>> We are off to Delhi to attend the sixth VM Tarkunde memorial lecture in memory of the legendary legal luminary, organised by the The Tarkunde memorial foundation and People’s Union for civil liberties and his dynamic daughter Manik Tarkunde Karanjawala, herself a renowned supreme court lawyer.
The Tarkunde Memorial lectures have become a big-ticket event on Delhi’s political/cultural landscape, drawing an eminent audience from across the board. Last year, when noted historian Ramchandra Guha had delivered the keynote address we had made it a point to attend.
This year’s program promises to be even more scintillating with Nandan Nilekani speaking about “inclusion and access — can technology help?” Whereas Nilekani’s address will no doubt deal with the Unique Identification program of which he is chairman, undoubtedly the audience will want to know about Internet freedom and censorship, a topic that is currently on people’s minds and on which Nilekeani can surely throw some light too.
The rest of the evening’s program is asattractive with Soli Sorabjee, former attorney general of India presiding, a welcome speech by columnist and author Kuldip Nayar and introductory remarks by Ashok Desai.
The last bastion?
>> Given the current atmosphere in Mumbai, which seems to increasingly turning into a regressive intolerant state, the Kekoo Gandhy memorial that we attended yesterday at the Jahangir Art gallery seemed to be a gathering of a community under siege.
Gandhy was one of Mumbai’s great liberals and when we glanced around the new air-conditioned hall (that in a great stroke of poetic justice given his battles with the JAG seemed to have been refurbished just to honour his memory) we saw what looked like the last bastion of people who stood for all that was good and great about this city.
On the panel were Gerson Dacunha, Alyque Padamsee, Ranjit Hoskote and Atul Dodiya amongst others and in the audience were Sooni Taraporewala, Sangita Jindal, Geetu Hinduja, Vikram Mehta, Meera Devidayal, Shyama Habibullah, Mallika Advani, Kavita Singh, and a host of other culture doyennes who give Mumbai its spunk style and elan.
Gerson Dacunha summed up the mood of the evening aptly when he ended his tribute with a poignant “as for us we have to console ourselves”. We hope Kekoo’s battle for civic rights, the environment and freedom of expression will be taken up by the next generation and that it’s not time to say: ‘Apres moi le deluge!’
>> It was bound to happen. No sooner did members of the culturati discover that along with reform and globalisation came a section of Indians hungry for cultural experiences, when all kinds of initiatives for festivals, salons, retrospectives and the like began to spread like a rash across the metros.
And with that came the usual scrambling for audiences and pole positions. The latest tussle for title of cultural diva seems to be taking place in Goa where Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi who is hosting a salon for Raj and Dipti Salgaoncar’s arts foundation, Sunaparanta will have to contend with the formidable Bina Ramani who has launched her own culture salon recently.
And whereas this weekend saw SDS in conversation with artist Sudarshan Shetty – and his next guest, in December, will be Booker Prize winner Anne Enright, those in the know are wondering about how Ramani is going to respond to his poaching on her turf.
After all in his last novel, The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay, a reconstruction of the Jessica Lall murder case, Shanghvi had portrayed Ramani in a not very pleasant light.
And one insider tells us of their last encounter at Parmeshwar Godrej’s home – which apparently didn’t go down too well. What can one say? As the daughter of the legendary Usha Khanna who began India’s most iconic and vibrant cultural space, the café Samovar almost five decades ago — only this: the first thing that is required to nurture art is a generous heart!
Much awaited luxury tower
>> This has to do with a hugely hyped, much-awaited iconic luxury tower that is coming up at Lower Parel. (Disclosure: we had been approached by the promoters to pen a book on it’s making – but nothing had come of that project). Word has it that the building has been stalled by a stay order and that apartments, which were going for Rs 60 crore, are now being discounted up to Rs 20 crore! “If you pay Rs 10 crore up front you will get a Rs 60 crore apt for Rs 40 crore- that’s how desperate the situation is,” says our source. We hope they are wrong. The little we know about the building is that it could put the city on the uber luxe map if it lives up to its dashing developer’s dream as no expense is being spared to outdo some of the world’s most famous luxury piles like Trump Towers or the Burj Khalifa. But if it fails it could well be the Pratibha building of this generation.
>> There we go inviting accusations of being a bleeding heart liberal all over again: but we can’t help but admit that reports that Qasab asked that his mother be informed of his hanging and that he hummed a song from Khuda Gawah tugged at our heart strings.
We are familiar with the song he sang from Khuda Gawah. It is based on a popular folk song from Afghanistan and Balraj Sahni was portrayed singing it too in Kabuliwala.
That a young man — with a blackened heart — hummed it to his gallows makes it unbearably poignant!