Literary conundrum

Amit Chaudhuri, author of such exquisite books as Afternoon Raag and Freedom Song, appears to have blotted his celebrated copybook recently.

The Sahitya Akademi awardee, who is currently professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia, wrote a book review last week for The Guardian, which has kicked up a bit of a literary storm.

Amit Chaudhari and Anjali Joseph. Pic/Twitter
Amit Chaudhari and Anjali Joseph. Pic/Twitter

The review was of Anjali Joseph’s novel The Living. ‘It was a glowing review. “An exceptional, unexpected work,” was just the title,’ reports a news website. No controversy there of course, reviewers can and often do talk up good books, except Chaudhuri failed to mention that Joseph had been a student and later a colleague of his!

‘It might be hugely beneficial to Chaudhuri, if one of his students were to publicly succeed as a writer, emergent from a course where he had taught;’ a concerned reader by the name of ‘Samantha Johns’ had written to the editor of The Guardian, citing conflict of interest.

What’s more mystifying is that the venerable newspaper, when called out, is supposed to have only grudgingly admitted to its lapse in an editorial footnote. As for Chaudhuri, apparently, he had earlier reviewed Joseph’s first novel Saraswati Park saying it was one of the best debut novels he had ever read.

However the literary conundrum does not end there. According to the website, Samantha Johns itself is a fictitious name, and her interest in the whole saga is not known either. So, what’s the story behind this literary page-turner and will readers ever have the answer to the whodunnit? Watch this space.

Before they took wing
“This picture is of the first Indian team of Pan Am Flight attendants, as they graduated after their training in Miami, in January 1986, just seven months before some of them were faced with the traumatic hijacking of flight PA 73,” said former Pan Am employee Charmaine Dhondy Roy, about the group portrait that features many familiar faces including the late Neerja Bhanot (nee Mishra), and fitness and grooming expert Rukshana Eisa (nee Toddywalla), amongst others.

Charmaine Dhondy Roy (in black) with friend Camellia Raju Dalal
Charmaine Dhondy Roy (in black) with friend Camellia Raju Dalal

“The events that took place on September 5, 1986, were the hardest experience of my almost 29 years between Pan Am and Delta!” said Dhondy Roy, one of the earliest recruits when Pan Am opened its Bombay operations.

Rukhsana Eisa in present times
Rukhsana Eisa in present times

“I recall being the first to enter the office that day. The phone was ringing, so I instinctively picked it up, and I got the shock of my life when the person at the other end announced that it was Tokyo radio, and that they had heard that our flight that had left Bombay that morning had been taken over by terrorists, and asked for my comments!” she said, adding, “We were terrified for our passengers, crew and ground staff in Karachi.
The 17 hours kept ticking, slower than ever, with the fear and suspense.” However, this picture stands testimony to a better day, when these fresh faced young men and women were giving wings to their dreams.

Just not cricket
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar must be having a bad hair month; not only has he won the ire of environmentalists with his recent extravaganza on the banks of the Yamuna, but now his congratulatory tweet to MS Dhoni, post India’s cricket victory over Pakistan, which hinted that it was his guru vibes that might have had something to do with the win, appears to have elicited howls of derision.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and MS Dhoni. Pic/Getty Images
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and MS Dhoni. Pic/Getty Images

“How about doing something about the GST Bill?” as one outraged wag responded. Right! And after that getting us a good monsoon and a place on the UN Security Council...

A new line?
She has been somewhat in the shadow of her vivacious mother Bina Ramani, but now Delhi and Goa-based designer Malini Ramani appears to have truly come in to her own with what is being described as her sensational showing at a recent fashion week in Delhi.

Malini Ramani (centre) with friends
Malini Ramani (centre) with friends

Described as her breakthrough line and one of the finest shows of the week, Ramani’s ensembles in muted blacks, golds, cream and shades of grey, with embroidery, embellishments and sensuous draping, in a range of dresses, saris and gowns, displayed a new maturity and a heightened sensibility, according to fashionistas.

Could it have anything to do with the fact that the designer has recently turned spiritual and is a certified teacher of Kundalini yoga now? Come to think of it — that turban would look rather nice on the runaway!

Big boy’s club
This insight into how crony capitalism works is chilling. Someone privy to the nexus between politicians and bizmen, recalled evening meetings where a powerful politician would sit with a handful of his inner circle, and basically rewrite the rules of the game.

“The talk was about how if such and such law was circumvented or changed, they could make easily make a R 100 crores from it,” said the source. “It was like playing a game of ducks and drakes,” he said, shuddering. “Unlimited power and unlimited greed.” So, that’s how the big boys roll.

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