IT WAS supposed to be one of the happiest nights of their lives. Martin Jacques, the former editor of Marxism Today, and Eric Hobsbawm, the veteran left-wing historian, were spending the Millennium Eve in Hong Kong with their wives. Hobsbawm’s son Andy, an internet company executive, had just proposed to his girlfriend in a restaurant and she had accepted. Half an hour after the stroke of midnight heralded the new century, the six were hugging each other in the street in celebration.
But a few minutes later Hari, Jacques’s lawyer wife, who had also been celebrating her 33rd birthday that evening, collapsed with an epileptic fit as she and her husband waited for a taxi. She was still holding the Gucci bag her husband had given her as a birthday present.
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Harinder Veriah who died in a Hong Kong hospital within hours of celebrating the new millennium and her 33rd birthday had her roots in the legal and political worlds of Britain and Malaysia. The daughter of Karam Singh, the youngest (Socialist) MP in independent Malaysia’s first Parliament, she was married to Martin Jacques, the noted editor of Marxism Today and, more recently (1994-1996) Deputy Editor of the Independent.
Shortly after her birth, her father was imprisoned for four years for leading a march of rubber plantation workers. Her mother, Harbans Kaur, died when she was six.
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Harinder Veriah LLM, of the law firm Lovell’s died suddenly and tragically on Jan 2 2000, two days after her 33rd birthday. In life and death this Indian woman from a Sikh family in Kuala Lumpur working (as a rare South Asian) in a British law office in Hongkong, and married to an Englishman, linked the worlds of Asia and the West. Eastern and western politics framed her life. Her father Karam Singh (1936-1994), a campaigning barrister, in 1959 became the youngest MP in the first parliament of independent Malaysia, sitting on the extreme left for the Socialist Party. Shortly after Harinder’s birth he was held in detention for four years under the Security Act for organizing a militant march of rubber plantation workers. (Her mother, Harbans Kaur, left to bring up three children, died when she was six). Since 1994 her life in Britain, Malaysia and latterly Hongkong, had been linked in deep mutual love with a man of equally patent leftwing background, Marxism Today’s Martin Jacques, whom she married in 1996. She was the daughter of the generation that won freedom. But she remained non-political, straddling and combining her worlds: proudly Malaysian, and multilingual, except in the ancestral Punjabi: the family spoke English.
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There was a knock on the door.
‘Come in,’ I called. It was the moment for which I had been waiting. He was slightly shorter than I had expected but no less imposing, with long hair, now mainly grey, and a beard. His complexion was rather darker than I imagined. Of course, I thought: ‘The old Moor.’ I offered him a seat, thanking him for making time for the interview. He shrugged his shoulders, looked at the tape recorder with some puzzlement, and waited for me to begin.
‘Mr Marx, you wrote in the Communist Manifesto, on the eve of the 1848 revolution, that: ‘A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of communism.’ The spectre haunting Europe now looks more like capitalism.’
I began to explain what had happened in 1989, but he interrupted with some impatience. ‘I know, I know. I have been following events, I don’t sleep while I am in the Reading Room.’ Of course, I thought, seat G7. As he seemed well up with the news I hastily revised my interview.
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