>> In Delhi more so than anywhere else in India entire evenings can be passed in argument between those who like NDTV’s Barkha Dutt and those who don’t. It is a measure of TV’s in your face ubiquity that its stars evoke so much response. But more than the interrogatory Arnab Goswami or the snapping at the heels Rahul Kanwal, it is Barkha who evokes strong reaction. We think a lot of it has to do with the insidious sexism that exists in Indian society: a brassy strong woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and is unafraid to be ambitious is too much for the Indian male populace who make up the bulk of her critics.
Barkha stories, rumours, anecdotes, and folklore is rife within media circles and without, which is why when the lady jetted off to Brown University to take a much needed sabbatical it took every one by surprise: no one had an inkling of the move — and the general response — even by those who made it baiting her a cottage industry was ‘What at this time? When the country is going through its juiciest political turmoil?’
Word on the street is that the feisty TV journalist has taken the time off to write a book though no one knows what its subject is. ‘What I really said to Radia’ ‘Memories of door stepping at the Taj’ and ‘Bunker days’ are some of the titles that are being suggested.
Where is the Lutyen’s ladies shop
>> What is a trip to Delhi without a visit to its legendary Khan market, which we are informed, is the costliest retail location in India and the 21st most expensive retail street in the world? The first time we had visited the market has been in the ’60s when it was famous for its fruits and vegetables. By the time we reacquainted ourselves with it, it had become one of Delhi’s most fashionable streets, with wives of diplomats and senior bureaucrats doing their weekly shopping in its U-shaped interiors.
Priyanka Gandhi, for instance, is a regular visitor and there are enough who swear that Sonia too drops by often. But nothing quite prepared us for the explosion of chic that Khan market has become now. With designers like Raghavendra Rathore and Muzzafar Ali owning boutiques, high-street stores like Anokhi and Fab India, luxury havens like Good Earth and a clutch of fancy cafes, Khan market requires many hours of browsing to tease out its jewels.
We dropped in at the newly opened Amrapali store browsed at the legendary Bahrisons bookstore, had a salad lunch at Ritu Dalmia’s excellent Latitude along with a claque of very well shod ladies who lunch and then a coffee at ‘Opera’ our favourite coffee shop. Mumbai has nothing that compares to the Khan market-ever since Colaba mysteriously decided to go to sleep. The only grouse? What’s with Delhi’s shop assistants and salon staff and F&B personnel? Why don’t they ever smile or engage with their clients? For a Mumbaikar the surliness can be disconcerting.
Carousing with Karan
>> We met the articulate and astringent Karan Thapar, one of India’s finest anchors one evening. Freshly emerged from shooting his popular daily show on television, Thapar was in fine form.
The program that he’d anchored that night had been about fundamentalism and freedom of expression and had featured many common friends like the FTs James Crabtree who according to Thapar has an engaging TV presence. The talk that evening was naturally about politics given the turmoil within the country’s political parties.
Karan was of the opinion that if further much needed reform was to take place it could only happen through an ordinance.
“They know they just can’t get anything through the parliamentary process,” he said. As for investor confidence the consensus was that a revoking of the government of India’s retrospective tax levy on Vodafone (to the tune of US $4.5 billion) which had been recommended by the Supreme Court would send the right signals out to foreign investors. “Which company would feel confident about entering a country that could change its tax laws retrospectively?” asked Thapar.
After Hour Proclivities
>> Can a day in Delhi be one without its share of wholly unsubstantiated, unconfirmed rumour and gossip? This one is about a swashbuckling amorous minister whose extra curricular activities are as colourful as those of a recently discredited Congressman who’d been caught with his pants down. Apparently, the minister’s proclivities have given rise to many an occasion when he has escaped narrowly from a similar fate faced by his glib colleague. ‘Drivers in Delhi are a much feared tribe,’ said one Wag.
Delhi’s newest five star
>> Dinner on Monday night took us to the newly opened Leela Palace at Delhi’s Diplomatic Enclave in Chanakyapuri. Megu its Japanese restaurant had been highly recommended by someone who knows their sushi from their sea bass, but our guest wanted a simple burger and beer so off to the hotel’s coffee shop we went. But in keeping with the rest of the hotel (alleged to be India’s most expensively decorated) Qube, the multi-cuisine coffee shop had the feel and the ambience of a fine dining eatery. And in spite of being forewarned about its ‘ over the top contentiousness’ we were charmed. Think the Imperial meets Lois the IV and you can get an idea. We shall return.