"It's perhaps the toughest thing I’ve ever done. I'm not a 'writer' in that sense," says our friend, Barkha Dutt, who by any standards has done some pretty tough things in her life.
Dutt was referring to This Unquiet Land: Stories from India's Fault Lines, her first book that is to launch in the first week of December.
(L-R) Menaka Guruswamy, Barkha Dutt and Cate Blanchett.
"As someone who is a news addict utterly consumed by my day job, it was really difficult to find the bandwidth and time to write it, but after four years, it is finally ready!" said India's answer to Oprah Winfrey, who for all her career triumphs and high-profile engagement with the powerful and famous, has no airs and graces and has managed to remain refreshingly grounded and real in person. "I hope all of you will read it. Bring on the brickbats — and I hope a few bouquets too," she said.
Vijay Mallya — small fry?
How the wheel turns. In a recent column, Suhel Seth, a great pal and drinking buddy of Vijay Mallya's, wrote about how, compared to the other mega defaulters in India's business landscape, poor old VJM's outstanding debts of approximately 7,000 crores were no more than small potatoes. 'Mallya's debts are insignificant to some of the large corporate groups we have in our country' wrote Seth, which made us wonder if it was the beleaguered beer baron's conspicuous consumption and 'King of Good Times' image that had been responsible for making him a soft target for regulatory authorities and the media, whereas other bigger offenders had gotten away with impunity.
Be that as it may, here's the irony: for a man whose claim to fame had been predicated on his larger-than-life lifestyle of jets, yachts, sports cars and horses, the fact that his defence now is that his spending was insignificant and small fry compared to the really big defaulters, is a pithy role reversal. 'No one seems to be getting punished as much as they should' thundered Seth in his column. But could it be that as far as he is concerned, that VJM's spending is termed 'insignificant' compared to the really big boys is punishment enough?
Connected to both sides
The talk doing the rounds in top business and financial circles on Hemendra Kothari's daughter's upcoming wedding to interior decorator Varsha Desai's son is: which side — the bride or the groom's — will Mukesh and Nita Ambani attend from.
Mukesh and Nita Ambani
As is known, Desai is the go-to interior designer for the residents of Antilia, which makes her very close to the Ambanis; on the other hand, Kothari shares with them an abiding love for wildlife and nature, which has drawn him close to corporate India's first family. So which side will the Ambanis attend from? Or will they go back and forth between both families? Of such things Mumbai dinner party conversations are made.
Book on nine dreaded dons
In our inbox has landed the manuscript of what is certain to become a best-seller: a soon to be released book by a feisty, Delhi-based, female print journalist about her close encounters with the nine most dreaded dons India has ever produced. Starting with a detailed account of how she attended the wedding of Dawood's daughter in Dubai — where she actually set eyes on the vertically challenged Bhai who was watching her every move through a closed-circuit camera — it calmly recounts the sleazy underbelly of gangsterdom, from the days of the ' gentleman' dons like Haji Mastan and Yusuf Patel to the Chhota Rajans and Chhota Shakeels of today. Will it be made in to a film? As sure as we are about a certain Mr D's presence in Pakistan, we can bet our last paisa on this.
Musicians at the Yacht Club
We had dined out on the story of taking punk star-turned-philanthropist Bob Geldolf and his Boom Town Rats to Mumbai's Yacht Club for lunch in the eighties. The sight of the outrageously dressed musicians at the staid and stately club had been a matter of great bemusement, especially since they had insisted on playing on the Club's vintage piano.
Our tryst with in-your-face and colourful musicians and the Yacht Club does not end there, it now appears. We have been invited to lunch at the same club with none other than the India-born, America-based jazz vocalist, Asha Puthli, who once played a pivotal part in the Andy Warhol phenomenon in New York. Will Puthli up the ante for us and agree to belt out a tune over tomato soup? Watch this space.
The wedding of the year
The interesting thing about the recently concluded Masaba-Madhu wedding is the vast and varied nature of its guest list. From stars to bizmen to fashion designers, it appears that there was an eclectic attendance, which represented many segments of Indian society. "As everyone knows, Vivek Mehra, Neena Gupta's husband is a well regarded senior partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers in Delhi, which accounted for some of the Capital's top business leaders, like founders of the Jubiliant Bhartia Group, Shyam and Hari Bhartia to fly down to attend," said a guest.
"Then, thanks to Masaba's fashion connection, there were many design mavens like Wendell Rodericks and Anjana Sharma in attendance. Then there was Neena Gupta's own formidable film and TV fraternity connection, like Soni Razdan and Ila Arun, who came in great numbers and, of course, the groom Madhu Mantena, who had worked with his uncle Ram Gopal Verma, before branching off into his own career with Adlabs, before producing the blockbuster Ghajini. This brought in some of the top entertainment executives from Adlabs, Reliance ADAG, etc," said the source, adding, "Bollywood, fashion, business and TV — there sure was a galaxy of different folk at the wedding which made it so refreshing and un-filmy."
Ila Arun with husband Arun Bajpai
What do you know! Four G has already rolled out in Bihar. Nitish ji, Lalu ji, Tejashwi ji and Tej Pratap ji...'
- Joke going around the chattering classes recently