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Maharashtra Coalition: A many-splintered thing

>> The worst kept secret in the state is of the chilly vibes between the members of the ruling coalition

The result of this dysfunction is the inordinate delay in the state’s key projects like the Navi Mumbai airport, (even after Nagpur has got a splashy new airport) the second leg of Bandra-Worli sea link and the overhauling of the JJ Hospital. “What can we do?” wailed a ruling party loyalist, “All the most important portfolios concerning development and infrastructure are controlled by our so-called allies. In fact, that’s almost 50% of our budget!” We have it from very reliable sources that when one of the seniormost officers of the government sought an appointment with a political heavyweight so that he could make a presentation on one of the government’s most ambitious projects he was¬†stonewalled even before he’d finished his sentence.

That there’ll be no ‘ring’ around the roses is a foregone conclusion if you know what we mean… but mercifully, the same source tells us the Trans-Harbour sea link is expected to come through.

‘Shell’ be coming down the mountains
>> Even as a certain section of the city (read its biz-social creamy layer) was caught off guard with the change of guard at Shell India, curiosity about Vikram Mehta’s successor, the London returning Mumbai girl Yasmine Hilton was high. Our amateur sleuthing skills revealed that she was a Gandhy (Gandhi?) before her marriage, and had attended Welhams, later going on to study at one of the United World Colleges and then acquiring a PhD in genetics; we also learnt that she is in her late ’50s, married to an Englishman, has two
grown-up sons and that her father who was an Admiral in the Navy resides at an apartment in one of Colaba’s toniest buildings. Not bad for half an afternoon of playing Sherlock Holmes right?

Mumbai’s Museum Lady
>> Though the spotlight turned briefly on her husband, the dashing Chairman of Shell, Vikram Mehta who announced his retirement last week, the beautiful and talented Tasneem Mehta, honorary director of the Bhauji Lad Museum has never been out of it for long. To be able to take on Mumbai’s oldest museum, and spearhead a public private initiative to undertake its restoration is no mean task, and Tasneem has managed to do so with characteristic grace and style.

The museum has just concluded an exhibition to celebrate the Indo-German friendship year and plans for the coming months, include an exhibition curated by the Italian menswear brand Zegna, and a major project with the Guggenheim museum. Also on the cards are new ways to integrate the museum into the daily lives of Mumbaikars, with the introduction of a café, a centre for art films and courses on Modern and Contemporary Art in India. As Tasneem who has successfully led the heritage protection movement says, “Mumbai has an extraordinary cultural heritage, which we will lose if we do not take active steps to preserve it.”

Band of girls

>> Even as elsewhere in the country, women continue to be discriminated against in the most horrific ways, one more reason to be grateful that we live in Mumbai happens to be the growing number of women who feel confident enough to kick up their heels on a night out with their gal pals. And amongst the most glamorous of these bands of girls, is the posse that comprises of Hyderabad’s loveliest import to Mumbai film producer and cultural impresario Elahe Hiptoola, who along with Rahul Bose’s stunning sister, the entrepreneur Anu, and the stylish Vandana Kasbekar have raised Mumbai’s style quotient considerably.

We spotted them on three different occasions in the last two weeks bringing oomph and cheer with their electric presence. A close second in the sassy and stylish stakes is the band of girls led by the Taj’s irrepressible Raakhee Lalvani who along with her Bangalore compatriot Leena Singh also know where the best parties happen.
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The Jinnah-Ruttie love story
>> The redoubtable Rafique Baghdadi who along with Mumbai’s Press Club has organised a 5-Sunday ‘Know Your Mumbai’ walkabout had members of the fourth estate riveted with his tour of the Khoja Shia Isna’Ashari Cemetery in Mazgaon, where lies the grave of Rattanbai Jinnah, the second wife and great love of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. “Ruttie” as she was affectionately called, was graceful and bright and fiercely supportive of the Swadeshi Swaraj movement of the time. She was the daughter of Sir Dinshaw Petit, one of Mumbai’s wealthiest men, and although she was 16 years younger than Jinnah, she sparked his interest with her sharp intellect and ethereal beauty,” says Baghdadi.

Their first meeting took place when in the summer of 1916, Sir Dinshaw invited Jinnah to his bungalow in Darjeeling. Enraptured by his host’s young daughter Jinnah plotted his course with characteristic stealth, said Baghdadi. Apparently, the brilliant lawyer approached Sir Dinshaw with a seemingly abstract question about his views on inter-communal marriages and when his host expressed his opinion in its support, Jinnah seized the opportunity to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

But not only was this the end of their friendship but Sir Dinshaw forbade Ruttie to meet Jinnah as long as she lived under his roof. As she was still a minor, the couple decided to wait out the two years until she attained the age of maturity.

Their patience paid off and shortly after her 18th birthday, Rattanbai converted to Islam and adopted the name Mariam and soon married the love of her life.
But sadly it was not a case of happily ever after, and following differences between them she lived for many years at the Taj Hotel in Bombay more or less as a recluse tragically dying on her 29th birthday. She was buried at the cemetery in Mazgaon, and it was here, says Rafique “that Jinnah is said to have cried for the only time in his life.” This poignant story of love and loss moved many of the assembled hacks to tears themselves!¬†

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