| PARLOUR APPEAL: Foyer at Claridges where afternoon tea is served
Anyone for afternoon tea?
Stop press: good news. Things are definitely looking up for West Bengal because there is a tea delegation actually coming to Britain from the state with the aim of boosting exports.
Its members are senior representatives mostly of tea estates from North Bengal such as Unique Tea Growers, Manakamna Tea Industries, KB Tea Product Pvt. Ltd and Tewari Tea Corporation.
Despite the challenge from coffee, 120 million cups of tea are drunk in the UK every day. The delegation members have asked to visit a tea parlour a quaint term for a tea shop. The idea is to turn some of Indias heritage sites into tourist attractions which will serve tea in the English fashion.
The other day when I happened to mention to Lord Swraj Paul that I quite like tea and toast at Flurys on Park Street, Calcutta, he said his family owned the establishment. I had to confide that I have not been able to convince Flurys that the tea and the toast should arrive at the same time.
I assume heads would roll for a lot less at Claridges in London the hotel on Brook Street, Mayfair, which the Bengal delegation should perhaps visit if its members wish to understand the English institution of afternoon tea.
This year, Claridges has received The Tea Guilds Top London Afternoon Tea 2011 award, the Oscar of the tea world.
Claridges beat off competition from several worthy candidates that included Browns Hotel, Grosvenor House Park Room & Library, The Athenaeum, The Connaught, The Dorchester, The Goring, The Lanesborough, The Savoy, and, last but not least, The Ritz.
At £37 per person, afternoon tea at Claridges is not cheap (with Rosι Champagne, the charge rises to £60).
For that, Claridges serves a choice of over 30 different types of tea from all over the world. Tea is accompanied by a delicious selection of finger sandwiches and chic French pastries (which change every day and can include a range of rich chocolate cakes, seasonal fruit tartlets and desserts presented in shot glasses with a variety of flavours and textures) complemented by freshly baked raisin and apple scones. The latter are served with Marco-Polo jelly Claridges own popular tea-infused jam and traditional Cornish, clotted cream.
Afternoon tea, which is replacing the business lunch for some, is served in Claridges magnificent art deco Foyer and Reading Room on beautiful Bernardaud green and white striped porcelain, it goes on. A classical pianist and accompanying musician add to the elegant atmosphere.
Tea for two can also offer a romantic interlude.
I do hope that Saif and Kareena, who apparently stayed recently at Claridges, availed of afternoon tea.
| CELEB CALL: Sally Bercow
The Speaker of the House of Commons, the Right Honourable John Bercow, MP, 48, has been in India at the invitation of his opposite number, Meira Kumar, meeting Hamid Ansari, S.M. Krishna and Sushma Swaraj, and giving a lecture, Parliamentary Reform, at Delhi University.
Meanwhile, back in London, where her husbands India trip appears to have attracted not a line, wife, Sally, 41, is getting masses of coverage for entering the new edition of Celebrity Big Brother. Appearing with Sally will be the typical crowd of celebrities from the fringes of society.
It is Sallys tendency to play up her naughtiness which probably drives her husband wild.
In February, she posed coquettishly with just a sheet wrapped round her with the Palace of Westminster in the background and quipped: The view from the Speakers House is incredibly sexy, particularly at night with the moon and the glow from the old gas lamps.
In another interview, she revealed that in her younger days, she had been a binge drinker prone to casual sexual encounters.
Like Shilpa Shetty, Sally has appointed Max Clifford as her PR advisor.
Though Sally is expecting to raise £1,00,000 for charity, she realises her appearance is going to raise a few eyebrows in Parliament I want to stick two fingers up to the establishment, who think its not the sort of thing I should do.
As she entered the reality television show last week, wearing a tight blue dress and black heels, she admitted her husband wasnt very pleased and had tried to keep her in order. The very fact Im here proves he hasnt succeeded. I hope he doesnt divorce me over it.
Maybe Meira should avoid asking the Hon. Commons Speaker: So, hows your wife?
Few have been as generous to Christs College, Cambridge, than one of its former students, Yusuf Hamied, chairman of Cipla, the pharmaceutical giant.
A few days ago, he returned to Lensfield Road, Cambridge, to inaugurate the Todd-Hamied Laboratory in the department of chemistry to which he has gifted half a million pounds.
Yusuf, who had studied under Lord Todd, the Nobel Prize winning chemist his pupils were apparently called Toddlers was back in the same seminar room where he was tested successfully for his PhD at the age of 23.
I was very nostalgic and sentimental, said Yusuf later, explaining, I spoke in the seminar room after 51 years.
Muhammad Ahmedullah, secretary of the Brick Lane Circle, which seems to be an excellent study group based in East London devoted to promoting the history of Bengal and the Bengali people, has come up with many Portuguese words that have found their way into everyday Bengali.
We all know the Portuguese had a base in Goa. Lesser known was their presence in Bengal, the subject of Ahmedullahs PhD from Kent University.
Citing the History of the Portuguese in Bengal by J.A. Campos (first published in 1919), he provides several examples: janala (window in English) comes from the Portuguese word, janela.
Alkatra (pitch) comes from alcatrao; anaras (pineapple) from ananas; balti (bucket) from balde; while fita (ribbon) is the same in Portuguese, fita.
So long as speakers back up their claims with scholarship, we are not afraid of controversy and dont have to be politically correct, declares Ahmedullah.
The circle is organising its second annual Bengal History Week from October 3-9, 2011. One of the prize draws will be big game hunter Madhusree Mukherjee, whose book, Churchills Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II, blamed Britains wartime Prime Minister for the worst consequences of the Bengal famine.
Madhusree says the Circle invited the Oxford historian Sarmila Bose, whose book, Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War, has challenged conventional wisdom about the war.
Madhusree says of the Circle that they do seem to have an open mind.
Perhaps we need historians such as Madhusree Mukherjee and Sarmila Bose to write the history of Indias Test tour of England in the summer of 2011.
Many of todays English cricket writers and commentators are former players who do know the game but perhaps are not gifted with a vocabulary as extensive as that of, say, Neville Cardus or John Arlott.
They have certainly been stretched, coming up with innovative insults to heap upon the dismal and hapless Indians.
Headline in the Mail after day one at the Oval: Dismal Indians bowl only one decent ball... At least show some pride, Dhoni.