Eye on England
On the rise
Rishi Sunak, a junior ministerial appointment in Theresa May's recent reshuffle, once told me: "I am a great admirer of Tiger Pataudi." The Nawab of Pataudi remains a heroic legend at Winchester College where, as captain, he broke Douglas Jardine's record by scoring 1,068 runs (which remains the highest in a season). It was sweet revenge since Jardine had dropped Pataudi's father from the England team touring Australia in 1932-33 for protesting against 'bodyline bowling'. Some four decades later, Rishi, born in Southampton to a doctor father and a pharma mother, was head boy at Winchester, before going to Lincoln College, Oxford, where he took a First in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics). He then went as a Fulbright scholar to do an MBA at Stanford, where he met his future wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of the Infosys founder, N.R. Narayana Murthy.
In 2015, when William Hague stood down as MP for Richmond in Yorkshire, Rishi did incredibly well to be chosen as his successor in one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Rishi, who has so far focused on constituency issues, will have to broaden his horizons as junior minister for housing, communities and local government. It is not necessarily helpful for his career that Rishi, now 37, has been tipped by some as 'a future chancellor or even leader'. Priti Patel, who was similarly lauded, is currently out in the political wilderness. Asked what it felt like to be described as 'the son-in-law of Narayana Murthy', Rishi told a Yorkshire paper: "My father-in-law is an extraordinary individual, he's come from an exceptionally simple background and ended up creating one of the world's most successful IT companies. It sets a high bar for me to try and live up to."
Return to the roots
There was a time when I used to see something of Archie Panjabi, whom I rate as one of Britain's most gifted actresses. That was before she left for America to find fame, fortune and an Emmy for playing Kalinda Sharma in The Good Wife.
Happily she returns to Britain periodically, currently to play Mona Harcourt, a Pakistani doctor married to an Englishman, in an ITV crime drama, Next of Kin. Shabana Azmi is her mother. Trouble begins when Mona's brother, Kareem, is abducted and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan. The police are none too gentle when they start investigating Mona's extended family. In episode two, next week, Mona is due to fly to Lahore to retrieve her brother's body.
One can sense this story is not going to end well but it is set against the background of home-grown terrorism when the majority of the Pakistani population suffers because of the actions of a minority. This is the harsh reality of life in contemporary Britain.
Indians don't go often enough to Yorkshire, England's largest county that is blessed with spectacular scenery. In his maiden speech in the Commons on June 18, 2015, Rishi Sunak said that "the constituency of Richmond is known for its remarkable natural beauty. In the east lie the North Yorkshire moors and in the west sit the Yorkshire dales, with their distinctive dry stone walls, stone barns and softly rolling valleys."
It is in the wild Yorkshire moors that Emily Brontë set Wuthering Heights. This year marks the author's 200th birth anniversary, so TV will probably show the classic 1939 film version, starring Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and Merle Oberon as Cathy.
Now I realize why Oberon's beauty reminded me of Suchitra Sen. Oberon suppressed the fact she was of Indian origin, born Estelle Merle O'Brien Thompson in Bombay on February 19, 1911, a child of mixed parentage.
With the passing of Peter Preston at the age of 79 on January 6, British journalism has lost one of its defining figures of the last four decades. The Guardian was still a broadsheet when Preston was its editor, from 1975-1995. He continued to write columns, mostly on the media, both for The Guardian and its sister paper, The Observer, until almost the end. In 2009, The Guardian switched to the 'Berliner' format, halfway between a broadsheet and a tabloid. Preston won't be around to see The Guardian's transformation to a tabloid next week. The Guardian's espousal of left-wing politics is both its strength and its weakness, but the paper has always been known for its foreign coverage and its good writing. Preston was the one who introduced the "G2" section where 'pop could meet posh', a formula that has been copied globally. The world of British newspapers is undergoing fundamental changes, but Preston will be remembered fondly as one of its greats.
On a personal note, I am glad that I knew Preston well enough to say hello when we met at Asian dinners - the last one was in October last year. He was a typically shy Englishman but, over the years, whenever I discussed journalism with him, he was always encouraging.
In the world of British showbiz, you never know who you are going to fall in love with. Charlie Brooker, a satirist who writes Black Mirror for Netflix, was a guest on BBC Radio 4 recently. His life, he confessed, had been transformed by marriage and fatherhood. Brooker is married to Konnie Huq, who was prone to accidental wardrobe malfunctions when photographers were around. Life now revolves around their two kids.