>> And by all accounts, two men stole the show at Sunday night’s charity fundraiser for amfAR, the foundation for AIDS research: Cyrus Poonawalla, whose company, the Serum Institute, was the event’s main support (and who sponsored the two top billed tables of Rs 25 lakh each, besides loaning Sharon Stone his private jet for her Indian travels, amongst other things) and Abhishek Bachchan, whose ardent and endearing solicitations to the audience to bid higher in the charity auction, won him many admirers. “Both Sharon and Abhishek walked the last mile to raise the earnings for the NGO,” says our source. “At one point, Abhishek even sat on someone’s lap and threatened he wouldn’t get up until they had raised their bid,” a move, she says, that had the desired effect!
But in a room full of some of the country’s wealthiest individuals like the Godrejs, the Ambanis, the Dhoots and the Chatwals, the going wasn’t that easy. “The Godrejs had sponsored some tables, as had the Dhoots and Nita Ambani, who had Ash, Abhi, Hilary Swank and Kenneth Cole on hers. And the verdict on Stone? “She had on far less makeup than most of the other women in the room!”
Trust a woman to spot that!
Parsis and Sikhs
>> One of the most intriguing subjects at the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival held in Kasauli last month and dedicated to the writer’s abiding interests (ecology, heritage, women, Indo-Pak ties and the Punjab, but not necessarily in that order) was that of ‘Not So Strange Bedfellows’. It featured well-known columnist Bachi Karkaria and yuppie CEO Manish Kashyap, who engaged the audience in the highly imaginative subject of ‘Sikhs married to non-Sikhs’, says one of the festival’s directors Niloufer Billimoria, who herself, ahem, has a strong Sikh connection.
Can there be two communities renowned for such divergent traits as the Parsis and Sikhs? The former, known for their warrior attributes and the latter for their gentleness and passivity?
But Sikhs and Parsis, come to think of it, are not that unusual a combination: after all Adi Godrej, chairman of the Godrej group has enjoyed a long and successful marriage with Parmesh — a Sikhni!
And we are sure there must be many others! Be that as it may, this and other equally fascinating topics like Rahul Bose’s depiction of Punjab in Bollywood, author Juggi Bhasin’s talk on The Avenger and Vijay Crishna’s travel lore kept the attendees riveted, we hear!
A day for street children
>> “The Consortium for Street Children was set up 20 years ago,” says the London-based Surina Narula, businesswoman, patron of the arts and President of the CSC since inception. “I was a trustee of Lotus children and visited a number of projects working with street children, and saw the massive waste of resources in trying to create tools and means to work with them,” she says, “We also didn’t have a voice in the working groups on children in the governments that made policy.
Therefore, with the help of UNICEF, we set up the consortium,” says the lady, whose work since then has brought much succour to these children of a lesser god. “Now we are trying to get the UN to declare a special day for the street child,” says Narula about her picture taken last week with John Major to mark the 20th anniversary of the NGO.
“With the war in Syria and the recent natural disasters, the numbers given in a UNICEF report estimate the world population of street children to be almost a hundred million or so,” she says, “We should not take these innocent victims of adult crimes as an accepted norm of our society.”
Salaam Mumbai: Snakes and ladders
Perhaps the most heart-wrenching story I have read this week was in Sunday’s Indian Express by Bharat Sundaresan about Anil Gurav, the cricketer whose life ran like a dark shadow to that of Tendulkar’s.
Gurav had once been the bright star on the city’s cricket horizon, spoken about in the same awe people used for Viv Richards and Sunil Gavaskar.
“It was on his stumps that famed coach Ramakant Achrekar had placed a coin first — a sign in Mumbai cricket circles that meant you were the chosen one.
Before Sachin, there was Gurav,’ writes Sundaresan.
By the time the curly-haired prodigy from Shivaji Park came on the scene, Gurav was already a legend, “Sachin loved my cut and hook shot. He also took a few tips regarding how to go about playing with as much power as me,” he told Sundaresan.
That was before Gurav lost his footing on Life’s checkerboard and a great snake swallowed up the gifted batsman, landing him almost three decades later in a tiny cramped slum in Nalasopara.
His tragedy? A brother whose engagement as a shooter with a notorious underworld gang placed him and his mother on the wrong side of the law, and resulted in their frequent lockups and beatings.
And then an addiction to cheap booze that took away from his body and game what the frequent beatings and lockups hadn’t.
Today, according to the article, Gurav lives a broken man, surrounded by his past glory imprisoned in the dark stomach of that ill-fated snake.
He dreams of meeting Sachin and asking him for the bat he had lent him, back.
But whom can he ask for his Life back, I wonder?