Celebrating Bismarck

Can there ever be enough tributes paid to Mumbai's music tutors, those dedicated men and women who over the decades have toiled unstintingly to teach the city's callow youth how to become more musical? Yesterday Ehsaan Noorani, one of the country's leading music composers and a renowned guitarist attempted to redress the situation when he went over to celebrate the 90th birthday of his erstwhile teacher the legendary Bismarck.

"Happy 90th to my benefactor, my teacher, my guru Bismarck Rodriguez," he posted. "What a lovely day it's been. Also for the first time in all my years I drank neat Chivas at 1.30 in the afternoon," said one third of the group Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy who began taking lessons from the icon in 1978.

Ehsaan Noorani and Bismarck Rodriguez
Ehsaan Noorani and Bismarck Rodriguez

"The basics that I learned from him were a foundation, which I realised the importance of when I went to music school in Los Angeles in 1985," said Noorani. And the lessons were not Bismarck's only contribution either.

"Above all Bismarck encouraged me to be on top of it always referring to me as "my champion." As for Bismarck of whom many stories are told by doting students who are senior citizens themselves, what stands testimony to his dedication is that the mono-named guru is still training a whole new generation of the city's imminent rock stars at 90!

Beautiful weaves of Benares
Over the weekend, we travelled to Varanasi to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sagarika Rai's bespoke luxury weaves initiative Warp 'n' Weft. Held on Assi Ghat on the auspicious occasion of Hanuman Jayanti, it saw the felicitation of the weavers who'd worked with Rai for the last two decades on her magical creations out of the dint of their imagination and the brilliance of their craft.

Sagarika Rai
Sagarika Rai

Now wizened old men, they bounced up on stage as one by one their names were called to receive their honours.
It was altogether a magical evening. One moment we were at Mumbai's teeming airport and the next on the banks where Tulsidas wrote his epic poems with the full moon reflected on the flowing Ganga nearby.

Fittingly there was a music recital where Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, the grandson of Bismillah Khan, played a Jugalbandi with the Grammy award winning slide guitarist Prakash Sonttake. "When I married and moved from Benares to Mumbai, I was appalled when I saw the kind of fabrics available," said Rai.

"I could not help thinking of the exquisite colours and textures of the handlooms of Benares. So I started sourcing them and created a small space at my husband's office," said the attractive wife on an investment banker and mother of two. Soon, some of Mumbai's most artistic women began to patronize her store. "Rajshree Birla, Monica Correa, Dina Vakil, they all appreciated my creations," says Rai.

And what does she feel about the recent Benares boom? "So many people have jumped on the bandwagon," she says. "If it promotes the traditional crafts it's great, but unfortunately so many people are taking short cuts and cashing in on Benares' new found fame by resorting to substandard quality and power looms."

As for Warp and Weft, there's much to celebrate: Plans for tie-ups abroad and an expanded store in Mumbai to stock many more rustling koras, Mughal butas in khinkhwab and kadhwa weaves, and gossamer floral charm in gold and silver threads...

India's Queen
A recently written fictionalised account of an iconic Indian female politician has been attracting much notice. Said to be perfectly told, with drama and insight and subtlety, its working title is Queen and has the likes of Delhi's leading publishing maven commending it.

Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi
Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi

And whereas the name of the author is still to be disclosed, the book's subject appears easier to guess: iconic Indian female politician? It can only be Indira Gandhi. After all, we all know what happens when some one writes a fictionalized account of the other Mrs Gandhi — right Javier Moro?

Separated at Birth?
As people they couldn't be more dissimilar: iconic British singer, songwriter and record producer, Farrokh Balsara aka Freddie Mercury, the Parsi from Zanzibar and the Dadar Parsi Colony's gymkhana, who became lead vocalist and co-principal songwriter of the rock band Queen and wood and brass artifacts Indian businessman and alleged realtor from Moradabad, the husband of politician Priyanka Gandhi, Robert Vadra.

Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury

After all, one set the stage afire with his performances and the other somewhat left viewers under whelmed with his 'Are you serious' rap captured by a TV camera. But then there is no denying that the two men bear a startling resemblance: pronounced jaw, dreamy dark eyes and droopy mouche.

Robert Vadra
Robert Vadra

And wait there is one more similarity: both are flamboyant sharp dressers given to pink trousers and body hugging tees. Freddie Mercury and Robert Vadra -separated at birth? Who woulda' thunk?

Smiles to go...
This is a poignant story about an urban legend told by someone who knew her, a lady so glamorous that her reputation precedes and her name is whispered in awe. It's about her unblemished visage, seen only rarely and that too by a chosen few. A visage that is as arresting as it is unsmiling. Time was when after her nth cosmetic intervention she'd been told by her surgeon in London that this would be his last, that it was not advisable to go in for any more. "You must be very, very careful hence forth," he'd warned.

However, an unforeseen accident occurred shortly after and the lady was compelled to seek out medical help to reinstate her allure. This time it was almost impossible. "I will do it against my wishes," said the good doctor, but there's only one condition, "You can never smile again."

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