| FACT OR FICTION: Tarun Tejpal
Why Indians are good at bad sex
This year not one (which would be creditable enough) but two Indians have been shortlisted by the Literary Review for “Britain’s most dreaded literary prize”.
The “bad sex award”, is given, as it has been for the past 13 years, by the 15,000-circulation literary journal “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel”.
The award was won two years ago by Aniruddha Bahal, former Tehelka journalist, for his novel, Bunker13.
This year, I am happy to announce that his former boss at Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, is among the eight shortlisted novelists, for his book, The Alchemy of Desire, along with Salman Rushdie for Shalimar the Clown.
The judges have been kind enough to send me the extracts for which the authors were picked.
“We began to climb peaks and fall off them,” Tejpal has written. “We did old things in new ways. And new things in old ways. At times like these we were the work of surrealist masters. Any body part could be joined to any body part. And it would result in a masterpiece. Toe and tongue. Nipple and penis. Finger and the bud. Armpit and mouth. Nose and clitoris. Clavicle and gluteus maximus. Mons veneris and phallus indica. The Last Tango of Labia Minora. Circa 1987. Vasant Kunj. By Salvador Dal'.”
Rushdie can perhaps recall things from memory: “'.. ‘Let’s, you know, caress each other in five places and kiss in seven ways and make out in nine positions, but let’s not get carried away.’ In reply, Boonyi pulled her phiran and shirt off over her head and stood before him naked except for the little pot of fire hanging low, below her belly, heating further what was already hot. ‘Don’t you treat me like a child,’ she said in a throaty voice that proved she had been unsparing in her drug abuse. ‘You think I went to all this trouble just for a kiddie-style session of lick and suck'’ ”
The cynical might suggest that the rest of the world is too busy actually engaged in sex to have time to write about it. But Tom Fleming, spokesman for the Literary Review, offers me a kinder explanation.
“I don’t know why Indians are such consistent performers in the competition,” he muses. “Maybe it’s in the blood ' England never had anything like the Kama Sutra, did it'”
| MILES APART: Jemima Goldsmith (left) and Imran Khan in happier days
New ball game
Bradford University has made a surprising choice for its fifth chancellor ' Imran Khan, who turned 53 last week.
“The former cricketing legend turned politician, Imran Khan, will become the university’s fifth Chancellor when he is officially installed at a special ceremony on Wednesday, December 7,” discloses a Bradford University official.
While the job is a largely ceremonial one aimed at promoting the university, Harold Wilson, the late Labour Prime Minister, was Bradford’s first chancellor from the university’s inception in 1966 ' it had previously been a technical college ' until 1985, took his responsibilities extremely seriously, rarely missed graduation ceremonies and personally conferred over 21,000 degrees.
It would be a bonus if the Lahore-based Imran is spotted again on campus but perhaps he will surprise us. Back in 1992, he was made “Asian of the Year” by Jasbir Singh Sachar’s Asian Who’s Who publication (hostess and charity worker Surina Narula won this year, incidentally), turned up late in a T-shirt to the black-tie affair and has not done anything for Asians in Britain other than raise funds for his personal cancer charity.
However, the choice by Bradford University, which is located in a city with 60,000 Muslims, makes sense. Ever since the bombs in London in July, British society and various institutions ' unlike their counterparts in France ' have been casting around to find positive Muslim role models. Imran, who will lay the foundation stone of the university’s new Institute of Cancer Therapeutics, certainly is one, though it’s a pity he remains such an unreconstructed hawk on Kashmir.
Imran, who was the Oxford University cricket captain during his own undergraduate days ' Benazir Bhutto was one of his contemporaries ' “will be a role model for young people in the university and the city, strengthen our links with south Asia and he will be a valuable bridge between East and West,” according to Bradford vice-chancellor, Professor Chris Taylor.
Let’s hope so. Meanwhile, his former wife, Jemima, has taken up a new subject for study ' she is researching the actor Hugh Grant.
There are people who ask, “Do you know the best Indian restaurant in London'”, before telling you, “It’s Salloo’s.”
The restaurant, which is Pakistani actually, was founded in 1977 by Mohammed Salahuddin, who was born in Dehradun but moved with his family to Pakistan after Partition.
“Lamb chops are the speciality of the house,” Salahuddin’s daughter, Munizeh, tells me. “Our head chef, Abdul Aziz, has been with us from the very beginning. Our food is very traditional north Indian, from Karachi and Lahore.”
This is one reason why people like Michelin Guide inspectors, who are more impressed by bizarre concepts of nouvelle Indian cuisine, have tended to ignore restaurants like Salloo’s, she suggests.
She is absolutely right. Western inspectors, who are qualified to assess Italian and French food, would do better to employ someone like Imran Khan to judge Indian and Pakistani food ' now reckoned to have the biggest following in Britain.
Personally, I have never had a chance to eat at Salloo’s but I am glad it’s been awarded a star in Egon Ronay’s 2006 Guide to Restaurants and Gastropubs.
Since Iran remains one of my favourite countries, it was painful to hear the confessions of a young Iranian businessman who sat next to me at the Foreign Association Awards last week in London ' an estimated 700 foreign journalists from 70 countries are based in London.
“If the Americans invade Iran, it wouldn’t be such an unpopular thing,” he reflected.
He doesn’t see the mullahs losing power, pointing out that more than half the country’s population has been born since the revolution in 1979 and has not experienced any other way of life.
The businessman is part of Iran’s professional middle class which fled the country just before Ayatollah Khomeini took over from the late Shah’s regime.
“Every time I return, it gets worse and worse,” he laments.
The FPA presented mostly pointless prizes to British journalists but a worthy “dialogue of cultures” award was given to the Iranian investigative journalist, Akbar Ganji. The 46-year-old journalist couldn’t attend. He was being tortured in prison simply for doing his job.
|FAITH HEALS: Mohammad Yousuf
India, I agree, cannot slavishly follow the American line on Iran but it is worth remembering the plight of ordinary Iranians like Ganji, who has been locked up for six years, when deciding India’s foreign policy.
Mohammad Yousuf, the Pakistani cricketer previously known by his Christian name, Yousuf Youhana, may have hit 13 Test centuries before but the British media attached special significance to the one he scored in Lahore last week against England.
“It’s his first as a Muslim,” the media pointed out.