Abha's Big Step

>> We received a call from the feisty Abha Singh, director, postal services Maharashtra and Goa, to say that after 20 years of government service today will be her last day in the chair. “I will be handling YP’s and other legal cases from now on,” said the lady who took early retirement so that she could assist her firebrand husband the former IPS officer now activist YP Singh in his crusade against corruption. How does it feel? we asked. “Well, there is a bit of nervousness,” she replied candidly. “After all the IAS is a comfort zone. But as my family tells me ‘this is an opportunity for growth’.”

Does this also mean a step into the political fray? “Perhaps,” said Abha. “After all if good people do not join the system and clean it up from within — who will?”

Abha and YP Singh
Abha and YP Singh

We have known the Singh couple for many years now ever since YP was a batch mate of ours and the only corruption and scams we knew concerned the price of masala dosa in our canteen or the amount of marks that we had lost for our attendance! Which is why we wish them luck in the hurly burly of public life especially as Abha says that if she were to join a political party it would be either the BJP or the Congress! (“They are the only two that can make a difference!”)

Masand ki pasand
>> It’s nice to see a formidable and much feared film critic turn into a fan boy. Our former colleague Rajeev Masand, CNN IBN’s popular and acerbic anchor, who has put many a national and international star on the mat with his tough questioning, went weak in the knees in the presence of celebrated Hollywood director Ang Lee.

Ang Lee with Rajeev Masand
Ang Lee with Rajeev Masand

“I cut short my Vegas holiday to be in Mumbai this week because I knew Ang Lee was going to be in town to promote Life of Pi,” says the quick-witted Masand. “He’s literally one of my four favourite filmmakers in the world (the other three being Sam Mendes, David Fincher and Richard Linklater) so I was excited and a little bit nervous to meet and interview him. I’ve enjoyed each of his films, and Brokeback Mountain and Taking Woodstock are my two absolute favourites,” he gushed. And what was his takeaway from the encounter? “Ang said he was very pleased to hear that Taking Woodstock was one of my favourites because it was so under appreciated when it came out,” says the TV star adding, “I behaved like a complete fan boy!” We like!

Short list, long deliberation
>> At the onset of Literature Live! as Mumbai gears up for it’s much–awaited encounter with culture and people who can read without moving their lips here’s more from the sidelines of the festival. Amongst the many highlights is the Tata-Literature Live! First Book Award.

Naresh Fernandes, Ruchir Sharma, Nilanjana Roy
(From left)Naresh Fernandes, Ruchir Sharma, Nilanjana Roy

The significance of this award has been notched up considerably ever since last year’s winner Dr Siddartha Mukherjee also won the Pulitzer, for his excellent Emperor of all maladies. This year’s shortlist is pretty impressive too and includes: The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy, The King in Exile by Sudha Shah and Taj Mahal Foxtrot by Naresh Fernandes amongst others. Whereas the money is on Ruchir Sharma’s Break out Nations, Naresh Fernandes and Nilanjana Roy are seen as strong contenders too. Watch this space for the final results!

Planet food!
>> The intrepid Mumbai based Bulgarian journalist Mila Kahlon is a walking encyclopedia on the availability gourmet foods in Mumbai: “Spotted at Gourmet West, the gourmet store at Westside, Kala Ghoda... Ceramic bottles of Pommery, French artesian vinegars and mustard.

Jars of Little Bee honey
Jars of Little Bee honey

Jars of Damson English fruits for cheese and Little Bee — an absolutely beautiful jar of honey and nuts and the whole range of AlFrez Moroccan sauces, spice mixes and rubs,” she says.

Ceramic bottles of Pommery
Ceramic bottles of Pommery

“Few people would walk into Westside to buy food, but their gourmet store is outstanding,” says Kahlon. “They have a very balanced array of imported and Indian brands, everything is fresh and very well organised.” Another gourmet store she patronises is Country of Origin at Napean Sea Road. “They have cake and brownie mixes perfectly layered in a beautiful jar, pre-measured dessert mixes and amazing Miso Soup Paste at their store.” Onwards and upwards Mumbai foodies!

Mumbai’s bag ladies
>> The profound deliberation of the IT bag carrying crowd never ceases to amaze. A lady of considerable style and means was bringing us up to speed on the Mumbai diva’s current preoccupation: “Ever since the whole world began carrying Birkins they’ve become so … yesterday,” she said making a face that crinkled up her pretty nose deliciously. “As for LVs and Ferragamos are so… common,” she said yawning so wide that we were afraid that her makeup would crack.

Leighton Meester
Leighton Meester with the Celine Boston Tote

“No sir, without doubt the IT bag for the Mumbai gal is the Celine Boston Tote! It’s big, understated, stylish and very, very in!” Not being educated in the fine art of the handbag we looked up the said bag on the net and learnt three things about it: it retails for any thing between $1,800-$2,500; it is very difficult to get one’s hands on and Leighton Meester carried hers two weeks ago. Speaking of which we also learnt that Oprah Winfrey committed fashion harakiri recently when she took a stroll in NYC donning fuzzy green frog slippers, and wielding a beige Celine Luggage Tote. Whereas the bag was thoroughly approved of, one style fascist meowed: “We’re all for comfort, Oprah, but walking around NYC in slippers is just a degree or two more hygienic than walking around barefoot!” 

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