City Notes

When Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli married film star Anushka Sharma, it took one back to the marriage of Mansur Ali Khan, the Nawab of Pataudi, with Sharmila Tagore, back in 1969, which was the last time an Indian skipper married a film actress.

While not an outright intercommunal marriage like that (with Tagore converting and taking the name Aisha), it was an intercaste marriage. Kohlis are Khatris, Kshatriyas who have adopted trading as a profession, the original Kshatriya, being displaced by the Rajputs. Sharmas are Brahmin. (Ms Sharma’s father is a colonel, thus quite likely a BJP fan, and had a very non-Brahminical profession, more suited to Kshatriyas).

Kohlis may be Khatris, but Virat’s father was not a trader. He was a lawyer, a staid and sober profession everywhere except Multan. Mansur Ali Khan, on the other hand, was listed as ‘the Nawab of Pataudi Jr’, because his old man, Iftikhar Ali Khan, had been ‘the Nawab of Pataudi Sr’ on the scorecards, and had led a side in 1946 to England. The senior Nawab only skippered India thrice, but the junior did 40 times, after he took over under trying circumstances in 1962 in the West Indies, after the original skipper for the tour, Nari Contractor, had his skull fractured in a tour match, by a bouncer from West Indian pacer Charlie Griffith.

Pataudi played most of his cricket with sight in only one eye, having lost sight in one eye in a road accident in the UK. Kohli has both eyes. So far he has captained 32 matches, more than Pataudi had when he got married. Pataudi was younger than him when he got married, being 27. His wife was 25. Mrs Kohli, on the other hand, is six months older than her husband, both being 29.

The most attention to the Pataudi-Tagore union has been because of their son Saif Ali Khan, the actor. Are we to assume that the Kohli-Sharma union will produce a future cinestar? Time will tell, though what can be told now is Pataudi’s connection to Pakistan.

We won’t go into his being the nephew of Maj Gen (retd) Sher Ali Pataudi, and thus the cousin of Lt Gen Isfandyar Pataudi as well as Begum Shahid Hamid, whose husband was Punjab Governor, and whose brother-in-law the Law Minister forced to resign by the Faizabad sit-in. Nor will we mention Imran Khan, though he has a surname in common, leaving him to mourn the disqualification of Jahangir Tareen undisturbed. Instead, we’ll talk about former PCB Chairman Shehryar M. Khan, the late Nawab’s maternal aunt’s son. Shehryar never made the claim, but he would have been the rightful Nawab of Bhopal had his parents not migrated to Pakistan. Instead, Pataudi claimed the title, even though it too had been abolished.

Well, Kohli doesn’t have any princely state in his background, though his Brahmin wife has her caste in common with Ms Tagore. Tagores are actually Pirali Brahmins, ostracized because an ancestor converted to Islam, so Sharmila Tagore had a precedent for her own conversion. And yes, she is related to Rabindranauth, the 1913 Nobel literature laureate, being a great-niece by both parents.

Conversion might not be so easy today. Another girl who tried, Akhila Ashokan, now Hadiya, of Kerala, was returned to her parents on a habeas petition to the Kerala High Court, in which her parents said the conversion was the result of brainwashing, and her marriage to a Muslim man was a sham.

Pataudi escaped that allegation. That remained an era of cricketers wooing Bollywood actresses, it seems. West Indies captain Gary Sobers, who had led the 1966-7 tour to India, got engaged to actress Anju Mahendru. They didn’t get married though. Let’s see if any of those playing in the IPL follow Kohli. Or Sobers.

It’s interesting that the ruling BJP has let all the talk of a ‘love jihad’ gain currency, with the result that the killing of a Muslim labourer in Rajasthan was ascribed by the killer Sambhu Lal, to it. But there seems a more mundane motive, that of making money, as a video of the killing, complete with account details, appeared. The message? Supporting killing Muslims? Where will this trend go? Murder has been committed before to get a good video to post, but this is probably the first time someone has tried to make money off it? Dare one detect the Bollywood influence?

Conversions, forced or otherwise, aren’t all happening next door. Take Madhya Pradesh, where 32 carol singers, including three priests, were arrested, five priests among them. When priests arrived at the local police station to try getting them released, a mob of BJP activists burnt their car. Maybe they had sensitive ears, but I’m not at all sure that filing a complaint with the police is a valid means of musical criticism.

Well, it seems Christians are no safer in Pakistan. At least eight were killed in a bomb blast at a church in Quetta on Sunday. Our militants don’t allow carols in sanctuaries, it seems… And the weather is colder than usual, so cold that even the bobbles on the hats can’t keep us warm, and there is speculation of a White Christmas in Lahore. I wonder when last we had snow here? And the 2011 hailstorm doesn’t count. It wasn’t real snow…