Eye on England

Lord Bagri's copper-bottomed story Speed of light Love in Paris Election insult Tittle tattle

By AMIT ROY
  • Published 30.04.17
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Lord Bagri's copper-bottomed story

METAL MAN: Lord Raj Kumar Bagri  

The expression, "copper-bottomed", means "thoroughly reliable; certain not to fail".

This is certainly applicable to Lord Raj Kumar Bagri, who died in London on Wednesday last week at the age of 86.

He was born in Calcutta on August 24, 1930; began his career in the city at the age of 15 earning Rs 125 as a filing clerk and apprentice metal trader for the Binani Metals Group; came to London in 1959 and soon set up his own company, Metdist; eventually became the first Indian to be made chairman of the London Metal Exchange in 1993 and held the post for an unprecedented 10 years until 2002; and was elevated to the House of Lords in 1997 as a Conservative peer with the title, Baron Bagri of Regent's Park.

His main business and passion was copper - something he has bequeathed to his 57-year-old son and heir, Apurv Bagri, the president and CEO of Metdist.

Lord Bagri remained chairman of Metdist but since his health was "up and down" in recent years, the show has really been run by Apurv, who, among the many other hats that he wears, is also chairman of the London Business School, a prestigious institution with a lot of Indian students.

Lord Bagri was quiet and understated, using one word where 10 would not have been out of place. Meanwhile, Apurv learnt academic rigour by taking a degree in Business Administration from the Cass Business School, where he is today a visiting professor. He is that rare animal - a tycoon (the family's net wealth is estimated at £260 million) who is also an intellectual.

I had just missed Lord Bagri at the Metdist HQ by Cannon Street station in the heart of the City of London on December 29 last year where I was interviewing Apurv.

With Lord Bagri's death, a banyan tree has fallen, but the sapling has grown strong, too, I am pleased to be able to report.

"How much did you learn from your dad?" I asked Apurv.

"Oh, an awful lot!" he replied.

"And that would be osmosis?" I wondered.

"It's osmosis," he emphasised. "It's living with him, being with him, hearing him, talking to him."

"You've been very close to him?"

"Very, very close - my best friend and buddy."

"And you know what he thinks?"

"We both tend to know what we both think, pretty quickly with each other," Apurv said.

"Instinctively?"

"Instinctively."

Speed of light

GENIUS: Geoffrey Rush as Einstein 

At university I convinced myself I understood the significance of Albert Einstein’s equation, E = MC², where C is the speed 
of light.

I now appreciate I completely misunderstood C, judging by a new 10-part television drama, Genius , which began last week on National Geographic Channel, in which Einstein is played by the great Australian actor, Geoffrey Rush.

Einstein certainly went through women with the speed of light. From my great pile of unread books, I have found Walter Isaacson's biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe , on which the series is based.

Will Genius be released in India?

Secretary, cousin, friend's daughter, colleague, student - Einstein had them all.

If C stands for a tight Clinch, M for a nubile Maiden, then perhaps E is the sexual Energy released.

"Was Einstein a sex-crazed love rat?" asked shocked reviewer Harry Mount in The Daily Telegraph .

But then psychiatrists have long remarked that geniuses often need to feed voracious sexual appetites.

Love in Paris

AGELESS: Emmanuel Macron with (left) Brigitte Trogneux

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the guest of honour at the Indian Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi in 2008, he was apparently encouraged by his hosts to leave behind his live-in girlfriend Carla Bruni. She accompanied him two years later - by which time they were safely married.

Should the centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, win the second round of voting today in the French presidential election, he will have no problems bringing his wife, Brigitte Trogneux. At 64, she is 25 years his senior - he was teacher's pet at school.

This has provoked much comment but women columnists have pointed out that no one thinks it odd that Donald Trump, 70, is 23 years older than his 47-year-old wife, Melanie.

Election insult

Tory foreign secretary Boris Johnson has insulted Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn by calling him a "mutton-headed old mugwump".

Boris himself did know the phrase comes from Roald Dahl's 1972 book, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator , in which Willy Wonka refers to Mrs Bucket as "my dear old muddle-headed mugwump".

Meanwhile, war has broken out in the Johnson family - Boris's younger sister, Rachel, has joined the Liberal Democrats to fight the hard Brexit, which her brother supports.

Tittle tattle

Lord Swraj Paul has returned to London, singing the praises of Calcutta -"it's much cleaner" - and Mamata Banerjee.

"She doesn't get the credit she deserves," Swraj tells me.