Amol Rajan: Milk of human kindness has turned sour


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The Independent Online

An exasperated PR boss from New Jersey this week threatened to fire employees who used up the last of the office milk without replacing it.

Keith Zakheim of Beckerman Public Relations, whose CV boasts "an industry-wide reputation for savvy counsel", really wanted his skinny latte on Tuesday morning. But when he got to work he discovered the office fridge "had three drops of milk left", the 36-year-old wrote in an email to his 60 staff. "The person that did this is either incredibly lazy, obnoxiously selfish or woefully devoid of intelligence – three traits that are consistent with the profile of FORMER Beckerman employees.

"So I am gravely serious when I write this. If I catch someone not replacing the milk ... I am going to fire you. I'm not joking. You will be fired for not replacing the milk, and have fun explaining that to your next employer." His general manager explained the email by saying Mr Zakheim was trying to create "a culture of mutual respect".

Mutual enmity, more like. The thing about shared fridges is that nothing inside is safe – nor will it ever be. In my kleptomaniac student days, I must have thieved a supermarket shelf's worth of Nutella and pressed apple juice – never mind milk – safe in the knowledge that my grub would be pinched too. So don't have a cow, Keith. We all do it.


Has a life ever been more fully lived than that of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi? "Tiger", as he was universally known, died just over a week ago at 70. I am still coming to terms with the brilliance of this great cricketer's innings.

The ninth and last Nawab of Pataudi, he was of princely stock but did more than anyone to bring cricket to India's teeming masses. Educated at Winchester and Oxford, he captained India at the age of 21, a Muslim who demanded patriotism of his players at a time when the wounds of partition were still raw. He married a Bollywood star, Sharmila Tagore, and spent much of his spare time on London's Jermyn Street, where his dashing looks gave rise to a brief modelling career. He was also one of sport's most distinguished pranksters, once convincing a team mate that Calcutta's white-marble Victoria Memorial was among his many palaces.

Most extraordinarily, he did all this with one eye, having lost the other in a car accident as a teenager. A prolific batsman, he explained that he always saw two balls, and hit the inside one. To think that men achieve such greatness despite such handicaps, is to reflect on how inglorious our own lives seem.


Doubtless against my better judgment, I am a fan of the writer Toby Young. His determination to pioneer Free Schools exemplifies civic virtue. But his fawning admiration of Boris Johnson, whom he recently referred to as a "blond god", is threatening his grasp of reality. Writing in this week's Spectator, Mr Young claims that in 2003 he made a £15,000 bet with Nigella Lawson over dinner that Boris would be Prime Minister by 2018. Alas, I am told Nigella was surprised to see it written up as if the matter were serious. She and others in attendance dismissed it as a silly joke, and if Mr Young expects payment he will be disappointed.


A predictable pattern now follows the death of many very famous people. First there is shock at the event; then it is widely claimed that fame itself killed them, for which the paparazzi take the blame; then conspiracy theories abound about the manner of death, and show trials or public investigations are conducted to answer them; and finally the sinful glare of publicity is visited on the victims' children.

This process followed Princess Diana's death. Now it is happening with Michael Jackson. His son Prince was paraded on a red carpet last week. Now he has become a central witness in the trial of his father's doctor. Soon he will testify in front of a global audience. The King of Pop never recovered from having his childhood stolen. Must we visit the same fate on his Prince?