Pippa Middleton: Famously the bridesmaid, now the bride

Philippa (Pippa) Middleton smiles during the wedding ceremony of Prince William and Kate Middleton in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2017
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Pippa Middleton: Famously the bridesmaid, now the bride

ENGLEFIED: Pippa Middleton hit the headlines with a figure-hugging outfit at her sister Kate’s wedding to Prince William, but now the world-famous bridesmaid is becoming a bride herself.
Once again, all eyes will be on her dress as the 33-year-old marries financier James Matthews on Saturday at a lavish society wedding where William and Kate’s children will play starring roles.
The wedding will be a chance for younger royals to come to the fore following the announcement earlier this month that Queen Elizabeth II’s 95-year-old husband Prince Philip will retire from public duties later this year.
William’s younger brother Prince Harry is expected to attend and a lot of the media attention will be on his US actress girlfriend Meghan Markle — amid widespread speculation that the two could be announcing their own engagement soon.
Harry issued a powerful and rare warning to media outlets last November not to harass his girlfriend, who is expected to come to the reception but not the wedding, where media will be allowed outside.
Three-year-old Prince George, who is third in line to the throne after his father William and his grandfather Prince Charles, will be a page boy at the ceremony while his 2-year-old sister Princess Charlotte will be a bridesmaid.
The wedding is taking place in the Berkshire countryside west of London, near the Middleton family home.
It will reportedly feature a flypast by a World War II-era Spitfire plane, a £100,000 ($130,000) temporary glass marquee and luxury portable bathrooms with oak fittings.
Pippa Middleton rocketed into the public eye at her sister’s wedding in 2011, which had an estimated worldwide television audience of two billion.
Pictures of her wearing her white Alexander McQueen maid of honor’s dress filled newspapers for weeks afterwards.
Hundreds of thousands joined the “Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society” on Facebook, which six years on retains nearly 200,000 enthusiastic members.
“It is a bit startling to achieve global recognition (if that’s the right word) before the age of 30 on account of your sister, your brother-in-law and your bottom,” she once wrote.
Pippa is the second of the three Middleton children, a year younger than Kate and four years older than businessman James.
Born on Sept. 6, 1983, Pippa spent her early years in Amman where her father Michael Middleton worked with British Airways, before attending a series of top private schools on the family’s return to Britain.
She graduated from Edinburgh University with an English literature degree, then became a socialite on London’s posh party circuit.
The Middleton girls were dubbed “the Wisteria Sisters: Highly decorative, terribly fragrant and with a ferocious ability to climb,” according to the Daily Mail.
When her sister married the future king, Middleton had the prime supporting role, appearing on the Buckingham Palace balcony with the royals.


Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

Updated 26 April 2018
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Rickshaw pullers fade from India’s streets

KOLKATA: Mohammad Maqbool Ansari puffs and sweats as he pulls his rickshaw through Kolkata’s teeming streets, a veteran of a gruelling trade long outlawed in most parts of the world and slowly fading from India too.
Kolkata is one of the last places on earth where pulled rickshaws still feature in daily life, but Ansari is among a dying breed still eking a living from this back-breaking labor.
The 62-year-old has been pulling rickshaws for nearly four decades, hauling cargo and passengers by hand in drenching monsoon rains and stifling heat that envelops India’s heaving eastern metropolis.
Their numbers are declining as pulled rickshaws are relegated to history, usurped by tuk tuks, Kolkata’s signature yellow taxis and modern conveniences like Uber.
Ansari cannot imagine life for Kolkata’s thousands of rickshaw-wallahs if the job ceased to exist.
“If we don’t do it, how will we survive? We can’t read or write. We can’t do any other work. Once you start, that’s it. This is our life,” he tells AFP.
Sweating profusely on a searing hot day, his singlet soaked and face dripping, Ansari skilfully weaves his rickshaw through crowded markets and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Wearing simple shoes and a chequered sarong, the only real giveaway of his age is his long beard, snow white and frizzy, and a face weathered from a lifetime plying this disappearing trade.
Twenty minutes later, he stops, wiping his face on a rag. The passenger offers him a glass of water — a rare blessing — and hands a note over.
“When it’s hot, for a trip that costs 50 rupees ($0.75) I’ll ask for an extra 10 rupees. Some will give, some don’t,” he said.
“But I’m happy with being a rickshaw puller. I’m able to feed myself and my family.”