Welcome to my blog. I may write copy here that I would not present elsewhere. This blog allows me to comment while reporting for clients which can include subscription-only platforms. I use it to take a sideways look at running stories, and all views presented here are my own.

Interested parties are invited to comment.

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Monday, 3 December 2012

ING Investment Management; 14% Europe has good financial literacy

ING Investment Management has published new research with 5,500 people across 11 European countries looking at people’s financial literacy. The findings reveal that only 14% of Europeans have ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ financial literacy, with 20% having poor skills here. Some 66% have ‘basic’ skills. The UK had the second best score in the ‘league table’ but, despite this, only 22% of the adult population has ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ financial literacy skills. Interestingly, Greece came top. Other key findings include: Only 7% of people in Turkey had good or excellent financial literacy scores – the lowest of the 11 countries surveyed They study was based on 13 questions on personal finance issues. On average Europeans answered 6.2 of the 13 questions correctly compared to 6.8 in 2010 so financial literacy is getting worse Questions were based on four areas: Financial future (related to saving for your future) In and around the house ( related to mortgage payments, credit cards and savings) Savings (questions related to savings accounts) Investments (questions related to stocks and shares) The percentage of Europeans who answered the questions correctly in each section was as follows: Financial future: 52% In and around the house: 45% Savings: 41% Investments: 50% The scores for the UK part of the survey were as follows: Financial future: 51% In and around the house: 52% Savings: 40% Investments:57%

Thursday, 29 November 2012

How Billionaire Indians Splash the Cash in London

It was really interesting putting this article together for editor Prince Matthews Thomas for Forbes India's Rich List issue. Ultra high net worth individuals have specific ways in which they spend their money and Indians are even more culturally specific. For example, they like to live mostly in central London, as the real estate here is secure. And though they will spend enormous amounts of money on jewellery abroad, buying up Elizabeth Taylor's gems for instance, they still favour their personal jewellers in India. To write an article like this needs a whole team of contributors I can turn to, and I am grateful to people like Vikrant Bhalerao, CEO of Credere Wealth Management and the Dorchester's PRO Rosanna Fishbourne who gave me special info that wasn't in the public domain. It's good working with PRs and CEOs who understand that if they go the extra mile with a writer the return is simply a more colourful piece on their topic. And PRs who can't be bothered, are too busy or make their subjects too precious? They are not best serving the company or person that is paying them, because we are all on deadlines and I like to talk to people who make themselves available to talk to me! One PRO I recently dealt with was so arrogant and inattentive, that that person has actually put me off writing about their subject now.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Most German Multi-Millionaires live in London!

My colleague Andrew Armoils at Wealth Insight sent me this data over this morning...interesting...it is part of WealthInsight’s report entitled: Germany – The Future of HNWIs to 2016: Wealth in the Powerhouse of Europe. Germany’s rich: Top 25 Cities for German multi-millionaires According to WealthInsight research, there are 11,392 multi-millionaires in Germany (each with assets of over US$30 million), the third highest number in the world, behind only the US and Japan. Frankfurt is home to the largest portion of these with 1,868 multi-millionaires. Compared to major EU cities: this is above Paris (1,500 multi-millionaires), Zurich (1,314) and Geneva (1,156), but well below London (4,220). There are also sizable German multi-millionaire populations in Munich (1,113), Hamburg (843), Düsseldorf (524), Berlin (464) and Stuttgart (382). According to WealthInsight analyst Andrew Amoils: “Germany has a relatively even spread of multi-millionaires with 10 German cities with more than 150 multi-millionaires and 5 German cities with more than 400 multi-millionaires. This differs considerably from other major EU countries (UK and France) where wealth is centered around the capital cities” “However, one should note that the top 25 German cities for multi-millionaires are all based in former West Germany.” “Leipzig is the top East German city - it has only 28 multi-millionaires.” · The number of multi-millionaires in Germany increased by 0.7% over the four year period between 2007 and 2011 (review period). ·

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Spectator Life Conference Preview

I’ve come across an event taking place in London on 4th October; the Spectator Life Conference: Luxury in the Digital and Asian Age. The conference will explore the three key issues that affect luxury businesses today: how to create a powerful web presence without diluting your brand values, how to exploit the sophisticated new digital technologies such as augmented reality shopping to grow your business and how to create effective sales strategies to reach increasingly affluent and brand-aware Asian consumers. Speakers from India, China, France and the UK will be talking about the challenges and opportunities facing luxury brands. Speakers include: Grace Chang, digital strategy consultant to the luxury sector, and Tara Wang, co-founder of C&W Branding, on: "What Chinese Women Want" - the colour and taste aesthetics of Chinese women, the importance of digital strategies in China, and the use of social media. Katrina Dodd from Contagious, who specialises in advising brands on innovative digital marketing strategies, and Chris Sanderson, co-founder of The Future Laboratory on emergent trends in the Luxury market. Kate Anketill, CEO and Founder of GDR Creative Intelligence, on what's exciting and innovative in retail design. Also Claire Enders CEO of Enders Analysis, one of the leading consultancies and visionaries of the digital space. Stephen Bayley, author, critic, columnist, consultant, broadcaster, debater and curator.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Exclusive; Boris Becker, "You Have to Go Where it Hurts" for Forbes India

Boris Becker was gracious and expansive, frank and funny, easy to like. Trusting, and I trusted him too. Implicitly. He gave me much more than could be printed in one article, so watch out for the rest of it. When I asked him "What is your legacy?" He answered in a way that was completely unexpected. A champion. Special breed.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Wonderful to get back to reporting on the BBC

It's been a while, but I am happy to be back and filing reports for the BBC again. Some of those audience numbers are amazing. It's also nice to have an influence on the programme agendas.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Olympic Cauldron Designer Thomas Heatherwick talks to ForbesIndia

It was nice to get a chance to look at an aesthetic aspect of the London Olympics; the stunning cauldron, or set of objects which came together to form one big flame. Thomas Heatherwick oozes passion for his work; amidst the glitz, the glamour, the high octane level and the turbo-charged business deals, the still small voice of artistic endeavour was refreshing. While Thomas's interview about how he designed the cauldron effect is illuminating, I am fascinated by his other work. For instance, he designed the UK Pavilion for Shanghai for World Expo 2010. It was one of the standout features of that event, and is an important item in his portfolio. Thoughtful design which makes sense to the audience as well. How rare is that?

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Why Did Die Welt mention Forbes India in its article on Boris Becker?

I was happy to be seeing Boris Becker Friday August 3rd; Visit Britain had selected a number of journalists to meet the former world tennis champion at the St Ermin, a charming heritage hotel in central London. We have a journalistic code of conduct which kicks in the moment we step onto professional ground; it includes courtesy and respect for those we interact with. I cannot understand the sneering, arrogant tone that was adopted by Die Welt - the reporter implied that we should all have been there to take Boris Becker apart. Why? Becker hadn't done anything wrong, we were invited by Visit Britain -he represents it as an ambassador- and we were being given an opportunity to interview a world champion in an intimate environment, with lunch thrown in! Boris Becker is in no particular need of publicity. His job as ambassador is unpaid, he was doing the meet as a favour, the least that guests could do was observe a little bit of courtesy. In fact, he gave some interesting and entertaining answers to our questions. I don't know why Die Welt should have singled me on behalf of Forbes India out for my question and subsequent answer (which revealed something about Boris Becker's mindset). Once you get your interview with your subject, that is the best time to throw in any curve balls you wish to - if you are into that game. It is surprising what you can elicit just by being persistent and phrasing a polite question different ways. Eventually your subject will give you something. But to go in offensively and harshly right from the start doesn't earn you any favours and our business is all about creating good relationships that will allow you access on a continuous basis. To do that you must be respectful. Though Visit Britain had warned me that Boris would be short of time, so we needed to ask our questions in open session, I did ask to start a private interview with him. Boris agreed to my request and answered me fully, before being whisked away by government officials. Die Welt, you did our profession no favours that day, you disrupted the working atmosphere and I am very surprised at your hostility to one of your own country's best ambassadors. Remember on the world stage Boris Becker fought and won championships and set world records not for Britain, but for Germany. You may have grabbed some attention on Friday August 3rd, 2012, but I can assure you that Boris Becker will figure on the world stage for a lot longer than your very small reporter will.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Aperture; Forbes India. Olympic innovations

It's been a fabulous week in London. With sportsmen, business leaders, heads of state and visitors descending on the capital en masse, it's pure joy travelling around. People are happy, excited, in team colours, and the atmosphere is electric. I'm having the greatest fun looking behind the scenes with big chiefs for Forbes India. I got lots of fascinating interviews and renewed my admiration for the work of top-of-the range engineers. For this photo-essay on innovations for this Games, I worked closely with Forbes's talented DOP or director of photography, Dinesh Krishnan. Do tell us what you think.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Pranab gets what he wants -the Indian Presidency

My latest post at Coffee House; how Pranab Mukherjee, who has been a pillar of the Congress Party, has won for himself a reward for his hard years of negotiating and trouble shooting on behalf of his masters. I don't think that anyone should be relaxing too much with Pranab as President; there's a reasonable amount of power and executive clout that comes with the post and for once he will have the capacity to make decisions at his own. He is no longer beholden. He has five years to make a difference.It's taken four decades, and denied the PM's job by the party president Sonia Gandhi, he's wrested a great consolation prize. He might not have gotten it had Congress not become so debilitated.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Nice to be back at the Coffee House/Spectator

The forthcoming India presidential election on July 19 was the subject of my post to Coffee House/The Spectator site today. Coffee House has a brand new editor, Isabel Hardman, and in only her first week on the job she is going great guns. She is also a serious writer. I have said that Pranab Mukherjee is likely to get the job of commander in chief; let's see if that happens.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Review; "Gandhi's Outstanding Leadership" by Pascal Alan Nazareth

Dedicated to his late mother Elizabeth Lucy Nazareth, former Indian ambassador and head of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations Pascal Alan Nazareth has written an interesting book on Mahatma Gandhi.
There can't be an inspirational figure with more books written about him, but Mr Nazareth has produced an easy to read, carefully researched addition to the list. Perhaps because Pascal Alan Nazareth has been in the position of leading important teams himself, he has decided to examine his subject from the point of view of the Mahatma's leadership qualities. He examines India's most famous son's abilities in communication, organizational, strategizing, and management skills, and Gandhi's influences on contemporary figures.
I like the reader-friendly font and the liberal use of cartoons, drawings and black and white photos to bring the text to life. One of the most useful things that Mr Nazareth has done is to examine Gandhi in a contemporary context, highlighting what current figures say about him and how his influence can be reflected in world events. This is a different take on the Mahatma so deserves a read by anyone fascinated by him.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Four Rounds of Golf in One Day in Gale Force Winds

In gale force winds howling round Worcester one man is propelling a ball that weighs less than an ounce 20 miles over 16 hours. As I write this, Stew Wilson is playing four rounds of golf in lashing rain and winds so fierce roofs are not safe- all in one day. He is doing it to raise money for Macmillan nurses, the ladies who look after people who are terminally ill with cancer so that they can spend their final days with dignity in their own homes. While Stew is being battered by the elements and we are sitting in comfort looking at a screen and reading this, I am doing something I have never done before and asking you to dig deep to support this effort and this wonderful cause please. Wherever you are in the world, and I know my readers are international, please go to this website and give whatever you can.


Thank you.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

TV 786 Interview with Zachary Latif and James Brewer on "Sonia Gandhi"

It was very enjoyable being interviewed by Zachary Latif and James Brewer yesterday for just over half an hour on the book. Director Mujahid Omar did a nice job for TV786 and Anastasia at the Chiswick Moran Hotel couldn't have been more helpful in looking after us all. Zachary and James raised some thought-provoking questions which included references to some critical reviews which I took pleasure in answering. This is the first time I have had two interviewees for the book and the dynamic was interesting. I look forward to your comments.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Interviewing Sir Richard Branson for Forbes India

It was such a pleasure to talk to Sir Richard Branson, his daughter Holly and his son-in-law Freddie Andrews for the third anniversary edition of Forbes India.

I was given as much time as I needed by Sir Richard's fabulous head of communications, Nick Fox, for the subject of being good in business. Sir Richard answered everything I asked with a lovely smile and was frank and direct. He was upfront if he found a question made him think- it appeared that several of them did!

The articles in this issue are in "as told to" format rather than with a conventional narrative by the writer, so they come out as long sets of uninterrupted thoughts. They give good insight into the minds of leading business thinkers.

Holly and Freddie were politeness personified, willing and able to talk and seemingly thrilled with their recent visit to India with one of Virgin Atlantic's charities, Free the Children.

I'm reading Sir Richard's blogs regularly to follow what he is doing - it seems that we only scratched the surface in my 2,200 words!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

BBC Radio Interview tomorrow 2pm GMT for Asia House Book Event

Previewing our book event May 22 Tuesday with a live interactive studio discussion chaired by Nihal at BBC TV Centre for the Asian Network 2pm GMT. You can listen live on the internet. Listeners will be emailing and texting in. One of the other panellists, Mukulika Banerjee, will be in the studio alongside Adrienne Loftus Parkins, our dynamic Canadian organiser and probably the queen of Pan-Asian literature events in the UK.

Former Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy for Forbes India; Why Values Matter in Business

I really enjoyed interviewing Sir Terry Leahy, the former CEO of Tesco, for Forbes India. He is one of the UK's leading business thinkers and is credited with transforming the supermarket chain into a global giant.

His style was laid back, his tone moderated, and he answered all my questions with ease. I like the fact that Sir Terry is a private person, and that there are few public photos of his family.

Forbes India has a terrific theme for its third anniversary issue which was published last week. The theme this year is business as a force for good, and the magazine contains interviews with some of the planet's foremost opinion formers. Steve Forbes is apparently pleased as punch with his Indian brand, visits the Mumbai team regularly and promotes Forbes India in the US.

My editors in Mumbai are enthusiastic and engaged, and I enjoy talking to them. They are taking business and looking at its intersection with all areas of life; sport, the arts, science and technology, etc. Creating a different model to other magazines in the business space, which is why Forbes India is growing.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Coming Up; Festival of Asian Literature at Asia House, London

I'm looking forward to the panel on Power, Women and Politics on May 22nd, 2012 at the lovely Asia House in London. Festival Director Adrienne Loftus Parkins has carefully curated a wonderful season of book-related events which is the foremost festival of its kind in the UK and attracts a lot of attention. This preview article in The National highlights the fact that of the 50 speakers at the 2012 festival, 30 of us are women!

Jane Macartney of the Times will be moderating our talk; I will be appearing alongside  Peter Popham, who has written a recent biography of Aung San Suu Kyi and the LSE's Mukulika Banerjee.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

India Business Forum at the London Business School

The MBAs who worked with me were earnest and pulled off a good event on April 26th, 2012. Above all, they were respectful of the fact that I had mentored them so that we were in contact with a number of high profile guest speakers, eventually getting a prominent member of the House of Lords for the day's keynote.

The theme was India-Africa and I had plenty of material from my research on the Sonia Gandhi biography to talk about. I focussed on Mahatma Gandhi's 20 years in South Africa, where he developed his philosophy of non-violent resistance later used to great effect in India to free that country from the British and was acknowledged by Nelson Mandela as being inspirational to him. Jawaharlal Nehru always fought for Africa in international arenas, seeing the continent as a valued neighbour, and Indira Gandhi gave support to the Africa National Congress office in Delhi, providing it with diplomatic status.
Rajiv Gandhi used all his powers to speak out against apartheid-particularly going head to head with Britain's Margaret Thatcher- and when Mandela went to India in 1995 to give a Rajiv Gandhi Foundation lecture, he referred movingly to his late friend's support.
Sonia Gandhi visited South Africa and Mandela 100 years after the Mahatma's peaceful resistance movement was born, squaring the circle.

I chose to invite my colleague Matthew Jamison, Indophile and Consultant Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, to share the platform with me rather than give a keynote myself and he was a mine of information about London being a great business hub for India and for India-Africa relations. As he reeled out some astonishing stats everyone listened open-mouthed. He researched hard to get his talk ready within a matter of days and I was very pleased. We work well together.

China versus India in Africa was a theme of several questions, and I pointed to TLG Capital's good work in Africa using Indian expertise. TLG founder Zain Latif, another standout speaker of the day, easily and convincingly covered that side.

I really liked Robert Appelbaum, Partner with Webber Wentzel and Head of the South Asia Group. He was funny and snappy-in contrast to some of the other speakers and questioners - and emphasized the importance of seeing African countries as very different entities.

My friends Mark Pillans, MD of Mimir Communications and Ashutosh Shastri, MD of Enerstrat Consulting were also able to join us for the day.

Good to have supported the London Business School again this year.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Arab News Review of "Sonia Gandhi"

The Middle East's leading English daily, the Arab News, has just published this extensive review.
What reviewers can't seem to get their head around is that Sonia Gandhi does not give interviews to biographers, period. She is a very private person who is in future also unlikely to give interviews to a biographer.

With that given, they should then review books understanding that this is probably the closest the public is going to get to the lady in question, at least for the moment. It is no use whatsoever venting their frustration that Sonia Gandhi does not speak to biographers!
She just doesn't. Got that?

NB comments on this review are quite interesting...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Chicago Tribune quotes "Sonia Gandhi" as World Leaders prepare for May 2012 NATO Summit

As Chicago prepares for an unprecedented array of world leaders to arrive for a two-day NATO summit starting May 20, 2012, security is a hot topic. So distinguished Tribune reporters Stephan Benzkofer and Mark Jacob have put together a report on security information with ten interesting points.

The reporting duo fished out a fact from "Sonia Gandhi" that I had discovered from written sources; that Indira Gandhi often wore a bullet-proof vest but did not do so the day she was assassinated, October 31, 1984 since she was going to be interviewed on film by actor Peter Ustinov.

I'm glad that the book, which contains a lot of hitherto unknown security information (even my copy editor asked if I'd had the information cleared, which I had) is being used by those heralding the NATO summit in Chicago!

Monday, 2 April 2012

New Column; "Leading Lights" and forthcoming appearance at India Business Forum

CB Patel, owner and founder of the ABPL group which publishes the weekly Asian Voice newspaper, has given me the task of writing about interesting UK-linked South Asians in a weekly column called "Leading Lights." I'll be posting up links but that, along with editing a magazine on British Punjabis, has kept me busy hence a little silence from me.

And I'm looking forward to moderating a panel at the India Business Forum organised by MBAs at the London Business School. I have also gotten the keynote speaker of the day for the school, and been guiding the students in a big-sisterly way. The day-long conference will be on April 26th 2012.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Asia Times Online; " Women who Shaped India"

The reputed Asia Times Online has published a substantial review called " Women who shaped India" which explores some fascinating themes -not least of which is the tradition of India's fascination with women from the West and their absorption into Indian culture.

"A poignant and engaging read written from Sonia Gandhi’s point of view."

Kipling advised us to treat both of those imposters, triumph and disaster, just the same. So I receive the tough critics the same way I receive the comment in this book review published 6-2-2012.

"Rani Singh does a brilliant job in painting an intimate canvas of Sonia Gandhi through exclusive interviews with those who know her closely."


Saturday, 25 February 2012

BBC News Channel first with live analysis of the demolition of Osama Bin Laden's compound

For a change, it was the BBC that started running this story today before anyone else. They called up when I was over visiting my parents but I had time to get home and change, ready for the car to drive me to the studio for a discussion with Anita McVey about the demolition by the Pakistani army and police of Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbotabad. Anita touched on the downturn in US-Pakistan relations that ensued. Footage had still not come in from Pakistan at 8.30pm London time nor had any kind of report - which is where the live studio analysis comes into its own. Once the footage starts rolling in, then we complement it.

I was impressed this week to see the Pakistani foreign minister , the gorgeous Hina Rabbani Khar, up close in press conference with her British counterpart, William Hague. She referred to her then forthcoming meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the sidelines of the London Somalia summit, and was unequivocal about Pakistan's sovereignty. Her voice is deeper than I had imagined it would be and she speaks with surety.

The questions were carefully choreographed by Hague's press secretary but I was tickled when someone addressed a question to both foreign ministers and Khar had a joke at Hague's expense; answering that she would go first "to give him time to think." In gentlemanly fashion, he did not rise to the bait.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Laya Lina Book Launch for "Sonia Gandhi;" Text of speech of David Nash from JX Corporation

The only non-Japanese Board member of JX Corporation, David Nash, was one of my speakers at the 15 Feb launch. I will write about the evening separately but here is the text of David's speech. Note please his observations on the difference between statesmen and politicians.

Ladies and Gentleman

I am somewhat humbled by being asked to say a few words at Rani’s book launch

I say this partly out of my admiration for the workmanship that has gone in to compiling this book- something I could never match- but also the recognition that many of you probably know India and the accomplishments of Sonia Gandhi better than I do

But as Rani’s friend I was happy to accept her invitation and also take this opportunity to celebrate her achievement.

Any first biography is a momentous task. If Rani had chosen to say something about Churchill she would have found over 73 previous biographies and papers on his life to refer to. In this sense every first biographer is in a way a pioneer that provides a platform for others to delve into more detail. It is therefore, I am sure, an important work that will be referred to time and time again in the future.

I also congratulate Rani on finding a style of writing that doesn’t make it a Wikipedia-type compilation but instead a page-turning narrative on the life of a remarkable individual

I read a lot of the book on planes- as they are great places to be a little contemplative – free from mobile communications and after completing this book half way across the world last week, two thoughts stuck in my mind that I thought I might share with you.

One was about India then and India now. As I read through the chapters I realised how perceptions of a country change over time. In my twenties I regarded India as problematic- wasn’t it Bernard Levin who described it once as ‘another disgruntled colony’! How different we all see India today. No one would contemplate labelling it as stuck in its Imperial past. It has become, by its sheer size and energy, a prominent Superpower

And quite remarkably it was during this staggering period of change that Sonia Gandhi found herself obliged, by circumstance, to move from mother and family former to one of the most prominent individual in Indian politics. It was a job neither she nor Rajiv could ever have imagined she would have to take on.

The job was demanding enough for her Mother-in-Law, one can hardly imagine the day to day demands it must place on someone not born into political life and who the BJP and others readily ridiculed as a foreigner. It is a measure of her success that such comment about her today seems out of place as much as talking about the German and Greek ancestry of our marvellous Royal family

Whenever we chose to read a biography we always find in it something that talks to our own life experiences. In a far less demanding way than hers, I have spent the last twenty years trying to make executive decisions in a foreign culture- and like her with an accent that sometimes is the source of comment.

And again like Sonja Ghandi, decisions have had to be made using a consensual style that rarely pleases the crowd; patience instead of immediate action; options instead of simple solutions and humility instead of bravado. The difference in these responses is in my mind the difference between a Politician and Statesman. Rani’s book clearly shows how, over time, Sonia Gandhi matured into the latter.

If you are interested in India it is essential reading

Well done Rani…..my only question now is ‘what next’?

David Nash

London, 15th February 2012

Friday, 10 February 2012

My review of a cultural biography of Barack Obama

Dinesh Sharma was up against tough competition when he decided to write a biography of President Barack Obama given the hundreds already published. But he has taken a completely different angle to everyone else; focussing hard on the first 18 years of Obama's life and really studying the seminal influences of what happened in Hawai'i and Indonesia. He interviewed Obama's sister and many others involved with Obama's early years and adolescence to present an easy to digest, well researched biography that's an easy read and respectfully references other Obama biographers in the text. He's also very lucid in interview. He spent a few years in his research, which seems to be the norm for bios of major political leaders -except where a publisher like mine wants to maintain their reputation of being first off the block with their subject!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

15 Feb 2012 Book Launch at the Exclusive Laya Lina Privee, Knightsbridge

With the kind permission of the owner we have exclusive use of this select lounge bar with pretty aquaria in a cosy luxury setting in Knightsbridge, a stone's throw from Harrods (it is the preferred venue for Harrods staff functions).

The book launch series has provided different dream events, each with its own flavour and constituency.

One of the speakers at Laya Lina Privee on February 15 2012 is Lynne McAlister, who writes for American in Britain magazine. Lynne is on the Board of Directors of the American Women's Club of London and the Board of Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas. Since the book is published by an American house for an American readership in the first instance, it was important to remember that constituency this time around. So we have some important Americans in London coming along.

David Nash, Executive Officer and Board Member, JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration Corporation, Japan's largest natural resource company, is also going to speak. He is the only non-Japanese member of his board.

When I was doing some live performing for charities like UNICEF in the early nineties, organised and directed by Vanessa and the late Corin Redgrave, I learnt that serious themes could be highlighted with a mix of poetry and music. So it was my wish for tenor George Anthony to consider what appropriate songs would capture aspects of the book and my subject's life; despair, hope, salvation, and her love for India.

I am delighted with his moving selection and am really looking forward to the event. There is an interesting, eclectic audience, with a preponderance of defence and military experts from the British side.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

"Sonia Gandhi" now in the library of the Indian Habitat Centre, Delhi

Former director of the Indian parliament library, Frank Christopher, emailed me to say that the biography has been highlighted in the "new arrivals" section of the library of the prestigious Indian Habitat Centre, Delhi.

This is a great place for its members and a cool hangout for upper middle class Delhi-ites and their visitors.

The restaurants are quite comfortable; I've eaten Chinese and European food there. The Habitat centre holds talks and also houses several office complexes.

You can stay there, it has rooms for hire, and there is a gym which is used not only by Harrie, the husband of my friend, artist and teacher Sujata Singh, but also by Robert Vadra, husband of Priyanka Gandhi, who arrives with his security entourage whenever he trains.

Harrie travels a lot but when he is in Delhi, he tends to use the gym every day after work before going home for dinner. When I was staying with them Harrie would regale us at meal-time with stories of the aforementioned arriving on some expensive motorbike or in a four-wheeler, and how he liked to discuss new toys-usually his own. Harrie said that the Habitat Centre's facilities are so popular that when the aforementioned's security personnel are in attendance with their vehicles it causes a problem for other Habitat users as it is hard to find a parking place.


The Indian Republic Day evening function this year was held at the Sheraton Park Lane. Those who had been to the Australia Day event too told me the latter was bigger.
I noticed a lot of defence officials from the various embassies with the hearty British army types swopping fighter aircraft memories with their Indian counterparts.

When asked about the Typhoon deal, one of the British said, "The Indians would be advised to go for the deal where the risk is spread."
The Indian army officer standing in front of him said nothing.

A few days later, the news broke. The advice was clearly ignored.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Chatham House was Fun!

There was a full house in the Henry Price Room at Chatham House Wednesday January 18 2012 as I spoke for half an hour on the subject of Sonia Gandhi; her journey into politics and style of governance in India followed by a Q and A for another half an hour. Before the session started one of my friends, Wadham college alumnus Lawrence Peters showed me a board where Indian speakers at Chatham House were listed; Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh and at least one current cabinet minister were there.

The event was organised and chaired by Dr Gareth Price, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House's Asia Programme with the rest of the Asia Programme team. I found no difficulty in filling my time up and I could see several participants taking notes, while three eminences in gilded frames looked down at us from the walls, one of them being Henry Price himself.

The Asia Programme team had asked me if I wanted any photographic illustration to accompany the talk and so Macmillan sent them the photos from the book, one of which showed Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi on tour in the North East state of Mizoram while Rajiv was prime minister. Both husband and wife were standing in a jeep, waving to local people who had lined the street.

There have been many instances of serendipity to do with this biography and a remarkable one came to light on this occasion. Assistant Professor in Political Science who is currently at the India Research Centre at the London School of Economics, Dr Anup Shekhar Chakraborty, put up his hand to ask a good question but before he did so he told us all that he was one of the young schoolchildren in the photo up on the screen. He had been five but distinctly remembered that occasion. The representatives from universities, banks, the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and three different embassies smiled in amazement.

Former Observer Middle East Chief of Bureau Shyam Bhatia asked three challenging questions which I had not prepared for so answered simply and truthfully - he seemed satisfied.

Palgrave's person sold a number of books after the session and as we packed up to leave the security guard came in rather breathlessly to tell me that he had held a family at the door as they did not appear to be on the guest list. I asked him to bring them in; it was Dr Vijayanand Kowtha and his family who had just flown in from Washington and were keen to attend the talk but had not registered in time. They seemed so disappointed to have missed the content I showed them my mind map of the speech and answered all the rapid fire questions they had for me - so they got a mini-session all to themselves. They were excited to visit London again- Dr Kowtha was formerly at Chatham House which is how he knew about the talk.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Chatham House Book Event 18 Jan 2012

The Royal Institute for International Affairs, one of the most important of the Britain based think-tanks, is hosting a "Sonia Gandhi" themed talk on January 18, 2012. This is the first of the book events for 2012, and instead of a panel this time I will be the sole speaker, as suggested by my organiser, senior Asia Programme Research Fellow Gareth Price, who will be chairing.

The institute is also known as Chatham House, and gives its name to the famous "Chatham House rule" by which sources at an event cannot be named as providing information.

The event was initiated by nuclear energy specialist Ashutosh Shastri.

I am looking forward to it.