| JHARKHAND HELL: (Left to right) Jennifer Wallace, Elizabeth, Philomena and Robert Wallis
The dark side of Dhoni country
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose home is in Ranchi, has certainly put Jharkhand on the map.
Of old Bihar, before Jharkhand was carved out of the state in 2000, I have fond memories, partly from happy days at St Xaviers in Patna and partly from travels in idyllic farming country with my father who, though a journalist, was an enthusiastic trade unionist on behalf of postal workers.
I think he might well have taken up the cudgels on behalf of Jharkhands adivasi and other tribes as he did with villagers whose homes were swept away by flooding from the Kosi river, the sorrow of Bihar.
This may seem a perverse way to put it but tribes people seem cursed because their lands contain an estimated 40 per cent of the countrys deposits of coal, iron ore, uranium and other minerals considered essential for Indias industrial and energy needs. Unfortunately for Jharkhands adivasis, the mineral wealth lies beneath the land that they have farmed and hunted on for millennia.
For Indians in the UK, two questions arise — as they go round an ambitious exhibition of photographs, Jharkhands Disappearing World, which opened last week at the Brunei Gallery at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.
Is it anti-Indian to campaign against the progress ushered in by such companies as Vedanta, Tata Iron & Steel and Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (which apparently suppresses knowledge of a growing incidence of birth defects and allows children to swim in polluted pools)?
Or is anti-Indian to allow tribes people to be driven to scavenging in their own lands?
The shocking opening photograph at the SOAS exhibition, which was attended by Dr Jennifer Wallace, a Cambridge linguist who has written the lucid captions to the images, and two of the tribal artists, Elizabeth and Philomena, shows the night disfigured by a field of burning coal.
Robert Wallis, who took the photographs and curated the exhibition, emphasised, This isnt about Maoists, but there was an indirect link, he acknowledged, with the terrorism taking place in Indias red corridor. And the tribes people themselves, who still live in dark villages, have not benefited from the electricity lighting up Delhi and the India-Pakistan border.
Jennifer, director of studies in English at Peterhouse, made the burning coal fields of Jharkhand sound like Dantes Inferno: This is an image of Hell. Hell is fire, suffering, greed, injustice.
Though a don at Cambridge, Jennifer could offer this opinion as an outsider: The sense of powerlessness caused by the forced development and mining feeds into the sense of grievance and persuades the tribals into the hands of the Maoists.
| COMING SOON: Sachin in his own words
At this years London Book Fair, much busier than in 2010 when most overseas publishers could not come because of the volcanic ash over Iceland, I immediately gravitated to the Hachette pavilion where there was poster for My Autobiography, with a pretty awful cover photograph of Sachin Tendulkar.
Oh, look it up on the Hachette website, said the girl minding the desk.
The next day a man was only slightly better informed. Its a new book, either written by him or authorised by him. Its a little behind schedule. It will be published either by Hodder or Headline.
There was nothing there either.
At Canon Gate, which is bringing out Tahmima Anams The Good Muslim, the Bangladeshi authors sequel to her well received A Golden Age, I learnt the imprint has taken on Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombays Dance Bars by journalist Sonia Faleiro.
The fair hummed in 2009 when India was the focus country. For South Africa, it was a write off last year. This years focus has been on Russia, which has handed over to China for next year.
It seemed sedate this year though Pramod Kapoor, at Roli Books, sighed with contentment with the business he had done. At White Flag, I was struck by two coffee table volumes which reflect the power of new money — one on beautiful new homes and another on beautiful new corporate offices.
Most of the homes have Western-style baths (whereas in India I still prefer the old fashioned balti and plastic mug).
Thats the fashion, I was informed by Dhwaj Shah, White Flags chief strategy officer.
No home or office seems to be from Bengal, which says everything you dont want to know about 34 years of Left rule in the state. However, Calcutta probably still has some of the loveliest old homes in India dating back to British times. I think I have convinced myself Mamata should outsource the management of Calcutta to the Brits if she intends it should be run as well as London.
Swearing by Satyajit
At I.B. Tauris, a publishing house I like because it is quick to reflect contemporary international relations, Iradj Bagherzade, the firms Iranian-origin chairman and publisher, confirms Andrew Robinsons The Apu Trilogy: Satyajit Ray and the Making of an Epic is a new book.
We are the major Ray publishers, he says proudly. We are looking at three more Ray projects. Ray is one of the jewels in our crown. If you had half a dozen of the worlds top directors, Ray would be among them.
Dev Patel, one of the most talented British Indian Asian actors in the UK, needed a little help to make him sound authentically desi, it can be revealed.
In a new British film, The Great Exotic Marigold Hotel, due for release later this year, Dev plays a totally Indian boy — not an England-returned product — who runs the retirement home with his mother.
The movie, based on These Foolish Things, a novel by Deborah Moggach, recounts the experiences of British pensioners whose lives are transformed after they outsource their retirement to India. The glittering cast includes the Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.
The director, John Madden, who made Shakespeare in Love, could not find a young actor in all of India but instead had to return to the UK to settle on Jamal Malik from Slumdog Millionaire.
Dev impressed all during a recent three-month shoot in Jaipur and Udaipur.
He is a lovely boy, very committed, very hardworking and great fun, says my source. His character is supposed to be Indian Indian. He had a voice coach.
Some will find this ironic, while the late Peter Sellers, who irritated some Indians by mimicking the way we are supposed to speak, may well be grinning in his grave.
But that Dev requires a voice coach to give him a genuine Indian accent should not be a surprise considering Frieda Pintos boyfriend, who will turn 21 on April 23, was born and brought up in Harrow, north London. He is also very un-Indian in another way — he helps his mum with the washing up. Now, Frieda speaks Bombay English.
One Supriya Biswas has won third place in the Wisden & MCC Cricket Photo of the Year 2010, in association with Park Camera, of children playing cricket on December 26, 2010.
But she needs to assure us the picture is not a set up — all the kids are wearing dhuti-punjabi.