Goa, Goa Gone

Malavika Sangghvi

>> It was a measure of things to come when we found ourselves on the same flight with the lovely Surily Goel and Mehr Jessia. “We are flying in for the night to be at the launch of Bardo,” said the young designer about the new club at Ashwem run by the people behind Juhu’s Aurus.

“Everyone’s going to be there.” Goa is crammed to the brim with all kinds of people — fashion people included. As someone said, “December in Goa is when you meet everyone who you’ve spent a whole year avoiding!”

Surily Goel and  Mehr Jessia
Surily Goel and Mehr Jessia

Where did they go?
>> Most newbie reporters at some time or the other, strapped for an idea for a feature, have come up with that hoary old standard – the ‘whatever happened to?’ story. Here’s how it goes.

Gulshan Kumar
Gulshan Kumar

Put together a list of people who dominated the headlines a decade or so ago, do a bit of leg work and then report on what became of them and what they’re up to. Part nostalgia, part believe it or not, it’s a sure to please fixture in any hacks compendium and elicits much delight surprise and sentimentality. And top of every ‘whatever happened to’ list we have ever made has always been Ajit Singh, that troubadour from the 70s who dominated Mumbai’s landscape with his singing appearances at Marine Drive’s erstwhile Talk of the town. Ajit Singh was that generation’s Sonu Niigaam and Uday Benegal rolled into one. His popularity followed that of the Lone Trojan Biddu’s and preceded that of Usha Iyer. It was mainly a Mumbai phenomenon and once Bollywood blockbusters and international performers entered the scene, Ajit Singh - the star performer - disappeared. Hence, his appearance on any number of ‘Whatever happened to’ lists.

But try as we might, we never knew what had happened to the talented singer, performer with his guitar and where he’d ended up. And then lo and behold, a few nights ago he was spotted at the Prem Joshua performance in Goa. Older, paunchier, grayer but still as charismatic. After his phenomenal singing popularity he has retired to Goa and lives the life of a sybarite. But the music has not left him. His daughter has married into the Gulshan Kumar T-Series family which as everyone knows is one of India’s biggest music producers!

Home sweet home
>> “I’m onto my seventh home in Goa. It’s exhausting but so very fulfilling,” says Veena Advani, the erstwhile New York resident who, after a highly successful run in the haute couture export business, decided to build three homes in Goa to tide her over the lull in the export scene.

Being blessed with a fine eye and an aesthetic sensibility honed through her many years of international travel, what started as a small side hobby has now turned out to be a substantial and highly profitable business that takes up 50 per cent of her time. Her homes occupied by a slice of some of Goa’s most delicious (and well-heeled) inhabitants are decorated in “a bit of Bali, a bit of Victorian, a bit of Portuguese, styles,” says Veena, adding, “I only sell to people who appreciate my style. If they want granite and marble they can go elsewhere!”

From Bali with love
>> If it seems everyone is in Goa, think again. A source all the way from Indonesia says they saw the hunky John Abraham partying along with his girlfriend and a bunch of friends at Bali’s very trendy Ku de ta.

John Abraham

Always known to follow his own path, John sensibly eschewed the New Year crowds at the lovely Indonesian resort.

Bina Ramani — the author
>> A season in Goa is incomplete without a sighting of Bina Ramani, the original queen of Goa boho-chic. Ever since she relocated to India from New York in the eighties, Bina has been something of a catalyst for all manner of lifestyle and fashion initiatives: whether it’s discovering new areas in Delhi, like Hauz Khas and the Qutab style mile and putting them on the map, or playing muse to a whole generation of designers with her personal wardrobe of dhoti pants and guru kurtas, or buying up old villas in Goa, restoring them and reselling them to Delhi‘s movers and shakers, Bina has been an agent provocateur and a leader.

Bina Ramani

So, when we met her yesterday at a brunch and were informed that she’s on the verge of completing her memoirs, we knew it would be a bestseller. “It’s called Bird in a Banyan tree,” said Bina. “And it’s being published by Rupa. The title refers to my mother who was a true Banyan tree, the matriarch of a large family of 12 children and many relatives,” said the soon-to-be published author. “And since I was her youngest child I was like the bird in that tree, always looking to grow wings and fly away.”

Besides her writing, decorating and fashion projects Bina, who spent time at Tihar jail because of her feisty refusal to be brow beaten in the Jessica Lal case, has a strong streak of activism throwing herself in to causes and issues. “I have been so disturbed by the rape case and the death of that poor girl,” she said. “And on January 3 I am organising a peace march in her honour in Panjim,” she said. “Do tell as many people to join.” 

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