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Partying with James Blunt

"There are a lot of boyfriends who've been dragged along tonight. Sorry, mate!" said soft rock troubadour and international female heartthrob James ('You're Beautiful') Blunt this weekend, at one of the last concerts of his Moon Landing World Tour, which took place in Bournemouth, very close to where he grew up.


Rachel Wawn (second from left) and James Blunt

What he didn’t know was that one of the guys ‘dragged’ along happened to be India’s own Ashok Kurien, marketing guru and philanthropist, who had accompanied his lovely wife Rachel Wawn. Blunt and Wawn were college mates and old friends who’d shared a military background together.


Ashok Kurien and James Blunt

This collegiate friendship resulted in Kurien and Wawn being invited to the concert’s after party to chill with the star. “I have never met someone so down-to-earth and without starry hang-ups,” said Kurien about the encounter. “He’s such a regular guy,” said the media maven, who has seen many a celeb in his own time. “The party consisted of Blunt’s college gang, and by the end there were only a handful of us left and we all picked up a guitar and sang like old mates together.”

And how about a concert in India soon, we enquired, “Never talked about it,” said Kurien, “but it’s an idea.”

Nice!

Barkha’s Sarson ka Saga
“I’m just pretending to be on a political road trip. Actually, I write for food!” posted NDTV’s star anchor, Barkha Dutt recently on a social networking site. “Kulchas in Amritsar, sabudana khichri in Indore, bhutte ka kees in Malwa and khasta-mattar in Awadh,” she trilled happily. “Whether it’s the dahi ke golgappas in Jagdishpur or the fried garadu of MP, it’s been a wonderful journey,” she said. “The food diversity says so much about our India,” said one of country’s most respected journalists about her ‘food crawl’.


Barkha Dutt

So will she give up political reportage to write about food? Well, if it’s a khichri government that is sworn in at the Centre, it might be possible for her to do both!

Mysterious writers
We spoke to best-selling (Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key) author Ashwin Sanghi about the July launch of Private India, which he’d penned in collaboration with the world’s best-selling author James Patterson.

The book is the newest in one of Patterson’s popular ‘Private’ series, about the detective agency, led by Jack Morgan, with offices across the globe.


James Patterson. PIC/RANKIN

“The tradition is that the books are based in different countries and Patterson teams up with a local author for each new destination,” said the charming Sanghi, who wears his success lightly. “The new book set in Mumbai has a godman, a mafia don and Bollywood stars,” he chuckled.

And how on earth did the book come about, and how did they get the writing done?

“My editor in London sat next to Patterson’s and she suggested my name,” said the author. “We had a few conference calls and then began the writing.”


Ashwin Sanghi

“There could be no better writing partner,” says Patterson about Sanghi.

“It is my privilege and honour to be co-writing an India-specific thriller with the master storyteller himself,” says Sanghi.

So regarding who wrote which part, ‘Private India’ promises the singular distinction of being the one detective novel at whose ending, readers will never really know ‘whodunit’.

Priya Paul

In good company
She’s been a woman of substance, a hotelier, a patron of the arts and a champion of fine living, which is why when the Chennai and Delhi based Priya Paul, chairperson of Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, was conferred with the insignia of the Chevalier de l’ Ordre National du Mérite recently, it brought forth many whoops of joy from her wide circle of friends. 

The award, given for her contribution to the strengthening of economic, cultural and commercial links between France and India, was presented at a private reception hosted by the French Ambassador of India, François Richier, at his residence in Delhi, and saw the likes of Paul’s childhood friend from Kolkata, Dior’s Kalyani Chawla in attendance.

“I accept this on behalf of the Apeejay Surrendra Group as well as The Park Hotels as this is a recognition of our successful relationship and collective effort to build ties between India and France,” said Paul.
Incidentally, other recipients of the award have been: Queen Aishwarya of Nepal, Sivaji Ganesan, Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia and Queen Sonja of Norway!

Liberty, equality and freedom
And as we gather our wits to get inked on Thursday, we wonder who it is that will capture the hearts of the Sobokers in Mumbai’s Southwest constituency: Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant, AAP’s Meera Sanyal, INC’s Milind Deora, the MNS’ Bala Nandgaonkar or the CPI‘s Prakash Reddy? The view from Malabar Hill to Dalal Street, from Bhendi Bazaar, to Colaba is pretty homogeneous. Sobokers want an environment that allows them the freedom to work hard and party hard.


(from left) Bala Nandgaonkar, Milind Deora, Meera Sanyal and Arvind Sawant. Pic/Atul Kamble

This is, after all, the constituency of billionaire tycoons and small traders, of earnest students and enterprising executives, of housewives and working women. And as far as we know, no one wants interference in their working hours, their choice of attire or if they want to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not. 

Sawant and Nandgaonkar appear to have an uphill task of convincing Sobokers that they will uphold the values of liberty, equality and freedom that are held so dear here. Sanyal though does appear to uphold these values, from sheer numbers, promises to be a wasted vote, one that will favour the Sena and MNS candidates, as for the CPI’s Reddy, no one seems to know what he looks like, let alone says!

The urbane and progressive Deora on the other hand, with his achievements of being a feisty champion of the RTI bill, the safety of citizens from cell phone tower radiation and the rights of the LGBT community, along with the fact that he’s a dyed in the wool Soboker, with a finger on its pulse, appears to have a clear lead on his opponents.

But of course, Soboker’s fate along with that of the rest of the country will be decided only on May 16! See you at the hustings!

Be there or be square.

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