The dance of life

Veronique Azan before a kathak performance
Veronique Azan before a kathak performance

'Perhaps this is why we have stopped reading fiction, preferring to learn about the wonders of life through reality,' is how we had begun our piece on Veronique Azan, the beautiful French Kathak dancer on these pages last year.

'Certainly, real life throws up great characters, people who often surpass the legendary, fictitious ones with their ability to enchant us,' we'd added. 'Véronique Azan, the gorgeous Kathak dancer we had run into two decades ago at an Indian prince's wedding, is one such.

Dancing with Gabriel Garcia MarquezDancing with Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Even then she had been enigmatic, a French beauty with a passion for Kathak, married to an Indian magnate, who'd been born to a beautiful Indophile mother; and then as suddenly as we'd met, we'd lost touch,' we'd explained. Social media had brought us together almost 20 years later and now Azan was living in Bali with her family.

And then in the same piece we'd written of how Azan, in the interim years before we'd reconnected, had lived in Mexico while married to a Mexican diplomat, and had memorably danced with the legendary author Gabriel García Márquez. "When Márquez invited me to a dance on his birthday, I couldn't believe what an honour it was!" she'd said to us about the picture of the two of them together, which we'd published.

"Nobody can take that dance away from me." And then, in gratitude for telling the story she'd said, "Thanks M, you are a generous and sensitive soul, in this wild, wild world we live in. You will always have a home with me in Bali." Yesterday, we received news that Véronique had passed away in Bali. She must have been in her early 50s.

It had been Márquez who'd famously written, 'No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you've already had'. In this hour of shock and grief, this is the thought we hold on to. Goodbye beautiful Véronique; may your dance light up the skies now...

The thing about poker
We have been following the trend of the rich and famous forming sports leagues recently. From cricket to football, to even kabaddi, they appear to be the flavour of the season. However, all leagues are not equal. Word comes in about this new poker league floated by a handful of high rollers, including the scion of a leading natural medicine and consumer products manufacturer.

Apparently, such is the stigma attached to the game that it seems one of the team owners, a self-made hugely successful finance whiz, has actually suffered business losses after his name was publicly associated with the league.

"The minute word got out that he had invested in a poker league, his clients began to shy away," says a corporate insider, adding, "That goes for horse racing, too. Notice how very few business biggies indulge in it and then too, it's only the ones with private companies."

Kangna Ranaut, Manisha Koirala
Kangna Ranaut, Manisha Koirala

Marching to the beat of her own drum
The lovely Manisha Koirala, actress, green activist, and cancer survivor, is off on a trek to Kailash Mansarovar. The actress, who has starred in many successful box office and critically acclaimed movies, has always struck as an early version of Kangana Ranaut. Certainly, they are similar in their conviction to be true unto themselves. Koirala informs that she will be writing a blog about her latest adventure.

His highness, the gaffer
Of all the peculiarities that have been borne by the subjects of royalty over the years, surely, few can be more peculiar than Queen of the United Kingdom's long standing consort, her bluff husband of 65 years, Prince Philip, who this week has retired from official duties. The gaffes, insults and off the cuff comments that have emanated from his royal lips have been legion, and a great source of amusement (and often dismay) for palace watchers.

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II. Pic/Getty Images
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II. Pic/Getty Images

"Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf," he is reported to have said to a group of young deaf people in Cardiff, referring to their school's steel band. In the same vein, he thoroughly confused a woman handing him a memento at a reception in Kenya by asking, "You are a woman, aren't you?"

We, too, have a story to add to this rogue's gallery of insults. According to a very grand Indian publisher, the Prince, who was accompanying Queen Elizabeth II on her historic tour of the Indian subcontinent, did not disappoint guests at the grand reception held in their honour in 1961 in Kolkata.

Apparently, a publisher famous for his collection of priceless Jamavar shawls, which he'd wear with crisp dhoti kurtas, was asked by the Prince, "So, which African nation do you represent?" when he was presented to the royal couple swathed in this attire. Surely, such a character will be missed for his foot-in-the-mouth conversational skills.

So cool, and so hot
"I've always been passionate about food, so after completing my patisserie diploma at Le Cordon Bleu (London) and returning home, I launched my first venture, Caramel Carousel, specialising in profiteroles and the croquembouche tower, which have been really well received by Mumbai foodies," says the svelte Alyssa Chesson about the boutique ice cream venture 'Bono' launched with her younger sister Simone a year ago in Bandra.

Alyssa and Simone Chesson
Alyssa and Simone Chesson

Because of popular demand, they are on the verge of opening a branch under the Kemps Corner bridge in SoBo. "I felt there was a gap in the market and wanted to introduce good quality boutique ice cream to the people of Mumbai," she says about their venture, which has introduced wildly enticing flavours like Blue Cheese Honey, Milk Chocolate Bacon, Dark Chocolate Truffle Oil to the Mumbaikars' palate. Both sisters, in their 20s, started experimenting at home with a basic ice cream machine, using their friends and family as guinea pigs.

Why the name?
"Buono in Italian means good/ tasty, and we wanted a short easy name for people to remember. Also, I'm a huge U2 fan," says Alyssa. As for their childhood favourite ice creams, she says, "I was lucky enough to travel abroad every year and taste different ice creams. My fav ones are Ben and Jerry's cookie dough, pistachio ice cream from a place called Fenocchio and our local mango dolly. I used to eat 10 mango dolly's a day when I was a kid!"

How on earth do they manage to look so svelte then, we enquired, gobsmacked. "Besides work, we absolutely love working out, including practicing yoga and pilates. This is how we balance out all that ice cream tasting! You can find us slogging away at the gym every evening," she explains.Ah, so.

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