and a former vice-chancellor of Baroda University, for why Sholay has been the most popular Hindi film of all time.
Friendship, according to Bhikhu, a former professor of political theory at Hull University, is the purest of all human relationships.
In Sholay, loveable rogues Jai (Amitabh Bachchan) and Veeru (Dharmendra) are tied by the bonds of close friendship — Yeh dosti hum nahin torenge (this friendship we will never break).
Bhikhu spoke about the philosophical basis for friendship at a luncheon given as a kind of thanksgiving by him and his wife, Pramila, in the formal dining room of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.
The couple, who married on April 14, 1959, shortly before they arrived in England from Gujarat, both recently turned 75.
Among the 104 people present at the celebration were their sons (all Oxford educated), Raj, Nitin and Anant (who happens to be professor of physiology at Oxford based at Lady Margaret Hall); daughters-in-law Colette, Suzanne and Maike; and grandchildren, Amy, 19, Marcus, 13, Sophie, 12, Livia, 12, Emily, 7, and Frederick, 7.
Academics were so well represented that had the proverbial bomb gone off, it would have decimated a good part of the upper reaches of British intellectual life. Present, for example, were the sociologist Lord (Anthony) Giddens, who taught in Cambridge for many years before becoming director of the London School of Economics.
Seated near him was Lord (Raymond) Plant, former Master of St Catherines College, Oxford, whose dissertation on Hegel had once been supervised by Bhikhu. Opposite Plant was John Keane, professor of politics at the University of Westminster.
Between courses, Bhikhu went round and also chatted with Baroness Haleh Afshar, professor of politics at York; Benjamin Barber, an American political theorist; Andrew Mason, professor of political theory at Southampton; and Ole Petersen, director of bio-sciences at Cardiff and a former vice-president of the Royal Society.
Friendship is the purest of all human relationships because it depends on nothing outside it, said Bhikhu in a brief but emotional welcoming address. It has no biological basis and no social sanctions. It arises and lasts only because those involved are committed to it. In the Hindu tradition, betraying a friend is a mortal sin.
Friendship is not a duty, it is a gift, added Bhikhu, as he sat down to richly deserved applause.
The song from Sholay would not have been out of place: Khaana peena saath hai, Marna jeena saath hai (We will eat and drink together, We will live and die together).
| ITALY CALLING: Indian chefs see the vineyards and olive trees in Sicily
When you go to Italy, as I did last week with a group of celebrity Indian chefs in London, you become aware of the laughter, family life, beautiful climate, excellent cheese, olive oil and good food and drink Sonia Maino gave up when destiny intervened after she met and fell in love with a handsome young Rajiv Gandhi in Cambridge.
To be sure, she has an incredibly privileged existence in India. That said, she has had to be more Indian than the Indians and probably suppress all her natural Italian instincts in order not to be condemned as a foreigner by the Opposition.
The Italians are as family-minded as Indians, as we discovered when the visiting chefs and senior executives from four top Indian restaurants in London were shown round the vineyards and olive trees on the Planeta estate in Sicily. Their aim was to assess which local wines went with Indian food.
The Bombay Brasserie was represented by its director of operations, Arun Harnal, and its executive sous chef, Saikat Nag; the Tamarind by its Michelin-starred chef, Alfred Prasad, and its CEO, Rajesh Suri; Zaika by its chef, Sanjay Dwivedi, and its sommelier (wine expert), Luigi Gaudino; and Quilon by its general manager, Santanu Mazumdar.
Also in the group was Eric Bearneau, sales director of Enotria, a London-based company which sources its wines from 175 suppliers all over the world.
In Britain, rank and file curry houses still promote beer to go with Indian food.
However, Harnal said the Bombay Brasserie has to maintain an excellent wine list since its regulars include senior British politicians and captains of industry, Bollywood stars and their Hollywood counterparts like Woody Allen, Tom Cruise, Barbara Broccoli and Martin Scorsese.
Suri revealed that at the Tamarind some of our clientele think nothing of spending £3,000 on a bottle.
More realistically, he looked forward to a day when drinkable European wines would be available in India for Rs 300 a bottle.
That is over optimistic but vineyards like Planeta believe they have a bright future in India.
Diego Planeta, 70, the head of the enchanting Sicilian vineyard that is named after the family, his daughter Francesca, who helps run the business as marketing director, and the chefs from London are all agreed on one thing: before long a culinary festival should be held in Calcutta to allow the public to decide which of their Italian wines go best with a wide range of Bengali recipes.
In the expert opinion of Bombay Taj-trained Saikat Nag, who cooked a delicious Bengali meal for Diego, a white wine like Chardonnay would suit fried rui or illish or chingri malai and a light red wine go best with kosha mangsho. Bengali sweets that have slightly less sugar would be perfect with dessert wines.
Incidentally, Diego has decorated the Foresteria — a 14-room boutique hotel the family have built on the estate, partly to house wine tasters who come from abroad — almost entirely with furniture and fittings he found in India.
Each country to its own but India should be prepared for insistent appeals from the West, especially the anti-capital punishment lobby, urging the authorities not to carry out the execution of Ajmal Amir Kasab however horrendous his crimes.
In Britain there is public support for the return of hanging for certain types of murder and terrorist offences but Parliament would never go back to the way it was.
The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 came into effect fully in 1969.
Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom on July 13, 1955, for the murder of her lover, David Blakely, at Holloway Prison, London by Albert Pierrepoint, who became a celebrity hangman.
The last executions were of Peter Anthony Allen at Liverpool and Gwynne Owen Evans at Manchester prisons, both on August 13, 1964. Subsequent people were sentenced to death but were all reprieved.
Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt and Shilpa Shettys husband, Raj Kundra, who visited Leicester East to express support for Labours Keith Vaz just days before the May 6 general election, can be well satisfied with their efforts.
While many other Labour candidates either lost their seats because of the pro-Tory national swing or saw their past winning margins severely trimmed, Keith held Leicester East with a thumping majority of 14,082, only slightly down from 15,876 in 2005.
As Munna Bhai told the Indians in Leicester: Apun ka support to Keith ke saath hai (I support Keith).