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A sister's love

>> Whatever his misdemeanours and he is paying for them with his incarceration, the love his siblings hold for Sanjay Dutt is endearing. “Happy birthday bhaiyya, you maybe away from us, but don’t feel alone, you are surrounded by our love. We love you and pray to God to give you the strength.

This will be over soon. We love you soooo much,” wrote his sister MP Priya Dutt to wish him on his 54th birthday yesterday. Along with those of Ranbir Kapoor, Bunty Walia and his other friends and fans from across the country it proves that birthdays bring out the best in people. And also that in his jail cell, Sanjay checks his Facebook page!

Looking for Mr Khan
>> There’s a certain genre of interviews written as those that never happened however, that reveal enough about the subject as to warrant publication.

(We ourselves are responsible for two such, once when we wrote an entire article about talking to Subhash Ghai’s cook in the drawing room as he tried to fob us off while his master slept in the bedroom, and the other a searching for Mr Almodovar in Madrid’s underbelly, so fellow hack and friend Aseem Chhabra’s recent post on Rediff on waiting for SRK‘s call is an exercise in good writing in which the author’s gentle self deprecation and exasperation nicely brings home the star’s mega status and personality.

Foxy people
>> The Fox news clip which has an aggressive news anchor attempt to put religious scholar Reza Aslan, a PhD in the sociology of religions from the University of California and author of the new book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, on the mat has elicited so much comment on social networking sites that it must be used at journalism schools as an example of how not to conduct interviews. In it the staggeringly articulate author who is increasingly riled at the interviewer’s attempts to paint him as a (biased) Muslim who has written a book on Jesus, rather than a scholar and an academic who has published a serious study after years of research runs circles around the Fox archetypical interlocutor. Try and catch it on YouTube to acquaint yourself with the more obvious and therefore easy to fight attempts at racial profiling.

The Princess remembered
>> Yesterday marked the fourth death anniversary of Maharani Gayatri Devi, the third Maharani of Jaipur, best known by her nomenclature the Rajmata of Jaipur. The first time we had met her after a Mumbai-Delhi flight in the mid-eighties, it was past 9 pm; her driver had not come to pick her up from Delhi’s pre-reform airport. As we stood on the pavement surrounded by jostling crowds and facing the darkness, we picked up courage and offered her a lift. It didn’t take much persuasion. She was in the hotel Ambassador in not much time sitting as regally as one could in the back seat in those circumstances.


Maharani Gayatri Devi

Where would she like to go? She mentioned a Lutyen’s Delhi address not too far from our destination and we instructed the driver to drop her first. Of course, we do not recall the flow or the exact words of our first conversation on that warm Delhi summer night but we must have gushed. We had recently read her book A Princess Remembers: The Memoirs of the Maharani of Jaipur and of course familiar with her legend. We recall her crinkling her nose a bit when the book was mentioned, partly out of a tiny nod in the direction of self deprecation to deflect its monster popularity and partly because we had praised the co-author’s prowess a bit too much. We sensed that perhaps things might not have ended amicably between the book’s writers. But we let that pass. If a 40 minute car ride is any measure of a person’s character then that dash through those dimly lit roads with one of the world’s most famous beauties and India’s most glamorous woman yielded this: sitting in a stranger’s car, this frail old lady conducted herself with dignity, humour, honesty and forthrightness. Of her book, she said she was particularly riled by the fake editions sold at street corners and how much money she lost on each copy bought that way. She was summarily dismissive of politicians, particularly a few powerful female ones said to be jealous of her charisma. About travelling alone so late at night she was gungo-ho. “I’m sure if I’d waited the driver would have shown up.” And she shared a bit of travel trivia with us which we have never forgotten: “I always remove that greasy oil stained Velcro-attached slip cloth on my seat and replace it with a cloth of my own,” she said. “You never know who’s head has been rubbing against it.”

A princess is a princess. We recall dropping her at her given address after exchanging addresses and promising to keep in touch and thinking perhaps that would be a tall order. Princesses are flighty creatures especially such celebrated ones and it had been after all only an airport lift. But the next day, to our hotel room was delivered a handsome hand addressed envelope bearing the Jaipur crest. It was a four-lined note thanking us for our kind gesture, an invitation for a drink that weekend and her signature. “You really must try and discourage people from buying pirated copies of my book. It is really most tiresome!” That’s what style is about!

The Vivian Maier phenomena
>> The story of Chicago-based Vivian Maier, the nanny who died unrecognised and in anonymity four years ago and who was later discovered through a series of fortuitous events to be one of the greatest street photographers in the world is the stuff of fairy tales. Her body of lifework was over 100,000 negatives and was chanced upon in 2007, by a perceptive collector John Maloof when her belongings were sold by a storage facility to collect unpaid rent.


Vivian Maier self-portrait

Since then her pictures from the Maloof Collection, from the 1950s to the 1970s, many of the photos, have been wowing photographers critics and the viewing public for their genius in exhibitions across Britain, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, and the US and a book of her photography, entitled Vivian Maier: Maloof published Street Photographer, in 2011 is our prized possession having found it in a bookshop in where else but Brooklyn.


One of her photographs of the streets of New York

That a woman, a nanny and a struggling photographer could have such vision and command is as riveting as the story of how an artist can die in poverty only to live in immortality!  

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