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Mahendra Kahul (Read 542 times)
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Mahendra Kahul
Jul 24th, 2018, 1:10pm
This is taken from the Daily Telegraph;

Mahendra Kahul, broadcaster
Telegraph Obituaries , 23 July 2018 • 9:03pm

Mahendra Kahul, who has died aged 95, was a pioneering Indian television and radio broadcaster and the face of the BBC’s Asian Programmes Unit for 20 years.

He was once introduced to Margaret Thatcher by her press secretary, Bernard Ingham, as “the most powerful Indian in Britain”. Kaul later claimed that he got away with “flirting outrageously” with the Prime Minister when she invited him to 10 Downing Street in 1981 for one of several interviews she did with him.

“I looked at her from top to toe,” he recalled, “and said: ‘No wonder the Arabs are investing so much money in Britain.’ She liked it. ‘Oh, you think so?’ she said.”

When the Prime Minister explained that she would have to change for an evening function – “Maybe you will like the other dress more than this?” – Kaul remonstrated, insisting: “You are looking beautiful as it is.”

Kaul’s wife, Rajni, happily confirmed that “Mahendra did indeed flirt with Margaret Thatcher”. “She [the PM] was my darling,” he said.

Kaul, a Kashmiri with a commanding voice and an authoritative style, became a popular figure among early Indian and Pakistani immigrants to Britain. His BBC One programme, Nai Zindagi Naya Jeevan (“New Life New Way”), was compulsory viewing on Sunday morning – the conduit through which government departments often communicated with Asian communities.

On one occasion, Kaul said, “I was asked by the health department to tell our viewers and listeners not to use hair oil.” The NHS, which was finding that hospital pillow cases were being stained with coconut oil, wanted to cut its laundry bill.

“In this country you don’t require it like in the plains of India and Pakistan,” Kaul announced.

Edward Heath and James Callaghan also appeared on his programme, as did their Indian counterparts Indira Gandhi and Morarji Desai. Kaul was especially close to William Whitelaw. Stars from India’s film world – including the playback singer Lata Mangeshkar and the actor Dilip Kumar – were among his guests, as were the sitar maestro Ravi Shankar and the then-rising author, Salman Rushdie.

Kaul was a pioneer for another reason. As a sideline he and three business partners launched the Gaylord restaurant in Mortimer Street, close to Broadcasting House in London. He installed the country’s first tandoor, or clay oven, on June 7 1966, introducing the British to tandoori chicken.

His particular contribution, he felt, was to ensure a plentiful supply of “tandoori naan, chicken, kebab and tikka”, and to make sure that the tandoori chicken, accompanied by browned onions, “sizzled” when fetched from the oven to the table. Gaylord, which, he claimed, broke even in three months, later launched restaurants in Birmingham and Manchester.

Mahendra Kaul was born in Srinagar in Indian Kashmir on July 28 1922, to Pandit Dinanath Kaul, a landowner. He had a younger sister, and was nine when his mother died while giving birth to another son, who survived. At school he acquired a command of Urdu and also started writing poetry and dabbling with plays.

After a failed attempt at becoming an actor in Bombay, he shone at All India Radio in Delhi, where he met Rajni Kapur, who sang and put on plays in the Pashto language. After the couple married in 1955, Kaul joined the Voice of America in Washington, where he helped Richard Nixon, then vice president, with India-related speeches.

Although his American employers urged him to stay on, Kaul joined the BBC External Services as a radio broadcaster on January 1 1961. In 1966 he was the BBC’s pick as television anchor for its fledgling Asian Programmes Unit based at Pebble Mill in Birmingham.

When Kaul was appointed OBE for his contribution to good race relations in 1975, it was seen as an honour for all Indians and Pakistanis. He also received a Duke of Edinburgh award.

Kaul is survived by his wife, Rajni, and his daughter, HHJ Kalyani Kaul, QC, a circuit judge.

Mahendra Kaul, born July 28 1922, died July 11 2018
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