A few weeks ago, we were at her home to meet a group of visitors from one of North America’s leading museums, along with Bapji Jodhpur in support of his Head Injury Foundation’s newest initiative.
The evening, with its elegant dinner speeches, its low key glamour and public-minded thrust could have taken place anywhere in the world: at an elegant black tie fundraiser at Central Park, at a townhouse on Regent Street or at the garden of a minimalist Beijing terrace office.
Then yesterday we spoke to Nita Ambani about her and Mukesh’s recent outing at Windsor Castle and the latter’s appointment as the Chair of India Advisory Council of British Asian Trust (BAT).
And even as we were speaking came the invitation to attend the Ambani reception held jointly with Bob Dudley (Robert Warren Dudley, the group chief executive and a director of BP) in honour of a senior UK delegation at the award-winning exhibition ‘Mummy. The Inside Story’ (held jointly by the Reliance Foundation, The British Museum and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum). The orbit’s just gone global.
When we got news that the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF) and City of Strasbourg had organised a field workshop this month in Udaipur to brainstorm on development and maintenance of heritage sites, we immediately called up our friend, the terribly posh Arvind Singh, the Maharana of Mewar.
Not only because we support ‘public-private partnerships, and the enhancement of local heritage, public transport systems and active citizenship’ (we are as civic minded and environmentally conscious as the next person) but also to hear Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar of Udaipur, chairman & managing trustee of MMCF’s, plumy boom boom accent and famous baritone over the phone line: “We are finally doing what we believe in,” he said in his famous way. “Of looking beyond borders! We are using Strasbourg’s legendary expertise in heritage conservation and town planning! We should be looking outward,” he said. We like!
We like art initiatives and ventures that support the arts. And we like them even more when they stand the test of time, prove their commitment and turn into more than just spurious scams by shifty salesmen. (No, we are not referring to you know who!)
Which is why we have such a soft spot for the RPG Art Camp now in its 15th edition, and held each year annually, come rain or shine, double or single digit in Harsh Goenka’s salubrious cottage in Marve.
Here we have met not only some of India’s greatest (and most fun) art legends, but also former PMs (like VP Singh) and reclusive media barons (like Samir Jain).
And this year too, we learn that the Art Camp has been conducted all of this last week with artists like Anjolie Ela Menon, Paresh Maity, Vijender Sharma, Avishek Sen, Mithu Sen, Samit Das, GR Iranna, T M Azis, Rajan Krishnan, Manoj Vyloor, Shijo Jacob, Prajjwal Chowdhury, and Milburn Cherian amongst others. Hosted by Harsh Goenka and Vickram Sethi of Arts Trust, this year, the Art Camp will conclude with a much-awaited dinner where the participating artists will meet and mingle with Mumbai’s art lovers.
Rocking the boat
On Tuesday, we had spoken to an agitated rocker Vishal Dadlani, who in the grand tradition of rock legends like Bono and Bob Geldof does not restrict his anti-establishment utterances to the stage. In fact, Dadlani has always been at the forefront of championing human and civil rights and uses his voice for many good causes.
This time, the singer was besides himself about news reports that said that the Rs 350-crore project to construct a mammoth statue of Shivaji (taller than the Statue of Liberty) on an island in the middle of the sea across from Marine Drive had picked up steam again. “Are you serious? The Shivaji statue is back? More than 75,000 people have signed the smallchange.in petition against it,” he said, about his earlier activism against the plan.
For the uninitiated, the plans involve the construction of a grand memorial of Shivaji, which will house an open-air theatre, a library and a museum showcasing the life of the Maratha warrior. “A team of experts was asked to suggest an ideal location,” said the report. “And after conducting feasibility surveys of three sites in the Arabian Sea, they have drawn a conclusion that the islet, situated between the Governor’s House and Navy Nagar, would be ideal for the statue,” adding that the project previously billed at Rs 350 crore four years ago, will cost the exchequer significantly more.
What this will do to tidal patterns, sea creatures, the livelihood of fisherfolk, the proposed sea link (not to mention the aesthetic splendour of our horizon) is only par for the course. Interestingly, it is not the Shiv Sena or the MNS rooting for the project but the ruling Congress party led by CM Prithviraj Chavan we learn! “The Congress tries to win over the Marathi manoos around every election with projects like this,” as an observer says. Meanwhile, Dadlani promises, “Now we’ll go for a PIL. Straight up.”
Storming the bastions!
We love nothing more than social diversity and social mobility (upwards, but also downwards, sideways, diagonal etc). Unfortunately in some societies, one of the only ways to storm the bastions is through marriage. This seems to be happening in Mumbai with some frequency in recent times. But rather than be thrilled, a few society elders do not share our views. We hear that currently almost half a dozen well-heeled Mumbai families are facing consternation about the fact that their sons are marrying girls from classes or backgrounds they do not consider their equal. “And to avoid the pitying glances of their peers they are conducting these weddings as quietly as possible,” informed our source. Tch. Tch. We don’t like at all!