| Book marked: Gen. J.J. Singh in London
Musharraf: ‘My role in his downfall’
General J.J. Singh’s great achievement last week was to persuade Indians, Sikhs especially, to buy copies of his autobiography, A Soldier’s General, for £25 — it costs Rs 799 (£9.08 at the current exchange rate) in India.
A large pile heaped on a table sold briskly as people queued to have their copy signed by the retired general.
Joginder Jaswant Singh, 66, former chief of the army staff, the first Sikh to hold the post, and now Governor of Arunachal Pradesh, had a military career which was uncannily a mirror image of that of Pervez Musharraf in neighbouring Pakistan.
Speaking to an audience of about 300 at the Waldorf Hilton in London’s Aldwych, he argued: “When Kargil happened, we were surprised initially but then we fought back with determination like a wounded tiger. We said we would get all of them out from our territory and we did that.”
“In my book I have talked of the perfidy committed at that time and the lies trotted out — I did feel like bringing out my perspective of the Kargil war including that of the Army Chief and also the President of the country, Pervez Musharraf,” the general continued.
“He was the Army Chief of Pakistan, I was the Army Chief of India — he was also wearing the second hat of the President of the country so he was technically above me protocolwise. But... I knew I had an edge over him because I was doing full time chief of army staff; he was doing much more than that.”
“So I have described Pervez Musharraf and me — our lives more or less very similar up to a certain level, then diverged,” the General said. “I have said truthfully what I felt about him — I hope he does not mind it.”
It’s just possible that Musharraf, currently holed up in London while awaiting the call to return home and save Pakistan, will choke on his chhota peg when he reads the chapter, “Musharraf and I”.
“We both married pretty girls — my wife is here,” the General told his audience.
“As youngsters we fancied Bengali damsels, but unlike Musharraf mine was a briefer friendship,” the General reveals in his book.
Once reconnaissance tracks down the two Bengali damsels, perhaps the General’s autobiography and Musharraf’s, In the Line of Fire, should be sent to the ladies for favour of review.
| BEAUTIFUL WOMEN: Rupa Ganguly (sitting) and Raima Sen in Abosheshey
Rupa & Raima
Bengali cinema is blessed to have Rupa Ganguly and Raima Sen who act together in Abosheshey (At the end of it all), one of the entries in the London Indian Film Festival which we all enjoyed seeing last week at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.
It is a tale of Soumya (Ankur Khanna), a young Bengali settled in San Francisco, who returns to his boyhood home in Calcutta after his mother Suchismita (Rupa Ganguly) passes away. Years previously, she had chosen to remain behind in Calcutta while her husband and son emigrated to the US. The father remarried; the son did not see his mother again. In Calcutta, he now discovers his mother had confided her innermost thoughts to a young neighbour, Nandini (Raima Sen).
In marks given afterwards to determine which film should receive the “audience award”, most in our group awarded the film a creditable 4 out of 5. But a common complaint was that director Aditi Roy had ended the film abruptly.
Somewhat pathetically, Soumya leaves only a goodbye note for Nandini, who had made such an effort helping him recreate his lost mother, as he flies back to the US.
Why? He should have stayed back for Nandini or taken her with him.
This raised a question in our group: are Bengali men useless — or totally useless?
| DIFFERENT STROKES:Tanya Baxter with a self-portrait of Husain (left) and a portrait by Warmouth
At Masterpiece London, a fine arts exhibition held in London last week, dealer Tanya Baxter had two portraits of M.F. Husain.
MF’s spectacular self-portrait was “not for sale”.
The other, by Tanya’s husband, Pip Todd Warmouth, who was also friendly with MF, was priced at £18,000.
One report has suggested that some fake Husains are appearing on the market, but Tanya says: “People with Husains are sitting tight. There won’t be any movement in the market for Husains until his family have decided what to do with the collections they have.”
|Twinkle toes: Sharmistha Mukherjee in London
One of the advantages of having Pranab Mukherjee as President is that fans of Kathak may get to see more of his daughter, Sharmistha, in London.
Audiences fell in love with her when she did an exhilarating solo at the Nehru Centre four years ago.
Compared with the slightly curmudgeonly 76-year-old Pranab babu, Sharmistha came across as an even-tempered woman — she has recently been on television urging Mamata on personal grounds not to oppose another Bengali’s chances of attaining high office.
In London, Sharmistha had joked, “I’m a bad Bengali girl,” as she explained that what she needed most after dancing non-stop for 90 minutes were “a beer and a cigarette”.
Her Kathak was a tour de force, especially the last section when she adapted the language of her classical dance to the rousing music of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
One smitten Pakistani man, I recall, practically begged her on bended knee to return to Pakistan, where she had danced on a previous trip to the sufi music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
Sharmistha once accompanied President Kalam on a state visit to Iceland as a member of the Indian delegation.
She should become a permanent part of her father’s team, travel with him at home and abroad — and jump in and act as his spokeswoman whenever she notices his ears becoming red.
From President Pranab, let’s jump to President Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood who is taking over in Cairo.
I hear that a diplomat-cum-writer friend of mine, Navdeep Suri, who was a popular press officer in London some years ago, is being sent as Indian ambassador to Egypt. Cairo will be familiar to him since he had once served there as a relatively junior Indian diplomat.
Here’s my prediction: Egyptians will look back with nostalgia at the good old days when the country was ruled by the undemocratic but secular Hosni Mubarak (whom, to be frank, I had found to be an agreeable man during an interview).
Still, that should not stop Navdeep from enjoying his time in Cairo — and arrange evening parties where he reads out his own translation of his grandfather Nanak Singh’s Punjabi classic, Pavitra Paapi.
I remember the evening when he launched it at Foyle’s bookshop in London.
Remember Milkha Singh, India’s Flying Sikh, who missed out on a 400-metre medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics only in a photo finish?
His son, Jeev Milkha Singh, 40, dreams of representing India at golf in the 2016 Olympics just like his father did in athletics on three occasions.
But for the time being Jeev is focused on the Irish Open. Following a seven under par 65, he has shared the lead with France’s Gregory Bourdy at Royal Portrush, the first Northern Ireland course to stage the event since 1953.