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Eye on England 15-07-2012

Javed Akhtar’s goodbye to God Kiss & not tell Taj times Tea party Service move Tittle tattle

By AMIT ROY Treasure trove: Hegde Roy at the new store Good life: Lord Paul (centre) with his daughter (left), Ken, Aruna, and Ken’s wife Emma Beal (right)
  • Published 15.07.12

Javed Akhtar’s goodbye to God

Javed Akhtar, in London last week with Shabana, talked to the Indian journalists’ Association about many issues, including what he thought about the recent claimed discovery of the Higgs boson, “the God particle”.

Before Javed saab, who is famously an atheist, could respond, his wife cut in.

“First it was called Ungodly particle...,” Shabana quipped.

Javed saab began: “I failed to understand if we have discovered one more particle, much smaller than a proton, how does it prove whether there is God or there is no God?”

One imagined this was the sort of thing Jai would say in a remake of Sholay: “If the universe is created by God then this little thing is also created by God. And if the universe is not made by God, then the Himalaya was also not made by God.”

“So this doesn’t prove the matter either way,” he (Javed saab, not Jai) said. “For that you don’t need any particle — all you need is a little common sense. And you can decide whether there is a God or there is no God.”

Javed saab, who was promoting his new book of poems, Lava, explained he had written Khuda Hafiz as a sort of “goodbye to God”.

He predicts that the Indian view of God will change.

“I think it may take a few centuries or may be a millennium... but this concept (of God) is on its way out.”

He admitted “it will take time — it won’t happen tomorrow, it will not happen in our lifetime or perhaps (even in) the life of our grandchildren. But it’s on its way out, that’s for sure... because it comes from the dark ages; it comes from times when people did not know whether this earth was round or flat.”

“They did not know why it rains, why floods come, why people get diseases, why fruits come in the trees,” he pressed home his argument. “So this concept of God that you and me have or maybe you have — as long as we have these beliefs, we are living in the remnants of the dark ages. Human beings will be called totally rational, logical, modern and out of the dark ages when we will get rid of these superstitions.”

Kiss & not tell

The “kiss & tell”, once the staple of the now defunct News of the World, has “virtually disappeared” since last July from British tabloid newspapers.

Media commentator Roy Greenslade suggests newspapers are behaving themselves because of the investigation into press ethics being conducted by Lord Justice Leveson.

A memorable kiss & tell was that of Faria Alam, a Bangladeshi secretary at the Football Association, who had a one night affair in 2003 with the Swedish-born former England manager, Sven-Göran Eriksson.

She was one of the clients of PR supremo Max Clifford who has helped many a young woman squeeze as fat a fee as possible in return for an invariably embellished kiss & tell.

Back to the present when many celebs, especially married footballers such as England player Rio Ferdinand, have taken out high court injunctions to try and prevent newspapers revealing their adultery.

Greenslade’s written statement to the Leveson inquiry says: “I accept that all newspapers wish to inform society about itself; all seek to hold power to account; and all also want to entertain. But there are wide differences in the way that papers balance those three functions.”

“Papers that prefer to entertain rather than inform, for example, will argue that they have a right to publish a preponderance of material interesting to the public and that it is a denial of press freedom to deny them from obtaining it,” he adds.

“If it means intruding into the privacy of a married footballer in order to show that he has committed adultery, then so be it. The paper is therefore ‘preventing the public from being misled’.”

The real truth about kiss & tell is that it does wonders for circulation.

Taj times

Sarita Hegde Roy, chief operating officer, Taj Khazana, said, “This is my baby,” as she proudly opened one of her stores — the first outside India — at the Crowne Plaza hotel in London.

Sarita, well known to journalists from the days when she worked for Taj public relations, added: “There are 12 Khazana stores in India.”

They include “two in Delhi, one in Calcutta, three in Goa and two in Hyderabad”.

Perhaps it is time that the Crowne Plaza, formerly the St James Court Hotel, was renamed Taj London.

Tea party

Lord Swraj Paul established The Tea Party in London long before it became fashionable in the US. Though this summer is experiencing rain, rain and more rain, he had his annual tea party last Sunday in Regent’s Park in remembrance of his daughter Ambika, who died from leukaemia aged just four in 1968.

“It was seeing Ambika’s courage during her illness that taught me never to give up hope,” declared Swraj.

“This morning I was saying to myself I am 81 years old,” he said, surrounded by family and friends.

The latter included Sarah Brown, wife of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. He paid tribute to Ken Livingstone, former Labour mayor of London: “Without Ken Livingstone, London would not have had the 2012 Olympics. Ken, I think the nation is grateful to you now.”

He thanked his wife, Aruna, for being a “rock” and his four children and eight grandchildren, including his youngest granddaughter Amalia, and grandson, Arki, four, who had played the drum in a concert that morning.

“I have had a good life and have been very fortunate,” said a reflective Swraj.

Service move

BBC World Service broadcast its last bulletin from Bush House on Thursday July 12 at midday BST. Forced by the need for savings, it’s moved a mile away to an expanded Broadcasting House near Oxford Street.

My late father would have shed a tear. We came over — my mother and us five brothers and sisters and my uncle — when he joined the Bengali service. I always loved the Bakewell Tart with lashings of hot custard served in Bush House canteen. At home in Calcutta we have (fading) photographs of my father, seated in front of a microphone in the studio, with such guests as Uday Shankar.

Fr Cleary drew our attention to Tennyson’s observation in Morte D’Arthur: “The old order changeth yielding place to new, And God fulfills himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

Still, I think the BBC has made a mistake moving from Bush House.

Tittle tattle

ER soap actress Parminder Nagra’s divorce battle in the US with her British photographer husband James Stenson has turned nasty — he is demanding a big cut of his wife’s wealth. She has three luxury homes, he has claimed.

Parminder was best in the Tamasha Theatre Company’s stage production of A Tainted Dawn in 1997. Then she became a star after Gurinder Chadha cast her in Bend It Like Beckham. The money must have attracted men.

Ironically, Parminder’s Sikh family in Leicester apparently pushed her into marrying Stenson in 2009 when she was expecting their child.