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A foreign scribe in Mumbai

>> The world of the foreign correspondent is a challenging one: you land in a new city, and before you know it you’re up and running, digging out the best stories, excavating its secrets and making sense of it all for reader’s back home. Recently, we had dinner with the head of the FT’s Mumbai bureau Chief James Crabtree and were given a dekho into his world. Crabtree, an Englishman, who was posted to Mumbai six months ago says that there are at least a dozen of his foreign correspondent’s tribe in Mumbai, and that though they might not constitute a community, they meet each other at all the events and know of each others work. And what does he think of his new posting? “I tell any who asks that Mumbai is one of the best places to watch the future unfold,” he says. “Also unlike China’s business elite, which is secretive and insular, India’s business elite is open and likes to talk to journalists.”


James Crabtree

And what has been Crabtree’s favourite Mumbai story? For a man whose work has been attracting note for its depth and understanding, Crabtree picks a googly. “I think it was my story on the stray dogs I encountered at Bombay House,” he says, “I learnt that Mr Tata had once requested that they be allowed to come in to the building during the monsoon and since then they are being taken care of and fed by caring staff,” he says. “People like reading stories about dogs,” says Crabtree, himself an ardent cat lover. His fiancé Mary Abdo and he have come in with two magnificent feline specimens we hear.

Pawar family celebration
>>  Whatever his political positions, when it comes to being the ultimate family man few politicians compare with Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar, who has conducted his personal life with a dignity and grace rarely seen amongst his ilk. Which is why when he celebrated his 45th wedding anniversary last evening at his South Mumbai home surrounded by his family, close friends and admirers, it was a low-key private affair, to which only the chosen few were invited.


Sharad Pawar and daughter Supriya Sule

Organised by his doting daughter Supriya, the evening was marked with warmth, informality and good cheer with family members recording their good wishes and memories of their patriarch and his favourite dishes being served. Away from the political arena, the Pawars lead a pretty low-key existence and credit for that goes to his graceful wife Pratibhatai who makes sure that sycophants and political expediencies do not mar the sanctity of her home. We like!

Art Scandal
>>  What a terrible turmoil the Indian art world seems to be in! And this time, the scandals appear to surround India’s three greatest masters rather than its enfant terribles, according to a highly credible source. With many of the masters passing on or at their last creative stage, the problems have to do with authentication and the amount of fakes floating around. The reigning living master has begun to charge sums starting at Rs 5 lakh to authenticate his work. “This is so that people who have bought his paintings will not face difficulty if they want to re-sell them,” says our source. If this is not bad enough, there’s more trouble: the sons of two departed masters are reported to be happy to authenticate any works brought to them for small amounts. “One of them, sitting in Goa will sign a document for as little as Rs 50K,” we’re told. “And the other might even go so far as replicate his father’s style for eager buyers.” What a shame. But what else do you expect after the art world ceased to be one of ideas and creativity and became another ‘investment’ opportunity?

The mysterious Rahul flip-flop
>>  So, here’s a Delhi insider’s take on Rahul Gandhi and the great flip-flop about his role as an active politician. “Last November, it was certain that RG would become a cabinet minister,” says our source. “Then, unfortunately, the Coalgate scam happened and his plans to be part of the government were thwarted, as the controversies were not considered conducive for inducting him in the cabinet.


Rahul Gandhi

But on the day of the presidential elections, it was clear to his minders that the Congress was in a commanding position and he was ready for a bigger role in the party and would be getting a cabinet berth. So, suitable hints were dropped to the media regarding this,” our source says. “But, of course, this did not fall in with the plans of certain vested interests and a political crisis was engineered to destabilise the Congress and its vulnerability exposed. And, once again his over cautious advisers felt it was not the right time to induct him in to the cabinet.” So now you know.

But the information that most caught our attention was that none other than the man at the very top was stymieing Rahul’s induction. “He doesn’t want him to become the super PM in the cabinet,” we were told.

Snip-snip
>> The very charming Osh Bhabani, a wizard when it comes to wielding the scissors on some very celebrated heads, applied his expertise to this column, we are happy to report. On Tuesday, we had carried an item about the stylist and all the various projects that were keeping him busy.


Osh Bhabani

But with a small error: we’d mentioned the name of an earlier business that he’d been associated with. Osh set the record straight with an elegant snip: B Blunt is the name of our salon franchise,” he said. “We haven’t been associated with the other salon for eight years.” Now, for that elusive appointment to experience his expertise on our head-not words. 

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