The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kiran swings it the right way

Five years ago, Amarjit Matharu, a Leeds shop owner, was practising a few drives at a local pay-and-play golf club when his 11-year-old daughter, Kiran, also picked up a club, started “messing around”, and impressed a professional who detected she had natural ability.

“So I brought her a golf club ' and the rest is history,” Amarjit tells me.

At 16, Kiran has developed into “the best female amateur golfer in the country”, according to one newspaper. She has caught the eye of Nick Faldo, considered Europe’s greatest-ever golfer with 42 titles to his credit. He trained Kiran in California as part of his “elite squad”.

Amarjit says his ambition is now for his daughter to play in India, from where his father, Karam Singh, a Sikh, emigrated to Britain in 1958. Amarjit was born in 1962 in Leeds, as were his two sons, Harminder and Kamaljit, 18 and 12 respectively, and Kiran.

Amarjit is a competent golfer himself, as is Harminder, who was last week playing in the Daily Telegraph-sponsored junior golf championship in Dubai. But the golfing star in the family is Kiran, who is this week in Houston, Texas, being coached by Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods’s former swing guru.

Kiran has left her state school, Allerton Grange in Leeds, “because she can earn a lot more money through golf”. She is abroad so often that her family has got used to her absences.

She topped the English Girls’ Order of Merit in 2003, represented Yorkshire at 15 and has made her debut as a full England international. She has been selected by the England Ladies Golf Association to be one of its elite players and will play for Great Britain and Ireland versus America in the Curtis Cup next year.

“I’m proud to be the only Asian girl playing,” Kiran has said. “I enjoy myself on the course.”

For those who understand golf, Kiran “plays off plus 3.4 ' compared to America’s Michelle Wie’s plus 4.2”.

Prime time

Archie Panjabi, to my mind the best Indian actress in Britain, is currently filming in A Good Year, which is an appropriate title because she has had a pretty good year. The film, directed by Ridley Scott and based on a book by Peter Mayle, is about an investment banker (played by Russell Crowe) who swaps London life for a vineyard in France.

In late November, Archie will be in Jaisalmer and Jodhpur for an Italian film.

She is in The Constant Gardener, which will go on general release on November 11. Based on John le Carre’s novel, it stars Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz and is spoken of as a possible Oscar contender.

Last week, Archie was in A Very Social Secretary, a television dramatisation of the events surrounding David Blunkett’s affair with Kimberly Fortier, the American publisher of The Spectator magazine. Blunkett (played very convincingly by Bernard Hill) was home secretary then ' he is now back in the Cabinet as secretary of state for work and pensions.

The writer of the drama, Alastair Beaton, admitted it was “a deliciously heady mixture of sex, politics and power”. An outraged Blunkett tried unsuccessfully to stop the broadcast on Channel 4 on the grounds that his privacy was being invaded.

Poor Blunkett, cruelly ridiculed as wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, in bed, must feel humiliated. His hopes of succeeding Tony Blair as Labour party leader have effectively been destroyed.

“David’s having an affair,” the PM tells his wife at one point in the play.

“Beckham'” asks Cherie.

“No, Blunkett,” says Blair.

When Blunkett has to step down as home secretary, he asks Blair who will replace him. Seeing Blunkett grimace at the mention of Charles Clarke, Blair adds hastily: “Let’s face it, no one’s going to want to sleep with him.”

I am unsure whether the process of democracy is enhanced by plays like A Very Social Secretary. Perhaps it would be worth emulating the experiment in India.

Archie is superb as “Ashley”, a political aide who is a composite of several characters and about the only one who is sympathetic to a blind man.

Archie, who has been in Bend It Like Beckham and East is East, confides: “I like doing Indian things but sometimes it’s nice to do something not Indian.”

Sure cure

The brilliant Oxford scientist Ajit Lalvani admits: “I do like watching films, not necessarily Bollywood films. But all I do is work, come home, see my wife (Spanish-born Maria) and eat. Mind you, I did like Lagaan.”

Ajit’s own life might make for a forensic thriller. Working in his lab, he has discovered a new way of combating tuberculosis (TB).

Hitherto, it was thought that the BCG vaccination either helped stop people who had been infected with the TB bacteria from developing the disease, or assisting them to get better if they were already suffering. But Ajit has now found vaccination can protect people from getting infected in the first place.

Ajit, of Magdalen College, who is the Sherrington Lecturer in Medicine and has his lab at the university’s Nuffield department of clinical medicine at the Radcliffe Infirmary, now wants to develop a new vaccine which will be more effective than the present BCG.

For his landmark discovery, Ajit, son of businessman Kartar Lalvani, has just been over to Paris to collect the Scientific Prize of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

We have all seen black and white Bollywood films in which the heroine, at the very moment she discovers love, coughs into a dainty white hanky. The instant we see the stains, we know she is a goner.

Ajit believes his work will have huge implications for India, where 400,000 people die every year from lung infection. “TB is a large and growing problem in most of the world,” he points out. “And a quarter of the TB patients are in India.”

STANDING TALL: Indira Gandhi

Indira’s India

BBC television last week rebroadcast its 80-minute documentary, Indira Gandhi: The Killing of Mother India.

But 21 years after her assassination, what was meant to be a hatchet job shows her, unintentionally, in a favourable light. Democracy-loving Nixon and Kissinger backed Pakistan when its army carried out a genocide in East Pakistan. Mrs Gandhi was forced to go to war and won. Indians don’t need to be reminded of Mrs Gandhi’s shortcomings or that Sanjay was a thug. But despite the BBC’s attempts, history will judge her kindly. People don’t have to be uncritical admirers of Mrs Gandhi to see she was not going to take any nonsense from Nixon.


Tittle tattle

We have all heard of plastic Christmas trees which do not shed pine needles but an artificial “Om Tree”'

No one I consulted could think of having come across one before but the “snow tipped fibre-optic Om Tree” version or the plain “fibre-optic Om Tree” is available in Britain for '49.99 plus p&p in time for “Divali”. It comes complete with “5 Hindu God Figurines and Lights”. Major credit cards accepted.

If I have come across anything more spectacularly vulgar, it does not immediately spring to mind. The saving grace is there is only a “Limited Offer!”

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