Iftar with the stars

Salman Khan with Baba Siddiqui at the party. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Salman Khan with Baba Siddiqui at the party. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Attending Congress politico Baba Siddiqui's iftar dinners, with their heavy servings of delicious biryani, old world hospitality, and red hot Bollywood star power, is always a delight. This year too, both Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan were there, as were politicians like former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan amongst many others.

By remarkable coincidence, this year too, we arrived a few moments before Salman Khan and his entourage convulsed the room, and made our exit a few minutes before SRK had entered.

A day after the release of his latest blockbuster, Tubelight, the hysteria around Khan was even more heightened. From the moment he entered, he became the centre of attention, as all eating, greeting, chatting stopped, and crowds thronged around the front of the room, where the star was being led by Siddiqui and son Zeeshan to meet all those seated around the main table.

Shah Rukh Khan
Shah Rukh Khan

This time around though, there was added buzz, as accompanying Khan as a star in his own right was Tubelight's eight-year-old Matin Rey Tangu, the boy from Arunachal Pradesh, who has captured the public imagination with his recent media appearances. And to be honest, though Iulia Vantur was very much present at the dinner, it was obvious that the object of Khan's real affection was Tangu, whose hand Khan proudly held as they met their admirers or posed for selfies with them.

At one point when the excitement had got too feverish and he looked like he was getting overwhelmed by the crush, we noticed Khan gently picking up the boy and placing him on a chair near a cooler.

Dr Mufazzal Lakdawala
Dr Mufazzal Lakdawala

Yet another side of the superstar was revealed on the same occasion when we found ourselves seated next to the soft-spoken bariatric surgeon Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, who shared some of the more outstanding acts of philanthropy he had been encouraged by the star to undertake, including the rescue of a six-year-old victim of rape. "He does all this very quietly and away from the public gaze," said Lakdawala, even as we watched the star being almost deified by fans and admirers.
And to think that all this occurred not even five minutes from where he lived!

That's star power for you.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

A case of outer engineering?
If godmen and gurus can become entrepreneurs and businessmen, then why cannot the celebrated master of speed, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, hold forth on the auto industry? The weekend saw a piquant exchange between His Groovy Holiness, known for his love of motorbikes and fast cars, tweeting a huge thumbs up to automobile producer Anand Mahindra. 'Anand, you have transformed the automotive space in India.

Anand Mahindra
Anand Mahindra

For sure the Scorpio is the fastest Indian SUV on road,' he posted, signing off with a coy 'Sg' The effect of receiving this divine high five from a spiritual savant was not lost on Mahindra. 'His tweet I am going to frame & hang on our 'Wall of Fame!' he replied. Come to think of it, Sadhguru's programme is called 'Inner Engineering'.

Chef Vikas Khanna with chef Gordon Ramsay
Chef Vikas Khanna with chef Gordon Ramsay

Fan boy moment in the kitchen
It is known that chef Vikas Khanna had humble beginnings in Amritsar, where he was born, but had gone on to open the Michelin-starred restaurant Junoon in New York, and subsequently featured as the judge on Masterchef India, that turned him into a household name.

Recently, the celebrity chef who cooks for the international rich and famous, and was even invited by the Obama administration to cook at an official reception at the White House, had a fan boy moment when he met iconic British TV chef Gordon Ramsey.

Khanna took to social media to detail the time he spent with his idol. "He had requested me to teach him some modern Indian dishes, and I was excited to cook at his restaurant in New York. I asked him what time and he said 3 am. He was in at 2.45 am and we worked until 7 am. I was amazed by his curiosity, meticulousness, and passion. His love for Indian cuisine was totally evident," says the chef once described by People Magazine as 'the hottest chef in America". And how was it working with the foul-mouthed kitchen demon described as the meanest of 'em all? "He is the most polite man in real life," purred Khanna. Who would have thought!

Chef Vikramjit Roy with guests at the restaurant
Chef Vikramjit Roy with guests at the restaurant

From Bhatt to Thackeray
We had written about the upcoming modern Oriental restaurant POH (not to be confused with the similar sounding neighbouring DOH) a couple of months ago; the Kamala Mills restaurant that comes from Anjan Chatterjee, has ventured into upmarket dining space with this venture, helmed by chef Vikramjit Roy (previously at Wasabi). And though the restaurant will open to the public at the end of the month officially, it has begin service by invitation only for friends and family, and other influencers. Last weekend, young actor Alia Bhatt played guinea pig at a food tasting, and word comes in that this past weekend saw another group of invited visitors, that included Bollywood producer Tanuj Garg along with singer-veejay Sophie Chaudhry, journalist Simi Chandoke, and young politician Aaditya Thackeray (who it transpires has quite a soft spot for oriental cuisine!). "The unique food is absolutely gorgeous and healthy." said foodie Tanuj about the experience.

Anita Dongre
Anita Dongre

Dongre in New York
In these dark times perhaps one of the few rays of sunshine to break through, is the fact that Anita Dongre's first Grassroot store in America, will open its doors on New York's Bloome Street early next month. Set up by the designer as a tribute to the handcrafted traditions of India, the store collaborates closely with its artisans, to help create better livelihood for themselves and their families.

From embroideries and cut work, to handloom and spun fabrics, these works of beauty from deep within rural India, will now be available to the smart and slim women of New York, at a time when big business and white supremacy trends appear to be overcoming America.

Equally heartwarming is the Dongre story. Born a simple, middle class girl, Dongre had started her journey as a graduate from fashion school, working with a highend export house in Mumbai, where she says she learnt her skills. From here to launching her label as a family-run enterprise, till today when it is a multi-million dollar business employing many, Dongre has become one of the three most successful designers in the country.

And now, the opening in the heart of Manhattan, showcasing the artistry of brown heads and hands in an increasingly fractured world. "Happy to share my very first invite with you," texted Dongre on the eve of her launch. See what we mean about the few slight bits of sunshine breaking through.

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