Death is a pretty grim business in Asian media. Unlike in Britain, where obituaries have been turned into a juicy art form, Asian tributes generally play it safe, spiking all the spice out of a false sense of deference. Last night, however, Karan Thapar, India’s premier television interviewer, who cut his teeth on Channel 4, was different.
Thapar was an old friend of Benazir Bhutto, the slain former prime minister of Pakistan. They had known each other since their days at Cambridge and Oxford, respectively, and Benazir had tried to get him remarried (unsuccessfully) for 18 years after his wife Nisha died of cancer.
Thapar says he spoke to her just four days and had asked her to “stay safe”.
Thapar says Bhutto also had a fine sense of humour. At one Oxbridge debate on “sex before marriage”, Thapar recalls that he rang the bell and asked her if she dared to practice what she preached. The hall went up in laughter. And after the last laugh had been heard, Benazir pulled out her spectacles, screwed her eyes, look at her future interlocutor, and said: “Certainly, but not with you.”