His wit and love for a good story is legendary, and has made him a great favourite of hacks across Delhi, and this weekend Fin Min Arun Jaitley demonstrated to a select audience of business leaders at a media awards show just why.
When asked about the GST Bill and its present position, Jaitley, tongue firmly in cheek, is reported to have said that whereas the opposition's 'Wing Command' was in favour of the bill, its 'High Command, consisting of Mother and Son' were against it.
Arun Jaitley. Pic/PTI
No surprise that his pithy choice of words for this inside track revelation was met with a huge round of laughter from the assembled fat cats.
His famous gift of the gab
One of the biggest guffaws that erupted from the audience during the recent awards ceremony of a media group, was after the Fin Min's speech, when the floor was thrown open to the house, and the crowd invited to ask questions.
And that's because the first person to be invited to ask a question, was none other than Rahul Bajaj, chairman of the Bajaj Group, and one of the most respected business leaders of his time.
The reason the audience chortled, was because as everyone knows, the articulate Mr Bajaj is famous for his God-given gift of the gab, and his questions rarely remain so, and in fact become full blown speeches instead.
"Never has there been an occasion where he's been present and sidestepped the mike," said a journalist familiar with the industrialist's ways. And this time? "This time too the question was a mini speech — on what else, but the GST Bill," we were informed.
An eminent circle of some of the city's most distinguished faces greeted us when we walked into Zeyna and Khalid Ansari's party on the lawns of their building in SoBo on Saturday night.
Swashbuckling generals, globe trotting ambassadors, eminent judges, high profile bureaucrats, and the odd erudite industrialist have made up the Ansari guest list for the past decades, and this time was no different.
We spotted braveheart Gen (Retd) Kuldeep (Bulbul) Brar with his graceful wife Meena, former MD Air India Michael Mascarenhas, popular city business man Mahendra Sanghi along with former Police Commissioner Surinder Pathania, Nana Chudasama, Kamal Morarka, Lalita Mallya, former Chief Commissioner Income Tax Prakash Dube, Arvind and Rashmi Jolly, Sabira and Chotu Merchant, Dilip Piramal, Captain Raichand, Vinod and Joanne Nayar, and honorary consul for Columbia Pradeep Madhavji.
Old and good friends, who have weathered many decades in each other's company, met over a drink and some spicy conversation. "The dinner was for my son Shariq who was visiting from the US with his son Emraan and daughter Safiya," said Ansari. Nice!
Raising the Party Bar
By all accounts the Sangita-Sajjan Jindal party over New Year's Eve in Hampi was a grand affair. As reported, two planeloads of the couple's friends had been flown down to Vijaynagar, where the Jindal's steel plant is located not too far from the heritage archeological city, which the couple has actively supported. Amongst the revellers were industrialists Saket Kanoria and Amit Choksey, along with banker Mihir (Micky) Doshi.
"The Jindals are legendary hosts and Sangita is known for her precision-like organisation skills," said one of the guests, "and there was sightseeing, music, dancing, great food and laughter as we all bid farewell to the last year and welcomed the new."
Incidentally, this is only a precursor to the fabled Jindal hospitality. This year will witness the wedding of Parth, Sangita and Sajjan's son and heir in Vienna, and is already being spoken of as the 'mother of all destination weddings'. "After all it was Sangita who had upped the ante for exotic European weddings with her daughter's nuptials in Florence all those years ago," said the guest. "Now everyone is eagerly awaiting what she will do this time around."
Fair weather friends or an ethical stand off?
Each year, the patriarch of this once leading but now floundering consumer giant, hosts a party at his family home in rural Maharashtra, to felicitate and acknowledge his gratitude to the towering patriarch of another leading business clan. The reason for this is to express his indebtedness to the patriarch's family, for giving his family the dealership of their popular products – a fact that contributed to their earlier success.
Each year the party themed around the harvesting of a particular grain, which is then roasted over a fire and served hot with spices – witnesses a turnout of some of the country's most famous business leaders and politicians (and a few hapless stars who have been engaged for the occasion).
However this year, according to sources, the recently held party saw a considerable dwindling of famous guests - attributed to the hosts' financial woes. "Shows what opportunistic, fair weather friends people are these days," sniffed our Oolong tea-favouring SoBo hostess friend. "When the going was good, every billionaire worth his yacht would be there, and today they've all vamoosed."
But whether it's fair weather opportunism or an ethical stand off is unclear; after all, invitations to the recent birthday bash of another beleaguered tycoon gave rise to much debate amongst those invited: turn down on grounds of his owing money to creditors, or show up to show solidarity in his hour of woe? Of such conundrums are the lives of India's chattering classes composed!