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Movers and Shekhars

>> On Monday night, Sonia’s sudden illness attracted as much interest in journalistic circles as that of Shekhar Gupta’s announcement of his relinquishing charge of his CEO position at the Indian Express. Truth be told, it was the latter that had the media grapevine on standby. And that is because Gupta, a larger than life personality, had for years been one of the industry’s poster boys. Someone who had managed to successfully take on the role of super editor, publisher, CEO and brand manager all in one even as he held the title of group editor in-chief.


Shekhar Gupta

But in what will go down in the industry as one of the chattiest goodbye notes to his staff, Gupta explained the manner of his appointment and of his new role. “It was in an unusual set of circumstances, and at a critical juncture in the history of our company, that Viveck (Goenka) had asked me to take over the additional responsibility of overseeing the management,” he wrote. “When Viveck asked me to take over this additional charge one winter afternoon, I was petrified. I did not even know debit from credit and thought an RO, our daily bread-giving advertisement Release Order, was some water purifying system.


Viveck Goenka

We are today acknowledged to be one of the soundest news media companies within-our-size category. And no, we never do paid news, or stretch any of the First Principles of Journalism… We have already had six stellar quarters and, on all evidence as I track revenue figures for this month and the projections for September, are heading for an even better seventh. Those unusual circumstances, or any sense of imminent crisis, no longer exist.” Gupta, of course, is only relinquishing his role as unofficial CEO and publisher of the paper.

He will continue to lead editorial and fulfill all the other responsibilities that come along with being editor-in-chief of the Indian Express. Meanwhile, insiders say that not only is Viveck Goenka back firmly in the saddle but son Anant, the Express’ bright rising star is being groomed to finally take charge.

The Ritu tree of creation
>> Monday night saw us ensconced in the audience at Ritu Kumar’s showing at the Lakme Fashion Week. We have been friends and admirers of the redoubtable lady ever since the time we met her in Kolkata many decades ago and also share her love of Indian textiles and craft. But nothing prepared us for her newest prêt collection in which she has taken the best of Indian colours and styles and somehow created a new silhouette and sensibility.


Other Ritu Kumar designs

One that is neither of the West nor the East, ready to wear clothes that are traditional and at the same time modern and international. Applauding this new shoot from the great Ritu tree of creation were the likes of Camellia Panjabi, Siddharth Kak, Saryu Doshi, Sharayu Daftary, Sudha Motwane and the team of Grand Masti: Vivek Oberoi, Riteish Deshmukh and Aftab Shivdasani.


Nargis Fakhri showcases a creation by Ritu Kumar at Lakme Fashion Week

NRI wedding news
>> And word comes in about the big fat NRI wedding taking place next month in London to which pack loads of Indian industrialists and socialites have been invited. Since it happens to be the progeny of a billionaire, we are told that the high flying Indian event company engaged to come up with ideas for the occasion had suggested a whole slew of Indian and international A-list entertainment acts such as Justin Timberlake etc to perform for the guests. But according to our sources, the father of the bride for one reason or the other shot down each bright idea. “It seems that the man in question is going to try to get an even higher list of performing artists,” is what we were told. The mind boggles.

Salaam Mumbai
How to marry a millionaire Mumbai ishtyle
>> Long before the concept of arranged marriages, where the families of eligible young boys and girls would whisper their requirements to the community matchmaker, decades before the success of the newspaper matrimonial column, eons before websites dedicated to this worthy cause were created, and concepts like e-dating, speed dating and phone apps appeared on the scene, a suitable girl wanting to meet a suitable boy with matrimony in mind had but a few options to meet the dashing young man of her dreams.


Representation pic

Where on earth could she find a dashing young man of means and background, some one with flair and finesse some one who she could fly off in to the horizon with? In the 60s, the answer to this question was in fact, that such a creature was not to be found on earth at all. He would be located miles high up in the air in the body of an aircraft flying in or out of the country his matching LV suitcases marked first class. Away from the cares and troubles of his high-powered life, unfettered by his familial and social rigours and with the buoyancy and adventure of international travel in his veins, the young man would be in the best frame of mind to fall in love. Hence, some of Mumbai’s most attractive young women took to the skies.

They became airhostesses. We are not saying that it was not their love of travel that fuelled their decision, but a highly unscientific but pertinent survey into some of that era’s most eligible bachelors and their marriages would reveal that more than a few of them were incubated in the body of a mid-size, long-range, narrow-body four-engine Boeing 707! You know the names.

They are part of the city’s folklore and have resulted in some staggeringly successful couplings and beautiful progeny. Two eligible sons of top Parsi industrialists, an artistic Nabob and the heir to a local fortune all met their beautiful brides in the air! But in the 70s when air travel became commoner, business class that great spoiler was introduced and the chances of meeting that one man in a million en route to Beirut didn’t quite carry the cache that it had, a suitable girl wanting to meet a suitable boy with matrimony in mind had to find alternative routes. Where would the finest crop of well-heeled bachelors, men of means and background flair and finesse be found?

Remember this was the time when five-star hotels were just beginning to establish their ubiquity in the life of the city. The Taj and the Oberoi with their glamourous nightclubs and their rooftop restaurants and their glamorous lobbies was a thing of beauty and a joy forever. It was when some of the city’s most attractive girls signed up to work at the front office of these hotels. Day in and day out, sitting prettily behind their well upholstered desks, watching smiling at, exchanging greetings with some of the country’s most eligible bachelors, a girl with marriage on her mind could do worse than become a receptionist at the Taj in the 70s and 80s.

And truth be told, some of the most eligible bachelors, textile heirs, heirs to cashew nut fortunes, and men of who went on to some great professional success met their brides while they were receptionists at the Taj. That was how it happened then. Before the era of matrimonial ads and dating sites and phone apps. When the city was young and its men and women had stars in their eyes. And love happened over a Vodka gimlet or a booking for a table at the Golden Dragon! 

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