The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Raj’s recipe for seduction

Raj Persaud, the well known London psychiatrist, has just published another book. It’s a pity that the American A-Team actor, Dirk Benedict, 61, who has apparently got the hots for our Shilpa, didn’t read Simply Irresistible: The Psychology of Seduction — How to Catch and Keep Your Perfect Partner (Transworld; £12.99) before entering Celebrity Big Brother.

According to Raj, who is himself happily married with two children, if you meet someone you fancy, don’t be in too much of a rush to agree with everything the other person says. It is much more effective initially to disagree, and then come round to the other person’s point of view, he says.

This seems spot on. A woman of my acquaintance delights in upsetting people when asked questions which beg a fulsome reply such as: “And what did you think of my film/book/show/performance'”

“Not a lot — and do you want me to be honest'” is the provocative response guaranteed to raise people’s hackles.

But, by and by, having been candid to the point of cruelty, she ends up half way through the evening being new best friends with whomsoever she had earlier shredded.

Dr Raj Persaud, “BSc MSc MB BS MPhil FRCPsych, consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital, London, and Gresham Professor for Public Understanding of Psychiatry”, outlines an “interesting psychology experiment on flirting and seduction”. He says: “The experiment found that in dates where people agreed with everything the other person said, they were found more attractive than in dates where everything said was disagreed with. No surprise there. But in a date where you started off disagreeing with everything the other person said, then switched to agreeing half way through the date, you were found most attractive of all.”

He adds: “The latest psychological research finds intriguingly the key issue in relationships is not the fact of an argument — all couples argue — but how you argue.”

After a patient confided, “I don’t need Prozac, doctor, what I really need is a boyfriend”, Raj “suddenly realised that much human unhappiness stems from loneliness or problems arising out of relationships that are not going well. If you are in an unhappy marriage, statistically your chances of suffering from clinical depression go up by a factor of 30.”

Given the hectic nature of modern existence, the fact we live longer and that a marriage might have to endure for 50 years, our choice of partner becomes even more critical, not least in India.

“India is a fast moving society which is going to be one of only four world superpowers militarily and economically within a decade,” observes Raj. “However, dating in the western sense and the notion of individual choice is still something culturally alien to many Indians.” In the end, it comes down to the old question: is it better to marry and to burn or not to marry at all'

What Raj is offering are lessons in seduction.

Hate figure

One quality that separates Indians from Brits is in their attitude to elders. I have noticed that when famous Britons write autobiographies, more often than not they will have harsh things to say about their dead parents. In fact, this is a must if they aspire to lucrative newspaper serialisation.

In marked contrast, Amitabh Bachchan will always remain a dutiful son — “there can only be one Doctor in our family”. The Ambani brothers will never whisper a word against Dhirubhai, even if there was reason to. It would be against Indian culture — and long may it remain so.

The British are different. Even so, I was shocked to hear Anthony Horowitz, a popular novelist who has also adapted Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot tales for television, speak about his maternal grandmother.

Horowitz, 51, grew up in a wealthy Jewish family in north London, steeped in luxury and loneliness. He scarcely knew his father, a mysterious businessman who took little interest in his son. After his father died, the money that had been moved to secret Swiss accounts could not be traced. The boy was sent to Orley Farm, a north London public school, where he was beaten until he bled. But most cruel of all was his maternal grandmother who harangued her daughter even when the latter was dying of cancer.

On one of the most popular programmes in Britain, Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4, Horowitz spoke with frightening vehemence and singular eloquence about just how much he had loathed his grandmother. Eventually, when his grandmother died, he and his sister attended her funeral. “Then we danced on her grave,” declared Horowitz, as I, for one, listened with fascinated horror.

“And how did you feel'” he was asked.

“I felt much better.”

It had been one of the most joyous occasions in his life.

HARD TALK: Tony Blair

Mighty fallen

There cannot be too many countries where a satire on the ruling prime minister of the day, as savage as The Trial of Tony Blair, will be permitted on national television. Yet, this will be screened on January 18 on Channel 4, imagining a scenario three years from now when Blair still remains prime minister after having reneged on his pledge to hand over to Gordon Brown — the chancellor of the exchequer will miss the TV drama because he will be in India.

An actor, Robert Lindsay, plays Blair who is cruelly portrayed in as flattering a light as possible. Today, even those who were gung ho about the Iraq war, have come round to the view that backing Bush was a disaster.

Alastair Beaton, who has written the screenplay of The Trial of Tony Blair, denounces the prime minister unequivocally: “Many serious commentators and several distinguished lawyers are of the opinion that one day Blair may indeed have to stand trial for leading the nation into a war recognised as a crime in international law.”

Somehow, I don’t think so — unless all the MPs who ratified parliament’s decision to back Blair’s war are also put on trial.

But it is probably the case Blair will be remembered by the British only for Iraq. However, Indian historians and political scientists ought to consider another factor when assessing his legacy — he has been very pro-India and pro-Indian.

Now, we will have to depend on Gordon Brown’s good friend, Lord Swraj Paul, to ensure that there is no change in Blair’s India policy.

WEDDING BELLS: Vikram Chatwal and Priya Sachdev


It will, no doubt, be exciting for the western guests flying in and donning pink turbans and colourful saris at the March wedding of Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar. But last year it was all done rather more lavishly — in Mumbai, Udaipur, Jaipur and Delhi — by New York hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal whose actor son, Vikram, married model Priya Sachdev.

Hurley is opening a special shop in the Hilton Towers Hotel in Mumbai where her guests will be able to buy their Indian extras. In contrast, Chatwal senior, who was keen to project Indian hospitality, insisted: “My guests must not put a hand in their pocket.”

Tittle tattle

English commentators have given their vanquished cricket team in Australia a collective nickname — “Persil'”

Why pick the name of a soap powder'

“Because it produces a whitewash.”

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