A private audience

>>There are some advantages to looking old and wise. We learnt this on Wednesday when we had gone to attend the Dalai Lama’s talk at Pritish Nandy’s star-studded launch of World Compassion Day.

Arriving early, we had hung around the lobby of the hotel in the hope of catching a glimpse of the world statesman. And lo and behold, we were ushered into a small private room where the Dalai Lama was taken for an exclusive audience with a select group before the main event.

The Dalai Lama poses with Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor and daughter Sonam. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Looking around we spotted a slightly overawed Anil Kapoor, an uncharacteristically bashful Chetan Bhagat, the Nandys (Pritish and his gorgeous wife Reena), representatives of the Humane Society, what appeared to be members of the diplomatic community and a handful of photographers. No, there were no journalists in the room and so thanks to serendipity, we bring you a first hand report of this private encounter.

The first thing about the Dalai Lama is the immense sense of calm his presence exudes. The deep rumbling voice, the staccato English, the simplicity of his words and his twinkling eyes.

He began by saying he was very much like all of us. “No difference!” he underlined. “Just like you! If I think I have a position, then that creates division, anxiety, nervousness and then,” he peered at us “Tension!! To have a healthy life, avoid tension!” The other thing we noticed about the Dalai Lama was his acute sensitivity to the plight of animals. (World Compassion Day was dedicated to alleviating the suffering of animals).

The way the spiritual head of the Tibetans described chicken kept in cages at poultry farms was memorable. “In winter-cold,” he said his body tensing to demonstrate a chicken’s stance. “In summer-hot!” he said and in our minds, we could imagine hundreds of chickens dizzy from the heat of being cooped up in cages.

The Dalai Lama with Pritish Nandy

He demonstrated this preternatural empathy again when he narrated a story about some Tibetan immigrants to America whose jobs required them to clean vegetables in a restaurant kitchen.

“They would take out the worms and keep them aside, lovingly. Every day, take out the worms,” he said, his strong hands imitating the gesture, putting each invisible worm lovingly aside. “And then in the evening, release them outside,” he said.

But by far what endeared us most to him was his choosing to confess that he himself was not a vegetarian! To do so in a room full of pious people who had come equipped with statistics and ethical reasons to be one was not only heroic but practicing what he preached. After all, it was he who had only half an hour ago declared, “More lie, more anxiety, more anxiety –no peace!” Needless to say, we like very much!

Raza old and new
>> We love nothing better than a bit of cut and thrust in the art world. And this week when the arty-hearties were caught between not one but two Raza exhibitions we couldn’t help but wonder about the timing.

The Raza exhibit

As all those who know their Razas from their Souzas will tell you, the great master is showing his latest works at the Jahangir under the aegis of Art Musings (run by the mother-daughter team of Shanti and Sangeeta Chopra) and the redoubtable Vickram Sethi, Director of the ICIA has a significant showing of the master’s earlier works. And according to an aficionado it is the early Raza who wins hands down!

Juhu’s iconic hotel
>> Before we moved to South Mumbai, we lived in Juhu. And when we lived in Juhu there were only two hotels worth visiting: the Juhu Hotel and the Sun n Sand. And though we could only afford the former, it was the latter that we aspired to visit each Sunday. For that was where Shashi Kapoor would come with his glamorous family to swim. And that was where newcomers like Amitabh Bachchan could be spotted measuring out their lives in tablespoons. Which is why Rahul Dacunha’s tribute to the iconic hotel’s 50th anniversary particularly charmed us. “I chose to do the Sun n Sand hoarding because the hotel completes 50 years this year. Amazing to have a hotel that has so represented Bollywood all these years,” says Dacunha.

Life after editorship
>> Having focused a fair bit on Elle and its editorial team recently, we were intrigued to know what the fashion world’s other big name and former editor of Harper’s Bazaar Sujata Assomull was up to.

“Currently I am a fashion columnist/writer and a brand consultant,” said the feisty lady. “Dress Circle is my fortnightly column in Times of India Crest and I have also written for The Hindustan Times, The Hindu and The Indian Express.”

Recently, Assomull has been in the news for her work with the Genesis group and her brand strategy for Satya Paul, which just announced a event for their tie-up with designer Masaba Gupta. When we spoke to Assomull she was trying to juggle many media queries about the same. Clearly there’s life after editorship!

Endearing nobles oblige
>> We love the terribly posh ladies of Sangat, the worthy and high-minded organisation that promotes chamber music.

But we despair for their media skills in a world of fast moving opportunistic PROs and marketing whizzes.

Vijay Crishna

Not only did their exquisitely polite letter to promote their upcoming annual event in December have us wrongly attached to a rival newspaper — but unlike any other PR missive we have received — it was long on graciousness but alas - short on detail.

So risking deadlines, we dug out said detail ourselves. Sangat run by the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation now, in its 17th year will feature musicians such as Harvey Desouza, Jennifer Michiko Gilbert, Eric Kim and actor Vijay Crishna amongst others.” Intrigued by the last name in that list, our SMS to the organisers only elicited the wonderfully vague: “Vijay C is involved in a work for actor, clarinet, violin and piano.” In a world of media hounds, we appreciate a bit of nobles oblige!¬†

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