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The beautiful game

As is well known, this Sunday will see Kolkata hosting the opening match of the much-anticipated Indian Soccer League, when Mumbai FC will take on Atletico De Kolkata.

The new league format, which will conclude in mid-December, aims to cash in on the success of the IPL and Kabaddi leagues where each match has the grandeur of a Bollywood spectacle with loud music, cheerleaders, fireworks, etc.

But if spectators will be dazzled on the field by international legends like Robert Pires, Nicolas Anelka and Alessandro Del Piero, the off field glamour quotient is just as high, with Bollywood stars such as Ranbir Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan as co-owners of franchises.

Abhishek Bachchan Sachin Tendulkar
Abhishek Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar

If that wasn’t enough, cricket superstars Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly also have teams! And what’s most thrilling of all is the murmur that an ex-England football captain married to a Spice Girl might just fly down for the gala!

Robert Pires Nicolas Anelka
Robert Pires and Nicolas Anelka

Indecent proposal
“Shameful. Just hear this out...a fortnight ago, a hotshot director of Bollywood walked up to a young woman at the WTF club in Andheri. He was obviously boozed out and in front of her companion, made an indecent proposal to her, even using the ‘f’ word,” posted a noted filmwriter on his Facebook page yesterday.

“Outraged, the young woman screamed at the much-married director in front of a crowd, and threw a beer mug at him; the news spread inevitably but no one has reported it...Why? Because of good connections I suppose,” he said wryly, adding, “I refrain from mentioning his name because if the man has any shame...he should apologise to the woman in public...I for one would just boycott his films.”

Sure enough, by the time we spoke to the writer the offender had been outed by people who’d been present on the occasion. “CCTV cameras apparently caught it all on tape,” said the writer, still disturbed by the episode. “And to think he gives such lovey-dovey interviews with his wife!”

Another award for Salman
“It’s very moving to receive an award named after my friend Harold Pinter, whose literary genius was matched by his passion for social justice, and to follow in the distinguished footsteps of the previous recipients; Tony Harrison, Hanif Kureishi, David Hare, Carol Ann Duffy and Tom Stoppard,” said Salman Rushdie, who received the PEN Pinter 2014 Prize at the British Library last night.

Salman Rushdie Harold Pinter
Salman Rushdie and Harold Pinter

Established in 2009 in memory of Nobel-laureate, playwright Harold Pinter, the prize is awarded annually to a British writer or writer resident in Britain, of outstanding literary merit according to the official communique of the organisation.

“I first met Harold and Antonia through English PEN, and of course they and PEN, were later active in my defence when I needed it,” said the author, whose act of writing Satanic Verses in 1988 had brought on the infamous fatwa, a flash point in the freedom of speech struggle which had engaged writers, activists and thinkers across the world.

The publishing whiz
“Yes, it’s been a wonderful year for us at Aleph,” it was our friend, the publisher David Davidar speaking to us from Delhi, his early morning voice redolent of freshly ground coffee and tennis games. We had asked the publisher-author about his latest winning spree: three nominations on the shortlist for the prestigious Hindu Lit prize this year, a remarkable feat for a publishing group barely two and a half years old!

David Davidar Vikram Seth Shobhaa De
David Davidar, Vikram Seth and Shobhaa De

Have sales kept up with critical acclaim? Davidar struck a more cautious note. “Unfortunately, unlike what happens in the case of winning the Booker, Indian prizes still do not impact sales, but it’s a matter of time,” he said, ever the optimist.

The trajectory of Davidar’s career gives him much to be optimistic about: after all, he is the man who more or less created India’s publishing industry way back in the eighties when he was handpicked to launch Penguin in India. From Vikram Seth to Shobhaa De, Davidar brought them all into the households of urban India, himself going on to foreign shores and even higher posts.

And barring an unfortunate professional setback in Canada, Davidar has more or less remained Mr Publishing Supremo for all concerned. What about his own writing? “Well, that’s what I’m really excited about,” he said, “My new book, which will be out in December, is an anthology of the greatest short stories written by Indian writers. It is called ‘A Clutch of Indian Masterpieces: Extraordinary Short Fiction from the 19th Century to the Present’.” Nice.

Happy teeth
“We use our teeth every day-to munch on an apple or carrot, to hold a pen-knife or a hairpin; we put them on display when we smile or laugh,” says the blurb on the jacket of ‘More than a Mouthful’, the book written by well-known city dentist Sandip Mayeker, famous for his contribution to India’s winning spree in international beauty pageants.

Sandip Mayeker with Ritesh Deshmukh

Sandip Mayeker with Ritesh Deshmukh

Chatty, written with wit and full of anecdotes, involving his famous patients, it tells us of Mayeker’s struggle from his humble beginnings in a Mumbai chawl to his being included in the city’s highest echelons. One such anecdote involves the grande dame of Mumbai society Parmeshwar Godrej.

Parmeshwar Godrej
Parmeshwar Godrej

“When I was assisting, Dr P N Bhansali years ago,” writes Mayekar, “his decision to open a clinic in Kemps Corner was daunting for me,” says the man, rumoured to be the go-to-person for Bollywood. “I couldn’t imagine what I’d chat with his fancy patients about,” he writes about the time when he was so intimidated that he remained in Dadar, but was fortunate to have a patron in Godrej. “She would drop hints on how I might communicate better,” he writes. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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