Thursday, Dec 12, 2019 | Last Update : 02:10 PM IST

Technology is what you make of it

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : Sep 18, 2017, 12:12 am IST
Updated : Sep 18, 2017, 12:12 am IST

The bomb is suspected to have been placed by someone who was given shelter as a refugee by a well-meaning British couple.

A police vehicle blocks traffic after an incident on a tube train at Parsons Green subway station in London. (Photo: AP)
 A police vehicle blocks traffic after an incident on a tube train at Parsons Green subway station in London. (Photo: AP)

This country runs on trust — and one of the most admirable qualities has been its multi-culturism. This is particularly visible in London, which did not vote for Brexit, and has even elected a Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan. But now some of these admirable values are on shaky ground with the latest Tube attack — in which a “bucket bomb” on a Tube at rush hour failed to detonate — but still injured many.

The bomb is suspected to have been placed by someone who was given shelter as a refugee by a well-meaning British couple. This, if true, would be the ultimate betrayal of British values.

Unfortunately, while the person who created and placed the bomb might be “mentally ill” or disturbed, these acts do create communal rifts — and add to the ever-present suspicion of migrants, specially from a particular religion, alas.

For years in India we have all grumbled over the endless checking of briefcases and handbags at all public venues, train stations and even malls — but now one firmly believes that this system must be brought into the UK as well. Unfortunately, the era when we could all trust each other is being destroyed by these foolish and deranged youngsters who do not realise the enormous harm they are doing to their own community and its image. The worst will be if other refugees — who could have got a good start in life in the UK — are now denied entry.

Technology is what you make of it — and while some use it to make bombs — others use it to write books. And one of the books which has been short listed for the Man Booker this year is by a first-time young novelist Fiona Mozley who wrote it on her phone while commuting. I must say I am impressed already by this nimble-fingered author! I find it difficult enough to write emails on the phone and here is someone who has written a whole novel! Though it has been called a gothic “dark gem” and deals with the marginalised — there are literary critics who are already fuming about the fact that other better-known writers like Arundhati Roy and Zadie Smith never made it. However, the debuts are always interesting — so Mozley’s Elmut and Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves is getting a good response, while I cannot wait to read Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West — though not a debut of course. So who are you betting on?

There was a time when most visitors came to the UK in July... but now we find that London is on the map almost throughout the year, making it a really busy city. The highlight last week were the events around the 120th anniversary of the Battle of Saragarhi one of the famous last stands in military history, in which 21 Sikh soldiers died but did not surrender to a savage army of over 6,000 Afghans. There were ceremonies commemorating this event in London and elsewhere. Capt. Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of Punjab, also gave a really informative talk about it at the National Army Museum at Chelsea. It was well-attended, specially by former soldiers and officers from the pre-Partition days, including British officers who had served in the Indian Army, and Sikh soldiers now settled in the UK who had fought in World War II. The Saragarhi Foundation, run by the indefatigable Harbinder Singh, had organised a series of events, including a polo match and the launch of The People’s Maharajah, a biography on the Punjab CM written by Khushwant Singh. The latter bears the same name as the legendary author, and has also done a remarkable job of producing a candid “tell all” book, which is rare in India. Suhel Seth, erudite as ever, conducted the conversation at the Mayfair Hotel. There was also a wreath-laying ceremony at the Memorial Gates at Hyde Park in which I also participated (with a lump in my throat) remembering the brave fallen Sikh soldiers who were butchered at Saragarhi.

Perhaps next year we could get defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman to preside over some of these really moving events when we remember those Indians who died in innumerable battlefields outside their home country in the late 19th and early 20th century.

In case you thought that Big Brother is not watching you in the UK, think again. And NHS definitely has you in their radar if you are obese. The real problem in the land of plenty appears to be unhealthy eating. So now the obese are going to be taught how to cook healthy food, under new rules. Though the cooking classes might cost up to £500 to the taxpayer, they are thought to be a good investment as it might prevent the NHS from spending many thousands curing diabetes or other obesity-related issues in later years.

I wonder how many of the celebrity chefs would qualify as cooking experts under these new NHS guidelines? Almost every recipe from Nigella Lawson, for instance, includes generous dollops of butter! And what about the delicious ready to eat meals available at supermarkets? The NHS will also have to regulate who we read and what we see!

Tags: brexit, sadiq khan, tube attack