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Now, highbrow Kabaddi!

“I thought of the story because Kabaddi was shown on British television in the 1990s,” says the swashbuckling James Crabtree, Mumbai Correspondent, Financial Times, who has been featured on these pages earlier, inspecting terrorist memorabilia in Jaffna on one occasion and acting in a Bollywood movie on another.

He was talking about the story he had written on the sport for that most buttoned-down of British institutions-the Financial Times. “Channel 4 had a remit to show obscure sports no one had ever heard of, like sumo, American football, and then Kabaddi.

James Crabtree
James Crabtree

There is a whole generation of my age who recall watching this strange Indian sport on wet Saturday afternoons,” said the intrepid reporter, who in the interest of research subjected himself to a match with Mumbai’s Kabaddi Premier League team last month.

Amartya Sen
Amartya Sen

What was it like? we asked the brave man. “Playing it was intimidating. The players are short, muscular, and strong. I am tall, thin, and fairly puny, so there was never really any doubt that I’d get wrestled to the ground! Thankfully they were quite gentle with me,” he said. Interestingly, Crabtree might have pulled off the ultimate journalistic coup with the story: getting Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen to comment on the rough hewn and swarthy sport.

“Its wrestling component demands heaviness and strength, whereas its running part demands lightness and speed, and the art is to get a good balance,” recalls Sen, who played as a child. “I was never any good, since I ran like a wrestler and wrestled like a runner,” says the revered economist. Amartya Sen and Kabaddi - Who woulda thunk!

Roaring with the Sadanahs
“I’m not one to brag or boast. Life just happened and then the kids,” said our friend, Lisa Sadanah, the vivacious forty-something, wife of director Kamal and mother of the upcoming swimming sensation Angath.

Kamal Sadanah Lisa Sadanah
Kamal Sadanah and Lisa Sadanah

“Things don’t excite me. Good things, that happen to ones I love excite me. The Roar trailer released six days ago has nearly had 1 million hits on Youtube,” she said about Sadanah’s offering, Roar-Tigers of the Sundarbans, releasing next month.

Said to revolve around a young photojournalist in the Sundarbans, who rescues a white tiger cub ensnared in a poacher’s trap, the film is an attempt to bring tiger protection and conservation to the forefront. “I can’t help myself. The ROAR fever is rising at the Sadanah home!” she said. “If you haven’t seen the trailer, please do.” We have Lisa, and we like.

Exciting new F&B options
Word comes in that the hot new midtown hotel, which has changed names in the past but still has managed to retain its ‘most happening hotel’ status, hasn’t found closure in its quest to find a buyer.

Insiders swear that negotiations towards this are taking place even as we speak. By now, most in the trade know that it’s being wooed by a large hotel chain looking to rebrand it as one of the top luxury hotels of the world.

“Matters regarding unopened/ unfinished rooms, fire safety protocols and room sales are still being discussed, though all concerned expect an official signing soon,” says our source.

Meanwhile, guests wonder about the weekend confluence of young, restless and noisy patrons of the hotel’s popular current nightspots that might militate against its imminent rebranding and upgrading plans.

“Separate entrance to the bars/ nightclubs, as other Mumbai hotels have done, is the best solution,” says the source. “In its new avatar, the hotel is going to change the F&B landscape of the city with its exciting international offerings.”

Meanwhile, word also comes in that after pipping another chain to host Mumbai’s annual fashion extravaganza, the hotel will also host a luxury conference to which the top international brass of its future partner will attend. Perhaps that’s when the much awaited rebranding will be announced?

Days of Swat and knitting
We called our friend, the attractive Gayatri Rangachari Shah, freelance journalist and contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar, to express our delight at her father’s evocative and heartfelt obituary on Prince Miangul Aurangzeb, the wali ahad (crown prince) of the state of Swat, and son-in-law of the former president of Pakistan, Ayub Khan. The Prince passed away on Sunday, August 4, at the age of 86.

Kokila and TCA Rangachari, en route to their first posting in Hong Kong in 1971
Kokila and TCA Rangachari, en route to their first posting in Hong Kong in 1971

Shah says her father, TCA Rangachari, a former ambassador to Germany and France, now serves on the Executive Council of the Vivekananda International Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank and Vice Chairman of the Fight Hunger Foundation, a non-profit that combats malnutrition in India. He had made the acquaintance of Aurangzeb in 1986 when he was appointed India’s Deputy High Commissioner in Islamabad.

Gayatri Rangachari Shah
Gayatri Rangachari Shah

His tribute, carried in the Indian Express, had been witty, affectionate and in the best tradition of obit writing, had brought home the deceased person and his times vividly.

“A quintessential sub continental who transcended boundaries geographic, religious, social Miangul lived life with an effortless ease. Although a proud Pakistani, he never felt it necessary to be anti-Indian,” the former ambassador had written about the Prince, an alumni of both Doon and St Stephen’s.

“Yes he was a wonderful man, with tremendous savoir faire, aristocratic in the most profound way in that he wasn’t a snob and could engage anyone in conversation regardless of rank,” says Shah, who recalls her days as a diplomat brat in Islamabad (or Isloo as it’s affectionately called by residents).

“We went to Swat to visit and stay with him - it’s the first time I saw men knitting!” Incidentally, Shah’s uncle, TCA Raghavan, is India’s High Commissioner in Islamabad now!

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