| Remembering Tiger: (From left) Kareena, Saif, Sharmila and Saba at Winchester College last summer
Tiger, Tiger, still burning bright
All being well, the Indian Journalists’ Association in London will launch the recently released HarperCollins book, Pataudi: Nawab of Cricket, in the summer.
Meanwhile, I am happy to report that the school magazine at Winchester College, where Pataudi was a pupil from 1954 to 1959, has carried an affectionate obituary of one of its more famous pupils.
The obit in The Trusty Servant, as the magazine is called, is, in fact, the address given by John Greenall, one of Pataudi’s contemporaries, at the commemoration lunch for the dashing cricketer who was captain of Oxford, Sussex, India and, perhaps most important of all, Winchester College.
Greenall recalls how Pataudi’s great friend, the Australian Ian Chappell, “was trying to discover how he earned his living outside cricket. After a couple of inconclusive answers, Chappell pressed him once again. ‘Ian, I am a bloody prince’, was the exasperated reply.”
Greenall tells another anecdote worth repeating: “Tiger once introduced me to Gary Sobers at Lord’s. After he took his leave, I asked Gary the inevitable hypothetical question — how good do you think he might have been if his sight had not been affected? His reply was unforgettable — ‘he was so good, I believe he might have changed the Don’s records.’”
Grenall remembers a holiday in India in recent years and attending a camp in the forests. “It was whilst at this camp that we saw Tiger’s reaction had not slowed down with the passing of time. Someone sent a glass on its journey to the floor and almost certain destruction. All of a sudden his hand shot out and caught it inches from the deck. ‘I have not lost the knack yet,’ he said with his usual laconic smile.”
Perhaps Grenall could deliver the BCCI’s newly instituted “Pataudi lecture” in India one year.
| New England: The Duchess of Cornwall at Mulberry School
When Prince Charles’s wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visited the Mulberry School for Girls in Towers Hamlets in the heart of East London’s Bangladeshi settlement last week, she was about the only one not wearing a hijab.
Unlike France, where religious apparel is banned from schools and other government institutions, Britain takes a very relaxed attitude to the veil. Muslim women are not discouraged from wearing the headscarf so that it is a common sight in buses, trains, banks, offices and schools. In Muslim majority areas, the girl who chooses not to wear the hijab to school is the one who would stand out.
After visiting Mulberry School and a community centre, Camilla said: “I’ve been so impressed by everything I have seen. I hope it goes from strength to strength and I’m sure you will.”
Compared with France’s Muslim population of 4-5 million, Britain’s is around 2m, half of whom are of Pakistani origin and dominate certain cities such as Bradford and Luton. Problems occur only when a woman insists on wearing the full nikab or burqa during interactions with members of the public; otherwise Britain does not make a fuss about the headscarf.
French President François Hollande and the British Prime Minister David Cameron, who will both be in India shortly leading trade missions, can be invited to explain how they hope to meet the challenge of absorbing their Muslim populations in the years to come.
In the West, excessive gold jewellery is referred to disparagingly as “bling”. This is perhaps an idea that should be pursued by P. Chidambaram.
The finance minister recently told an investors’ conference, hosted jointly by Standard Chartered Bank and Goldman Sachs in London, that he would be happier if he could curb the Indian lust for gold.
“We have a trade deficit in India — and I’m afraid it will remain in deficit for many more years to come,” Chidambaram admitted. “We need to import a large number of items, foremost among them, oil; we also import capital goods, we import edible oils, and thanks to the peculiar passions of Indians, we import a lot of gold.”
“I wish I could change that attachment to gold overnight, but, I’m afraid I can’t; so while we need to export more, I have to recognise that there is and there will be a trade deficit,” he added.
| India link: Glen Peters (right) with Carwyn Jones
Fans of detective story writer Glen Peters may be able to catch him at the Tollygunge Club tomorrow. It will be recalled that his debut novel, set in the Anglo-Indian community in Calcutta from which he himself hails, was the very entertaining Mrs D’Silva’s Detective Instincts and the Shaitan of Calcutta.
The sequel, Mrs D’Silva and the Lucknow Swami, which involves a poisoning plot at a Dalda factory, is now more or less ready, Glen told me before leaving London with a company of friends on a three-week safari in India.
Glen, who is also a sort of zamindar with an estate in Wales, said: “I built Wales’s first solar park 18 months ago which last year produced 1.3 GW of energy into the grid.”
It was inaugurated by Carwyn Jones, first minister of Wales, who led a trade delegation to India last year.
Glen (who can certainly help ease load shedding in Calcutta) used sheep to try to keep down the grass in five hectares of fields. “However, after a few months I noticed that my woolly friends began to prefer the cables in this £2.7m power generation plant and were literally nibbling through my assets. Now they have been deported to Saudi Arabia where there is an excellent market for Welsh lamb.”
Glen added: “Our new project is the Solar Homes prototype which I hope will revolutionise sustainable house building.”
More later on a Bengali boy made good but Sir Suma(ntra) Chakrabarti (born in Jalpaiguri in 1959), president since July last year of the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), will be popping into Calcutta on a private visit before starting his March 4-8 official trip to India.
He wants to meet journalists in Delhi and Mumbai.
“His primary goal will be to outline the aims and the achievements of the EBRD as an investor, particularly in the former communist eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and more recently in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, following the events of the Arab Spring,” I am informed. “He would be looking for potential investment partners from within the Indian financial and corporate community.”
Suma was once the most senior Indian civil servant in Britain — a sort of Sir Humphrey Appleby or, if you prefer, Humphrey Babu.
| La dolce vita: Pakeeza lassi
This morning’s general knowledge question: who or what is Pakeeza?
Anyone who says it is a 1972 film, directed by Kamal Amrohi and starring Meena Kumari and adopted for some reason as a mascot by the Asian lesbian movement in the UK, gets a big zero.
In fact, Pakeeza is a British company making mango lassi now available at Sainsbury’s. At £2.99 (Rs 250), it’s not cheap but it’s certainly delicious. That a major supermarket chain has moved into retailing what might be considered a niche ethnic product is revealing. It means that the future for Asian cornershops is not bright — something worth bearing in mind when inviting Trojan Western supermarket chains into India.