Recipe for success
I don’t think I have come across a Bengali quite as unappealing as Parth(a) Guha, an academic with a doctorate in psychology from Ireland, who finds it difficult to say a polite word to his wife, Mishti, who is trying her best to bring up their daughter, Maya, while pandering to her husband’s whims. Back in Calcutta, his first words at their arranged meeting were, “I am a medical doctor, you know.” In Ireland, Mishti is homesick and yearns for Calcutta. When Mishti spends all day making kosha mangsho as per his mother’s recipe, he thinks it’s a trick and rejects the dish. Parth flirts with his students and neighbour, Ciara Dunphy, but feels no need to offer Mishti a word of explanation when he is late home from work.
Luckily, Parth is only a character in Disha Bose’s debut novel, Dirty Laundry, which Viking reportedly picked up for a six-figure sum. Her dark novel was written during the lockdown. Disha is off shortly to promote her book’s publication in the United States of America.
When we talk, Disha laughs and admits she cannot cook kosha mangsho, but her Irish husband, Richard O’Shea, has mastered her mother’s recipe. The couple, who settled in Ireland in 2015 and now have a daughter, lives in Cork with its lush, rolling countryside. Her parents, Debadrita and Gautam Bose, visit annually. Disha moved around India since her father flew for the Indian Air Force but she attended Calcutta Girls and Loreto College and says, “I’m a Calcutta girl.” Ireland’s Indian population is tiny, but along with the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and the 1966 Miss World, Reita Faria, now a grandmother of nearly 80, Disha has become the country’s latest celebrity with an India connection.
Before he left London to make a home in India, Patrick French and I were frequently in touch. He told me that he had turned down the OBE as an honour because it contained the word, “Empire”, and also that VS Naipaul and his wife, Nadira, had picked him to be the great man’s “official” biographer. Therefore, French’s death at the age of 57 has come as a painful shock. Naipaul was silent when The World Is What It Is came out. It alleged that he had been cruel to his first wife, Patricia, and been violent and engaged in “unnatural sexual practices” with his long-term Anglo-Argentinian mistress, Margaret Gooding.
But Farrukh Dhondy tells me that when Naipaul read the allegations, “he rang me in Brisbane in Australia and said, ‘Patrick has betrayed us. I’ve got the proofs of the book and I can’t do anything about it. Farrukh, you don’t realise how deep socialism has gone.’” Dhondy, however, commends Patrick as an honest biographer who was meticulous in his research: “He was very clever and did a lot of good work. He wrote biographies that are valuable.”
Amish Tripathi’s War of Lanka is already out in India but, exceptionally, there is a British edition from HarperCollins UK. It had a glitzy launch at the St James Court Taj Hotel where the author, who is also the director of the Nehru Centre in London, was in conversation with the actress, Sonam Kapoor.
Charlie Redmayne, the CEO of HarperCollins UK, told at the book launch: “We believe that there is a real opportunity for Amish’s writing to not only reach the substantial Indian community here in the UK, but also break into the broader (British) book market.” Incidentally, Tripathi and the film director, Shekhar Kapur, are collaborating on a British musical based on Raavan. “In modern India people say he is the greatest villain ever but actually if you go back to the ancient texts, he is a much more nuanced character,” explained Tripathi. “He wasn’t just a thug. He was actually a brilliant man. He was a good administrator. (But) he had massive anger management issues. And he had an uncontrollable ego. The interesting thing is Raavan and Lord Rama both worshipped the same god, Lord Shiva.”
A summary of Rishi Sunak’s tax returns, released by his financial advisers, Evelyn Partners, shows that in the three years, 2019-2022, the prime minister paid taxes of £1,053,060 on earnings of almost £4.8 million. A friendly Asian accountant summed it up thus: “He’s a rich boy but he has done nothing wrong. His earnings from his salary as an MP and a minister are unremarkable. Most of his money comes from unearned income. To get that kind of capital gains you have to have a lot of investments.”
He estimated Rishi’s personal net value, which does not take into account Akshata Murty’s wealth, was between “£50m to £100m”. Their combined wealth is at around £790m. As to whether Rishi was wise to publish his returns when he is accused by the Opposition Labour party of being too rich to sympathise with the struggles of the ordinary folk, the accountant retorted: “Why shouldn’t he? With his wealth, he has demonstrated he does not need to be corrupt.”