London Diary: Mahatma’s ‘friend’, Biryani sans rice, the  Holocaust sceptics and much more

Why Mahatma called Hitler a friend? Did holocaust ever occur? Marks & Spencers Biryani? Brexit and the Queen. Redefining #MeToo. These are some stories which are making headlines in UK

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Hasan Suroor

Mahatma’s “friend” Fuhrer

A letter Mahatma Gandhi wrote to Hitler addressing him as “Dear Friend” because “I own no foes” has made it to a widely-acclaimed collection of the world’s 100 greatest letters just published in Britain.

Written in December 24, 1940, the letter asks the Nazi dictator: “Is it too much to ask you to make an effort for peace ...which may mean nothing to you, but which must mean much to the millions of Europeans whose dumb cry for peace I hear, for my ears are attended to hearing the dumb millions?” It’s signed: “I am, Your sincere friend, M.K.Gandhi”.

He didn’t get a reply. “Written in History: Letters That Changed the World” by Simon Sebag Montefiore contains letters by some of history’s most famous figures from the ancient times to the twenty-first century—ranging from Elizabeth I and Michelangelo to Stalin and Mandela.

They offer a fascinating snapshot of world history. To quote the blurb: “Some are noble and inspiring, some despicable and unsettling; some are exquisite works of literature, others brutal, coarse and frankly outrageous; many are erotic, others heartbreaking. ...from love letters to calls for liberation, declarations of war to reflections on death.”

Montefiore describes the letter as “the ultimate clash of seraphic decency and diabolical evil.” This was Gandhi’s second appeal to the Fuhrer’s “better nature,” but in vain. “The letter is as futile as it is admirable. Hitler never replies, going on to the Holocaust, invade Russia, and commit suicide in the ruins of Berlin.” Rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

“Biryani” sans rice?

Ever heard of a “biryani” which has no rice, no meat and comes in a wrap?

Marks & Spencer, British middle classes’ favourite store, has caused outrage among biryani connoisseurs from the Indian subcontinent with a vegan version that looks or tastes nothing like the famous Mughlai dish. Its “sweet potato biryani (sic),” is wrapped in flatbread, stuffed with lettuce and green bits and pieces.

“Thanks but I like my biryani with rice in a bowl, not a wrap. Seriously M&S!?” tweeted Maunika Gowardhan, a food expert and author of Indian Kitchen.

Several others lined up to berate M&S for its concoction and point out there is no such thing as a biryani without rice and meat. “It’s wrong on SO many levels,” wrote one.

What next? A “korma” without meat?

Holocaust, What Holocaust?

Once, conspiracy theories used to be the exclusive preserve of nutters and politically motivated fantasists —-like those who infamously dismissed the 9/11 attacks as a CIA-Jewish plot to give Muslims a bad name. But now, fantasists have gone mainstream and even sensible Brits have caught the bug.

Apparently, millions of Britons believe that the Holocaust never happened. One in 20 told a survey they thought it was just a story; even many of those who acknowledged it happened believed the scale had been grossly exaggerated. Some 19% said it was less than two million. The official death toll was close to seven million.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, head of the Holocaust Trust, which carried out the survey said she was shocked by the findings. Even if all were not “active Holocaust deniers” it was appalling that so many didn’t know about one of the worst genocides in modern history—and one that happened in their own backyard. The findings coincided with a reported spike in anti-Semitism in Britain prompting many British Jews to contemplate leaving Britain, according to media reports.

Denying Holocaust is a criminal offence in Germany and several other European countries. And Britain routinely bans known Holocaust-deniers from entering the country. So, how come it hasn’t noticed its own son-of-the-soil sceptics?

I’m sure someone is going to pop up one of these days and suggest that the respondents were mostly ignorant immigrants. Just wait.

Blighted by #MeToo

The #MeToo movement has claimed an unlikely victim: a range of hummus and falafel called “Me Too!” Its owner has been forced to change the name after its sales fell in the wake of #Me Too campaign because of its association with sexual abuse.

“We haven’t got a definitive answer but we are 90% sure that our name is not something anyone wants to put on the shelf,” said its founder Ramona Hazan.

According to The Times, she named it “Me Too!” in a nod to a family joke about how she used to demand attention as a child by shouting: “Me too!” Now, she plans to change it to “something a bit more straightforward.”

Such as?

And, lastly, the Queen will be spared the sight of any disorderly scenes that might erupt in London in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as the government plans to evacuate her and other senior members of the royal family to a safer place outside the capital in an emergency. What? Buckingham Palace not safe?

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