He's got a friend

"I grew up in a time when singer-songwriters told stories," said music impressario Brian Tellis, the smoky voice behind the blues on Radio One. "They took you to the zones you'd never been to before," said the music aficionado and popular radio jockey about his meeting five-time Grammy Award winner, the American singer-songwriter and guitarist James Taylor over the weekend in America.

Brian Tellis and James Taylor
Brian Tellis and James Taylor

"When I found out that he was going to be meeting up with his fans at a Barnes & Noble, I figured out, to say the very least, that I qualified," said Tellis, who says the middle-aged rocker was quite tickled to hear that he enjoyed a huge fan following in India. "On hearing that we have grown up listening to his music, he teasingly asked me which was my favorite Taylor album."

And for all of us Taylor fans back home, there appears to be a glimmer of hope. "As I was leaving after getting my signed copy, he asked me if a concert in Bombay would fly. Hell yes, I said," said Tellis, adding quite superfluously, "If I were to define some of my life's moments, this would certainly qualify as one."

The Muktangan Success Story
"Liz and I are delighted to share with you how this is a special time for both of us personally, and all of us at Muktangan. Our second batch of students who grew with us from KG to Grade X have passed with flying colours in the recent SSC Board exams," said SoBo resident and philanthropist Sunil Mehta, about the NGO that he set up with his educationist wife Elizabeth in 2003.

Elizabeth and Sunil Mehta
Elizabeth and Sunil Mehta

Designed as an educational programme in which women from urban economically disadvantaged communities are trained as child-centered, inclusive, English medium teachers, and then employed in one of the seven municipal schools in the city, it is a fine example of "education by the community for the community", and one that could well serve as a valuable example for wider application through out the state.

"Muktangan's educational model addresses the shortcomings in the mainstream education system," said Mehta. "All 52 students that appeared in the recent Std X Board exams passed, with two of our students getting above 90% and 60% of the class getting an overall distinction. The batch also included 5 special children who obtained a combined average of 76%," he said.

But triumphant as it is, this is not the only cause for the rejoicing. Even as they were celebrating these results, last week, news came in that Elizabeth Mehta was appointed a 'Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)' in the Queen's Birthday 2015 Honours list award, for services to education in India as founder-director, Muktangan Schools Network.

For someone who, after completing her graduation in the United Kingdom and marriage, had migrated to Mumbai 43 years ago, and whose experience has included work as a special educator, a teacher trainer, a primary and secondary mathematics and science teacher, and the position of vice-principal of Bombay International School, Mehta's dedication and commitment is inspiring.

Mumbai angle to international art
Many in Mumbai will remember artist-activist Malina Suliman, the Afghan girl who had come to Mumbai in 2013 seeking medical attention for her father after her family had been attacked by the Taliban.

A still from a video by Malina Suliman
A still from a video by Malina Suliman

Now another Mumbai connection has helped make Suliman's work available in London. Her first solo show, which opened this May and is on till August, has been organised by erstwhile Mumbai resident Bianca Gidwani, who has co-founded Art Represent — a platform dedicated to empowering artists who are endangered and displaced by oppression and warfare around the world.

Bianca Gidwani
Bianca Gidwani

"Our aim is to provide a platform for artists who are affected by systematic and violent oppression," said Gidwani, who graduated with a BA in History of Art from University College, London, after which she spent four years working in a contemporary art gallery in London. "The years I spent working in the art world led to a sort of disillusionment, as I was able to witness first hand the over-commercialisation of art," she said.

But for all its ideological impetus, Gidwani is firm about the artistic merit of the enterprise. "We choose our artists on the merit of their work, rather than defining them as 'conflict artists' and fetishizing their personal experiences," she said. "With an online commercial platform aimed at helping artists support themselves and a strong offline social presence, we work closely with artists from nations at crisis point, and provide them with much needed infrastructure to continue to create work, and have their voices heard.

Alongside public projects and exhibitions at our gallery space in East London, we host a series of talks and events increasing awareness and interest in art from conflict regions," she said. And with a well-designed website, a gallery in East London, a roster of artists from places as far flung as Colombia, Syria, Korea and Pakistan, Gidwani and her business partner display every sign of becoming a significant voice in the international art sphere.

Monkeying around with Fatty Bao
And word comes in that AD Singh, whose recently launched Monkey Bar has been embraced by the city's young and restless, is all set to launch his Pan Asian Brand, The Fatty Bao this week next to it.

AD Singh
AD Singh

This Thursday will see a preview party with an official launch party over the weekend. Nice!

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