| Game changer: Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991
Ash can be proud to be pregnant
In Cannes last month, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gave no indication that she was planning to take time out to have a baby. She talked mainly about her new film, Heroine, flanked by the movies producer, Ronnie Screwvala of UTV, and the director, Madhur Bhandarkar, who described Ash as the brand ambassador for India and for Indian cinema when it comes to the French Riviera.
In the West, it is unlikely that the pregnancy of a top actress would be announced by her father-in-law in the manner adopted by Amitabh Bachchan on Twitter: I am going to become a grandfather. Aishwarya expecting. So happy and thrilled!!!
It would have been pointed out that since his daughter Shweta has children, he already is a grandfather.
In the West, the options open to pregnant stars were dramatically changed in August, 1991, when Demi Moore was photographed nude by Annie Leibovitz, a celebrity in her own right, for the cover of Vanity Fair. That was one of the game changing images of the decade, certainly for America and later for the whole of the Western world which takes its cue from the US.
Moore, 28 at the time and married to fellow actor, Bruce Willis, was heavily pregnant with her second child. The photograph divided America, outraged many but eventually came to be seen as a huge step forward for womens empowerment.
Since then, many actresses, pursuing Moores proud to be pregnant philosophy — from Natalie Portman to Maria Carey, Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie and Cate Blanchett — have been eager to show off their baby bumps.
No wonder the Daily Mail remarked: Forget the latest Hermès handbag or this seasons Louboutin heels — the latest hot Hollywood accessory is most definitely a huge baby bump.
Though Indian society remains conservative, there is an opportunity now for Ash to be a little more than just a Bachchan bahu.
That Ash, at 37, is expecting a baby is happy news for her and Abhishek and we should all wish them well.
| FAIR TALE: Ramachandra Guha in Oxford
Is Ramachandra Guha the most interesting man in India?
I ask because his was certainly an unorthodox keynote address when Oxford held an India Day last week, with 80 assorted bigwigs invited, aimed at strengthening the universitys links with India.
The packed Nelson Mandela Theatre at the Saïd Business School heard the historian and columnist argue: We are not a superpower. We are not even an emerging superpower — we are just the most interesting country in the world.
He remembered asking a pickle seller from Kashmir who was minding a stall at a book fair in Kerala: What the hell are you doing here?
Oh, I heard there was a fair going on, the man responded. So I thought I would come along and sell my mango and other pickles.
Guha also recalled how the Eton and Oxford educated British biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, settled in Calcutta in 1956 at the age of 64, and lived for the rest of his life in India until his death, at 72, in Orissa.
Despite Indias size, complexity and things going wrong, Guha felt the countrys flawed but inspiring experiment with democracy marked it out as the most interesting country in the world.
After a fortnight delivering the Radhakrishnan Lectures at All Souls College, Oxford, Guha returns to India but comes back in September to take up a visiting professorship for a year with the London School of Economics (LSE). While researching a book about Gandhis years in South Africa, he will keep an eye on his daughter, Ira, who has had three university offers, including a conditional one from Cambridge.
We can safely rely on Guha to supply the pickle during his LSE tenure.
When Rabindranath Tagore visited Oxford in 1913, his hosts apparently took him hunting.
This emerged during a session on India Day, held at Trinity College, devoted to discussing the humanities, and, in particular, Indian Traces in Oxford in the late 19th century.
The session was chaired by Elleke Boehmer, professor of world literature in English, and Alex Bubb, a DPhil candidate in English literature — Alex does an Oxford walk pointing out objects of Indian interest.
I had misheard, said Alex. Tagore had not gone hunting but punting.
On the first trip, an Indian student, S.K. Chettur — the latter reminisced later, But can I leave Oxford without dwelling on the pleasures of summer-term and of punting in the river Cherwell? — took him out on the river, Alex tells me.
Bengali students, in evening dress, gave him dinner at the Randolph Hotel in 1913, while, in 1930, Tagore came to Oxford to deliver the Hibbert Lecture on the religion of man. On one visit, the welcoming party had to raid a funeral parlour for a garland because none was available elsewhere.
In 1912, Lord Curzon, then Chancellor of Oxford, blocked an honorary degree for Tagore but this was given in Santiniketan in 1940 shortly before the poets death in 1941.
Alex says this was the first time an Oxford degree was conferred outside Oxford. The Times headline was In Gangem Defluit Isis — the Thames flows into the Ganges.
Sweet & sour
Anish Kapoor is taking a forthright stance in the fight for artistic freedom in China.
Britains premier sculptor, who has cancelled an exhibition of his work in China, says he is delighted at the release on bail of the dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei after 81 days in prison.
But he dared David Cameron to use his joint press conference in London this week with the visiting Chinese Premier to condemn the Chinese. We have to be very, very aware that the economic power that the Chinese government wields is such that almost everybody is afraid to say what must be said.
Despite lucrative offers from China, artists should boycott the country until its human rights record improves, declared Anish in a BBC interview.
I would go so far as to call on my colleagues all over the world... to not show in China while this goes on, urged Anish, who is unlikely to be invited to China again. Ai Weiwei is only one of a 100 or so of prominent people who are held in custody. Since they cant shout, we can shout for them. I say, Friends, resist, it is all we have.
Mamata Banerjee should be made aware that investors are looking afresh at Bengal.
An insight into Britains thinking is provided by Richard Heald, chief executive of the UK India Business Council, who will attend a crucial summit in London on June 29 to coincide with the arrival of a Confederation of Indian Industry delegation.
After 34 years of Communist rule in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjees victory should usher in a pro-business environment, enthuses Heald.
Mamata should tread softly over Tata.
The goody bag for guests attending India Day at Oxford contained a fun volume for the train journey back to London — the Little Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
Here is the Hungarian-born film actress Zsa Zsa Gabor on sex: Personally, I know nothing about sex because Ive always been married.