Eye on England 02-10-2011

Imran is Pakistan and Pakistan is Imran Mittal’s corner Sex diaries Deified dames Touch me not Tittle tattle

By AMIT ROY Unauthorised: Julian Assange's story Devi talk: In praise of desi women
  • Published 2.10.11
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Imran is Pakistan and Pakistan is Imran

Now that I have had a chance to read Imran Khan’s Pakistan: A Personal History (Bantam Press; £20), it is easy to understand how he has paid a very heavy price in terms of his marriage to Jemima Khan for continuing to believe that he is the answer to his country’s ills.

“The government-sponsored media portrayed my marriage as an intricate plot by the Zionists to take over Pakistan through Jemima,” writes Imran, who has told me he hopes to be in India to promote his book. “It did not seem to matter that she was not actually Jewish. In fact she was baptised and confirmed as a Protestant.”

After tolerating Pakistan for nearly a decade, Jemima returned to London, ostensibly for a one-year masters degree in Modern Trends in Islam at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and took the boys, Sulaiman and Kasim (who are now 14 and 12), with her.

Imran found Jemima’s announcement devastating. “In my heart I knew it was the beginning of the end.”

In Pakistan, “a comment about (Jemima) having to read a book by Salman Rushdie for her university dissertation on post-colonial literature turned into a story saying she had chosen him as her guide”.

It is hard not to sympathise with Imran as he tells of the break-up with Jemima. He says “the greatest happiness and contentment in my life came from my marriage... I had worked harder at making my marriage work than anything else in my life.”

He remembers that “the six months leading up to our divorce and the six months after made up the hardest year of my life. The children’s obvious distress exacerbated the misery; they are always the ones who suffer the most in divorce. Sulaiman, being older, felt it more and seeing his pain doubled my pain. I missed them terribly.”

He had always been a hands-on father. “Now not having them around was the hardest thing to come to terms with. For the first time I began to understand how people could lose the will to live.”

“Jemima is very generous in giving me time with the boys,” acknowledges Imran. “They come to stay with me during their school holidays and I then devote myself entirely to them. Whenever I am in England, I stay with my ex-mother-in-law, Lady Annabel, who still treats me as part of the family. Her sons Ben and Zac are like younger brothers to me.”

Maybe when they grow up his sons will understand. For now, the book “is dedicated to Sulaiman, Kasim and the youth of Pakistan”.

Mittal’s corner

David Cameron and his five-year-old son, Arthur, were photographed sitting next to Lakshmi Mittal at the Aston Villa-Queens Park Rangers (QPR) match at the latter’s home ground at Loftus Road in London a couple of Sundays ago.

Some people wondered why a Tory Prime Minister was fraternising with a Labour Party donor who had in the past contributed generously to Labour Party coffers. He did indeed give several million pounds to Labour but did so because the party was then in power — an old Indian tradition.

The real point is that Mittal owns 33 per cent of QPR and his son-in-law, Amit Bhatia, is on the premier league side’s board as vice-chairman.

Earlier this summer, the Mittals made an unsuccessful bid to buy the remaining 66 per cent of QPR but instead the majority stake was sold to Tony Fernandes, a Malaysian entrepreneur and founder of the low-cost airline Air Asia.

What did Mittal say to Cameron?

Probably, “You must come home for some simple Indian food. And bring Mrs Samantha with you.”

Or perhaps the two men chatted using the lingo of football.

Cameron: “Your boys done good.”

Mittal: “Well, mate, I was sick as a parrot when your geezer kicks the ball at the back of our net, know what I mean, Dave? Do you fancy a couple of jars down the pub later?”

Sex diaries

Julian Assange’s unauthorised autobiography has just been published in London by Canongate Books (£20), but the author had wanted to abort the project.

The WikiLeaks founder had given his reported million pound advance in fees to his lawyers who were fighting to resist the attempt to extradite Assange to Sweden to face rape charges.

When he was unable to return the advance, Canongate said it was sticking to the contract Assange had signed and went ahead with publication.

The book is written by a ghost writer, novelist Andrew ’Hagan, on the basis of 50 hours of taped interviews with Assange but after reading the first draft, the subject commented, “All memoir is prostitution,” and asked to pull out.

Assange has been living in Ellingham Hall in Norfolk since he was released on bail. The book contains a clinical account of how in Sweden he juggled sex with Ms A and Ms W. “I did not rape those women... They each had sex with me willingly and were happy to hang out with me afterwards. That is all.”

Whatever the truth, the episode comes across as decidedly sleazy, with the result that Assange’s halo has slipped. The rape charges have also moved focus away from the question of whether he was right to publish confidential US cables.

Deified dames

The theme for this year’s lectures organised by the Bagri Foundation is to be “Devi”, making me think of Sharmila Tagore from the Satyajit Ray film of that name.

The Americans sometimes refer to women as “dames”; in England, a Dame is a woman of distinction honoured by the government. It is only in Indian society that women are elevated to the status of Goddess.

The fours lectures, to be held at SOAS in London, bear the titles: The Indian Goddess: Sacred and Seductive; Sex, Death and the Goddess; Warrior Women and Androgynous Goddesses; and Domestic Goddesses: Private to Public. There is a range of academic speakers — from Partha Mitter to Parul Dave-Mukherji, Madhu Kishwar and Mukulika Banerjee.

I might have squeezed in an extra lecture: The Devi as Didi.

Touch me not

L’Oreal have denied touching up Freida Pinto’s picture to make her look fairer. But manipulating photographs goes back to the earliest days of Hollywood — and the tradition continues.

British children aged 10 and 11 are being shown “before and after” images of singer Britney Spears to stress how her legs have been rendered slimmer.

The idea is to reassure children that perfection is a myth propagated by the evil advertising industry.

Tittle tattle

The home secretary Theresa May has signed an order for an Indian husband Shrien Dewani, 31, to be extradited to South Africa to face a charge of conspiracy to murder.

He is accused of having his wife, Anni, 28, killed by hired hitmen while the couple were on honeymoon in November last year following their wedding in Mumbai.

Anni’s family have campaigned for Shrien’s extradition, even though the evidence against him is unconvincing.

I agree with Max Clifford, who was recruited to represent Shrien as his press spokesman.

Shrien is done for if he falls into the clutches of the South African police.