Celebrating a Gandhian

Apr 17, 2015, 06:01 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Last Friday saw us attend the 90th birthday celebrations of a very special man, the activist, philanthropist and Gandhian, Dr G G Parikh, who has devoted his entire life to the cause of empowering the poor and vulnerable.

Held at the Sydenham College and chaired by industrialist Kamal Morarka, the event saw the likes of Janata Dal United's Sharad Yadav, Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and former AAP politician, Yogendra Yadav, and Medha Patkar, activist and founder-member of Narmada Bachao Andolan, on stage, to commemorate Parikh who is a dead ringer for the late great Frontier Gandhi.

Bhai Vaidya, Kamal Morarka, Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari (second from right), Bhalchandra Mungekar (extreme right) and others at the birthday celebrations of G G Parikh (centre)
Bhai Vaidya, Kamal Morarka, Chandrashekhar Dharmadhikari (second from right), Bhalchandra Mungekar (extreme right) and others at the birthday celebrations of G G Parikh (centre)

"We have heard stories of leaders in the freedom struggle but in the present society, GG is a great example of what an individual can do at his own level, provided his mindset is Gandhian," wrote Morarka, in his foreword to the handsome souvenir printed for the occasion.

"One of the best things about GG," said Patkar fondly about the medical doctor who served time in jail during the Emergency, "is that he never did 'ji ji' 'to anyone in his lifetime" she said, cleverly punning on his name while alluding to the culture of sycophancy which has tainted politics in the country. "He stood tall and above it all," she said.

Meanwhile, Parikh, never one to encourage praise or accolades about himself, sat in his distinctive erect posture on the podium, with a bemused expression on his face. "How strange to hear all this praise in one's own lifetime," he remarked candidly in his speech to the audience. "Usually such tributes come in afterwards," he added.

Well-attended book launch
"The launch bowled me over for the fact that I didn't just see old and good friends there, but also many people I don't know," it was the Delhi-based journalist and author, Padma Rao Sundarji, telling us about the housefull launch of her book, Sri Lanka: The New Country (HarperCollins), which was released at a high powered and well-attended event at Delhi's IIC on Sunday.

Padma Rao Sundarji (left) with former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao
Padma Rao Sundarji (left) with former foreign secretary Nirupama Rao

Said to be one of the best books on the subject of post-conflict Sri Lanka, Sundarji, the South Asia bureau chief of Der Spiegel till 2012 and a great lover of the country, says, "Especially thrilling was the panel: chief guest (India's former foreign secretary) Nirupama Rao flew in just for the event, and the indomitable Swapan Dasgupta moderated.

I was also chuffed to have the soft-spoken intellectual, Sri Lankan professor Pradeep Jeganathan, and South Asia University's Sri Lankan faculty member Sasanka Perera on the panel that evening," she said, adding, "Super busy TV journos like Barkha Dutt and Outlook's editor Bish Moitra left work early just to be there. Just for me."

As for the book, after receiving excellent reviews and notices from the media and pundits alike, it is reported to have brisk sales. Dasgupta had tweeted that he "strongly recommends the book as an antidote to propaganda drivel that often appears in the media" and in her own tweet, the former foreign secretary Rao described it as "searingly honest, finely drawn portrait of post-civil war nation and its people."

"I heard from Barefoot Bookstore, Colombo, that the book was already sold out! I hope I will get an opportunity to introduce the book to the discerning readership of Mumbai, too," said Sundarji.

Chocolate Wedding
The card was as stylish as its senders, but what impressed our friend, a lady of discerning tastes, the most about the wedding invitation sent by Nyna and Sunil Bharati Mittal for their son Shravin's wedding to be held at the end of this month in Delhi was the outstanding box of chocolates that accompanied the summons.

Sunil Bharti Mittal and his wife Nyna
Sunil Bharti Mittal and his wife Nyna

"From La Maison du Chocolat, no less," she called us to say. "La Maison du Chocolat of Paris is believed be the makers of the world's best chocolates" she said. "It specialises in these precisely made perfect ganache-filled chocolates, infused with flavours of menthe du Maroc, citron d'Andalousie, vanille, or framboise.

Shravin will be marrying Sakshi, the daughter of Anju and Sunil Chhabra," she said. "And you can bet it will be one of Delhi's best attended weddings," she added, as she popped one of them into her mouth.

Penthouse to repent house?
He's long enjoyed the title of 'Mumbai's ultimate connoisseur' and even though this low-profile industrialist, the scion of an old industrial family which has now splintered, is hardly seen in public, those in the know swear that he has the best decorated duplex apartment in Mumbai, (a sprawling affair of over 7,000 sq feet with one of the highest ceilings in town), the finest collection of Razas, and that he is known to send his expensive bespoke suits abroad for dry cleaning!

So, you can imagine the shock and horror of the chi chi crowd when word went around that, facing pressure from creditors from whom his companies have taken massive loans, the high-flying businessman has informed his landlord that he will be unable to pay rent on the Sobo duplex apartment he resides in and will be moving out shortly.

"The process of furniture being shifted out has already begun," says a source. "But how on Earth things came to such a head God only knows! The rent, though relatively high, could not have been more than around Rs 14 lakh per month," says the source incredulously.

"A single painting from his collection or a gewgaw could take care of that," says the source, adding, "It's Mumbai's season of penthouse to repent house!"

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