>> Yesterday, we had tea with the gentlest giant we have ever met: Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Himanshu Roy. We ought to have remembered what his lovely wife had said to us about her dashing husband when we had met a few months ago at an art gallery. “He’s a complete softy,” she’d said affectionately. “Tough outside, but the most sensitive soul inside.”
But perhaps even that would not have prepared us for the meeting, which took place at the police headquarters at Crawford Market. Roy, the son of a doctor and a Mumbai boy through and through (Campion School and St Xavier’s College), handles some of the police’s most critical departments. “Five aspects of crime make up my responsibility,” he said to us over tea.
“Terrorism, the underworld, narcotics, cyber crime and economic affairs.” But that did not stop him from being unhurried and thoughtful in his replies, or his eyes welling up with tears when he described particularly moving aspects of his job. “In a job such as mine, I am exposed to people at their most heightened moments and because of that I see so much pain as well as things that move me and restore my faith in human nature,” he said, telling us of how nobility and dignity of the human spirit can be found often in the least likely of places. “At a prominent traffic light in South Mumbai,” he said, for instance, “There stands an 11-year-old urchin girl who sells flowers at car windows. Now, flowers are a perishable item and she must be getting yelled at for not selling her daily quota,” he smiles. “But she stands there with so much dignity, never forcing you to buy, never knocking on your glass if you haven’t noticed her and smiling politely — even embarrassedly as the cars pass by.” We do not ask Roy what the harsher aspects of his job expose him to, but can well imagine. The violence, unimaginable cruelty and mindless killings that occur in the city lie between us as unspoken truths that need no words. “We are still vulnerable to terrorist attacks,” he says, when we ask what his main concerns are. “Over the last 10 years statistics prove that India has suffered more attacks than any other country.”
What made Roy, a trained Chartered Accountant and banker- Citibank and Arthur Andersen (before its troubles he says) switch to such a challenging and demanding vocation? “I am a people’s person,” he explains. “And through a job like this I get to meet a whole gamut of people - high and mighty, poor and downtrodden, and the satisfaction I draw from helping them, solving their problems is massive.”
Again, we do not ask him about the failures, when however hard you try, the system does not allow you to come up with a solution to someone’s misery. We leave that for another time so that Roy who hasn’t taken a holiday for six years gets a pause before his next appointment. And on the way home at the traffic lights he described, we see the little flower girl he told us about. And yes, she does not knock on our window or force us to buy her flowers. She stands in the rain just as he described her — smiling patiently even as her flowers wilt.
>> While congratulations are in order and no one can grudge the TV channels from going overboard on our new President Pranab Mukherjee, would it be too much to ask they desist from turning him into a media moppet? Please, referring to him by his pet name ‘Poltu’ and reconstructing scenes from his childhood with cutesy actors playing hopscotch is a bit much, we think. We love and respect him without media intervention.
RK’s female admirers
>> We picked up a bit of Delhi masala. Amongst Rajesh Khanna’s many female admirers, two beautiful and prominent Delhi socialites have passed under the radar. One was the highborn wife of a Delhi aristocrat and the other, the wife of a prominent hotelier. “They were always with him when he visited,” we were told.
A Delhi weekend soiree
>> Anita Lal, the creator of the Good Earth brand and the grande dame of luxury lifestyle in India threw a dinner over the weekend at her 100-year-old palatial mansion in Delhi’s Diplomatic Enclave to welcome the monsoons. But even such a delicious invitation could not coax the clouds to comply. Delhi remained resolutely dry and hot like an oven set by a meticulous chef preparing for a baste. Fortunately for Lal, her friends more than made up for the absence of precipitation, by showing up in all their finery. There was Congress MP from the Rajya Sabha, the irrepressible Renuka Chowdhury, the BJP’s glamorous Vasundhara Raje looking svelte and glamorous (“After all I’m wearing Good Earth clothes,” she said to us) journalist and TV presenter Sunil Sethi, art impresario Amit Judge, PR guru Dilip Cherian and a host of other Delhi denizens. Lal, and her husband Vikram, the ascetic and cerebral ex-chairman of the Eicher Group, are one of Delhi’s most sought after and unusual couples. Well travelled and read, they break every stereotype of how a major industrialist and his partner live. Vikram, for instance, retired from the chairmanship of the Eicher Group and has been involved in a number of voluntary organisations. (He is the president of Common Cause, a public interest organisation) and is active on the Goodearth Education Foundation, which runs over 70 balwadi schools).
Anita, herself the daughter of a Harvard professor, despite her extraordinary aesthetic sensibilities, is down to earth, approachable and interested in subjects far removed from her work.
No wonder their home played host to some of Delhi’s most interesting people on Friday night. But, of course, the aesthete’s hand was present. Strung from the antique chandeliers on her 100-foot ceiling were freshly plucked garlands of mogra flowers that gave the room a heady fragrance. “I could have ordered flowers,” explained Anita, “But I have this old traditional flower man who comes over and makes these garlands.”