Mumbai Diary: Friday frolics

The city — sliced, diced and served with a dash of sauce

Market Moves
The Farmers’ Market, set to be held at the Royal Western India Turf Club (RWITC) headquarters at Mahalaxmi on Saturday, April 18 stands cancelled. Organic farming proponent Kavita Mukhi, whose initiative it is, said that the RWITC had given them two days - April 11 when the first market was held, and April 18.

A previous edition of the Farmers’ Market held at Mahalaxmi racecourse
A previous edition of the Farmers’ Market held at Mahalaxmi racecourse

Mukhi told us, “Then, the club said they had got some other sponsor and asked us to shift the day, from Saturday to Friday. It was too much and I decided to call it off.” The constant shifting and changing was too much, said Mukhi, though the previous Saturday had seen a really good Farmers’ Market at the racecourse.

“Now we are done for the season. We come back in October. It is the racecourse and Maharashtra Nature Park at Dharavi, which have really good tree cover for a market of this nature.” The market makes way for night racing to take place at the racecourse this weekend.

Mukhi, however, says she dreams of a time when one would not have to specify ‘organic’ when citing qualities of fruits, vegetables and certain products. “Everything will be natural and organic not full of pesticides,” says Mukhi, whose farmers’ market initiatives began six years ago.

We seem to be getting there somewhat, with more such markets being held, and the term ‘organic’ a byword at Page 3 dos and elite gatherings. It will take a while to be on everyone’s radar, though, not to mention shopping lists, given that organic is oh-so-expensive, compared to regular produce. For those who looked to be heading to RWITC for their organic fix, it is nix.

Honour for Indian Gym veteran
Where cricket is concerned, one name that has become synonymous with Indian Gymkhana in Matunga is K Satyamurthy. A cricket match or a coaching camp still evokes the same kind of excitement in this 78-year-old pillar of the institution, nicknamed ‘Satya’.

K Satyamurthy
K Satyamurthy

Satyamurthy was conferred the Lifetime Achievement award by his institution earlier in the week and to say he richly deserved it would be as obvious as saying that serving the Gymkhana since the 1950s is a long time. There was a time when Indian Gymkhana played in the premier division of the Kanga League.

Their battles against Dadar Union used to be interesting although the 12-time champions always ended up on the winning side. Other teams, according to late cricket writer Rajan Bala (also an Indian Gymkhana player), rated the Gymkhana a dangerous side.

‘Satya’ started off as a spinner, but made strides on the batting front and ended up as an opener. He also played a big role in Indian Gymkhana’s promotion from the ‘D’ division of the League to the premier division. All that is in the past now, but Satyamurthy is still around, serving his home. Yes, that’s what the Indian Gymkhana is to him.

Haunted by the cold-call menace
An annoying aspect about modern life is unsolicited phone calls from investment firms wanting to help you out with putting your money in the right place. That this happens even when your number is listed in the Do Not Disturb (DND) registry is enough to drive you up the wall. This story merely illustrates the frustrations of the common man in seeking any recourse.

So it happened that we received a call from a company called Purnartha in Pune, whose executive, Prashant Nair, rattled off a template speech lifted directly from a badly-written management jargon book even before we could tell him that we are on the DND list.

When we asked him how he got our number, he was shaken. Apparently not used to being questioned, he said the number came from “various sources”. What those sources were, he could not put a finger on. “We call random numbers,” was all he could say.

So we asked to speak to his senior. The same story with her, too. Only when we said we would report the whole thing to SEBI and TRAI for breaking the law, she made a weak attempt at an apology for making unsolicited phone calls. “It was a human error,” Swati Gund told us.

We asked for the CEO Rahul Rathi’s number as this questionable directive to call random numbers could have only come from the top. No go. Finally, she blurted out the executive director Hemant Vispute’s name and number. But wonder of wonders, he was in “a client meeting” and was unable to come to the phone. “I will arrange a call back,” she said. But this never happened.

Eventually, however, we heard from one Manoj Trikha, whose voice reminded us of a villainous Bollywood sidekick and thus was not at all reassuring. He claimed that Purnartha may have got our number from jobs website Naukri.com. In the style of a cheesy pick-up line, Trikha said, “Let me convert your negativity into positivity. I want to meet you and see whether we can work out something.”

Adding to everything, he also offered us a job! “We always need journalists with good financial background,” he countered, when we said we would complain to TRAI and SEBI for violating their guidelines. Which we did. So, there you are. Just another day in trying to fight back the menace of spam calls. Now, let’s see whether TRAI does its job of cracking down on Purnartha’s blatant attempt at breaking the laws of the land.

Publishing honcho Chiki Sarkar bids adieu
Penguin Random House has announced the departure of Publisher Chiki Sarkar with effect from next week, though no one seems to know what she will be moving on to.

Chiki Sarkar. Pic/Michel Figuet
Chiki Sarkar. Pic/Michel Figuet

Perhaps one of the most visible publishers in India after David Davidar (albeit a more petite one), Sarkar will be replaced by not one but three differently designated people maybe that’s an indication of the powerhouse publisher’s formidable talent.

Sarkar moved to India from Bloomsbury in the UK in 2006, joining first Random House, then Penguin, and heading the whole shebang when the two firms merged in 2014. Sarkar, whose official first name is Rudrani (but it simply doesn’t have the same ring as her dak-naam or pet name, Chiki), comes from a media background her father is Aveek Sarkar of the Ananda Bazaar group.

Will she set up a new company? Will she move into media (can’t tell, really). Publishing is in her blood, from what we know, so Chiki ma’am’s next move is definitely going to be one to watch.

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