>> Sitting many miles away, across continents and oceans, we still get the skinny on Mumbai! And the big news is the closed door, hush- hush very exclusive Philanthropy Meet last week with Bill Gates which saw 15 or so of India’s biggest business leaders converge at the Taj Land’s End for a private darshan (the invitation, which we had scooped last month specifically mentioned that no press was to be present!)

Rajshree Birla, Azim Premji

According to our sources, those present to share their thoughts with Gates on his favourite subject were heavyweights like Azim Premji, Rajshree Birla, Adi Godrej, Dilip Shangvi, Sunil Mittal, Nandan Nilekani, Harsh Goenka, Ajay Piramal, Anu Aga, Navin Jindal and GM Rao amongst others.

Gates wore a jacket without a tie, seemed relaxed and chatty, said he thought Google was his biggest competition and that China and India were now the two countries with the highest potential on the planet. And this gem: In the rapid fire round when he was asked what he’d prefer more — an evening with Angelina Jolie or $1 million — he picked the latter, as he said it would help him develop a polio vaccine! And no, we are not telling who asked him that question!  

Dancing in the street
>> Travel reveals how quotidian our pleasures really are: on a balmy summer’s night in New York we chance upon a wildly joyous weekend Lebanese street party. Exotic women in summer dresses and sandals dance with handsome men, each other and their children to the beat of a live band belting out Middle Eastern hits.

Falafel and hummus, beer and wine and above us a starry sky as children, old people friends and family partake in this communal whooping it up so far from their home. What are they celebrating? Life? Love? Success? Or just the fact that the weather is good? Who cares? Their joy is infectious and so we ask not who the drum beats for – it beats for us!

Alone with friends
>> Ah, the loneliness of old age. Surfing the net on our laptop at the local NYC Starbucks we feel a prickly sensation at the back of our neck: turning around we see a wizened, but sprightly and well-heeled old lady staring intently in us, her body language giving every sign that she is preparing to strike up a conversation. A loony? A pest? Someone with the potential to turn into a stalker? We turn away, retreating firmly into our virtual bunker.

Disappointed she leaves, only to go outside the store to the seating area and make a great production of drawing up four chairs which she places very close to a teenaged couple who at first politely and then with more enthusiasm are drawn into a contestation. Soon three other equally wizened old ladies who have retrieved their coffees join her. So that’s what it is! Four old friends enjoying the invigorating sunshine while sharing what looks like their ritual weekend coffee! They look animated happy and not like loonies or pests at all now as they laugh and chat with the young couple. And then the young couple excuses itself, collects its books and bags and heads off to the college across the road. And as they depart what was until a minute ago an animated group of happy old ladies looks like a newly deflated tire. And once again before our eyes is a group of four bored and lonely old ladies, with nothing new to say to each other and divested of the vicarious promise of youth and beauty. Ah, the loneliness of old age!