>> When the chips are down guess what the big boys do in Delhi? Find a scapegoat! We saw it recently when the electoral disaster in the UP Assembly elections was blamed on everything but Rahul’s leadership (there was infighting within the state cadre, Mayawati’s goons indulged in booth capturing and of course the media was out to get the Congress and so forth).
Masters in the art of passing the buck, the Congress spin doctors have now found the best person to hang their woes on: Pranab da! Wherever you go in Delhi, it is hard to escape the Pranab bashing. “He used to hear out the PM and then go back and do the exact opposite,” one insider carped.
“He’d do exactly as he pleased,” another one meowed. Interestingly, when challenged these carpers had no explanations as to why on earth a man whose worst enemies could not find instances of impropriety about would want to destroy the Indian economy. “Can anyone say that he is not the paragon of financial integrity? We enquired. That shut them up.
The hostess with the mostest
>> On Friday, we have been invited to lunch with the Dutch ambassador and other worthies at the sprawling studios of Sunita Kohli at Lado Sarai. Spread over 10,000 square feet, the studio houses the interior design, furniture line and architectural headquarters of the talented and statuesque mother-daughter duo. “Come early,” said Sunita, “We have an interesting bunch of people.”
An understatement if ever there was one. Sunita is easily one of Delhi’s hostesses with the mostest, having had heads of state, prime ministers and noble laureates dine at her table regularly. We look forward to Friday’s invitation and of course shall report on the high points.
>> We lunched at The Cafe at the CMYK bookstore, the brainchild of the dynamic Priya Kapoor (editorial director of Roli Books). Adjacent to their spectacular bookshop, the café is every thing a literary hangout should be: Large posters from recent books, tables inscribed with quotations and a quirky menu (dim sums, Kerala prawns, Greek salads and kheema pav).
The elegant eatery was full of ladies who lunch, who unlike their Mumbai counterparts who affect a studied nonchalance think nothing of stopping mid sentence and giving one a good stare before resuming their chatter. Nestled in the Meherchand market, the store is an ideal hangout. What’s more, Priya has added the occasional soiree. “Pecha Kucha nights are the city’s answer to a rapidly evolving design ecology,” she says. “And this Friday CMYK is organising such an evening on the history, evolution and need for preservation of the sari.” With speakers who include Malvika Singh, publisher of Seminar, Rta Kapur Chishti, co author and editor of the Saris of India, Sanjay Garg, (the man behind the Raw Mango label) and style maven Sujata Assomull Sippy, it promises to be an evening typical of Delhi: high brow discussion, artsy people and great canapés to follow. We like!
India’s public broadcaster
>> We had tea with the erudite Jawahar Sircar, the CEO of Prasar Bharati the autonomous body that serves as India’s Public Service Broadcaster. Established in the first flush of the reform rollout in 1997 it was set up with the objective to delink AIR and DD from the Ministry of I&B, in much the same way as the BBC functions. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the Prasar Bharati office functioning as a private corporation: no dusty ledgers to enter when we arrived, no security checks and no sleepy bureaucrats to dodge.
Instead, the office ensconced in the PTI building ran like the media powerhouse it’s supposed to be. Much of this can be attributed to Sircar who has a larger than life personality and takes pleasure in debunking the myth of the senile comatose babu. His last posting was as secretary culture to the GOI, a post he was eminently suited for. The man is a livewire, bristling with ideas, and plans that he volleys at the rate of 10 a minute. He is also preternaturally disposed to holding forth on all the passions of the Bengali bhadralok: ancient history (especially Grecian), modern economics (especially Keynes) and contemporary film (especially Adoor Gopalkrishna). More importantly, Sircar has a healthy respect for the bottom line something that most babus have scant regard for. Under him not only does it appear that DD will give private channels a run for their money but what’s more be a huge revenue earner. “For too long the public sector has tried to ignore the private sector,” he said, “We will be actively seeking sponsorships and tie ups with corporates,” he said. With the humongous eyeballs he can deliver, it can only be a win-win for both players we think.
>> What is a trip to Delhi without an afternoon spent at one of the iconic Fabindia outlets? Fans of the iconic store that has dressed the capital’s power elite for decades we dropped in to the latest home furnishing store at the Meherchand market to partake of its bounty.
Bim Bissell, wife of Fabindia’s creator, and mother to the dynamic William Bissell who has been responsible for the brand’s exponential growth is a dear friend mentor and soul mate.“We are off to Goa for the week,” she said to us on a crackling line from the IG airport. “But come back soon. Delhi’s always buzzing.” We agree.