>> Along with all the other books on trivia that we periodically think up (the list is in our heads) here’s one more: A tome on unlikely flatmates. Vikram Mehta, the dashing former Chairman of Shell India and now head of the India chapter of international think tank, the Brookings Institute for instance shared digs with cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan when they were both undergrads at Oxford.
And our friend in California, the exuberant Radhika Aggarwal, on the other hand was flatmate with Hotmail creator Sabeer Bhatia (no she didn’t get any equity!). And now it comes to light that foodie supremo (he invented the term in 1984 when he penned the Official Foodie Handbook with Ann Barr) Paul Levy once shacked up with folk troubadour and the eternal rolling stone Bob Dylan! Levy in whose company we spent a month touring India’s best kitchens along with a handful of Michelin three-star international chefs in the ’80s, revealed the story of his strange bedfellow in an article published in the Guardian almost 12 years ago on the occasion of Sir Bob (we added the title) turning 60.
“So Bob Dylan is going to be 60, too. Funny, when he slept on my floor for a few nights in 1960, I had thought he was younger than me. Of course, he wasn’t called Dylan then. He was Bobby Allen Zimmerman, a dropout from the University of Minnesota, just another Jewish kid with long hair, a guitar and ambitions to be a somebody in the kind of music that was then dominated by Pete Seeger and his group, the Weavers,” wrote the food critic, adding, “I lived in a slum, the ground floor of a house on 53rd Street, in the university area of Hyde Park. I shared the dump with another 19-year-old who came from New York, played the guitar and was also involved in the festival. All the beds and most of the floor space were taken.
The rejected kid from Minnesota was going to stick around for the festival, as some important blues artists were scheduled. We let him sleep inside a deep, door-less closet -- the only place he could stretch out without being in somebody’s way, or getting trodden on by passers-by. He stayed two or three days. I suppose we must have fed him as well, although we barely managed to feed ourselves.” Incidentally, Levy is the same gentleman to whom we’d posed (to test the depths of his foodieism) that immortal question: if you had to choose between a masala dosa and sex what would be your choice? His lengthy deliberation before replying had confirmed upon him the Ultimate Foodie Supremo title!
Another one bites the dust
>> What on earth is happening to the Indian magazine universe? This column was the first to record the rumblings at Elle which led to editor Nonita Kalra leaving, it reported on Superna Motwane’s disengagement from L’Officiel (and stewardship of Noblesse India), it watched aghast as the creamy layer of Forbes churned and now it registers its dismay as one of the country’s best and most respected magazine publishers is forced to discontinue two of its much loved titles People, Geo and Marie Claire.
What is interesting is that most of the above are international titles brought to India in a licence arrangement. Has time finally run out for this business model?
Those in the know speak of huge licence fees, unrecoverable investments in servicing international standards and shrinking ad revenues. The guys who stand vindicated are the people at Conde Nast India who entered the country with 100 per cent ownership, publishing their first magazine, Vogue India, in 2007.
Scratching the surface
>> Oh dear… As a mark of abject crassness on the part of the high and mighty this one almost outdoes the benchmark set by the celebrated Maharajah who has a flunkey carry his spittoon. This new low concerns the elder sibling of the two-billionaire brothers who famously sit in the same office. According to our source, a visitor to the plutocrat’s chambers was aghast when the Master of the Universe called his secretary in, pointed to a spot on his vast back with the request, “Scratch here”. What was worse was that the lady didn’t flinch while obliging! A case of you scratch my back I scratch yours?
>> Will the run of bad luck at Madhuli ever abate? This prestigious and beautiful mid-city seaside residential complex has seen more than its fair share of ill luck to brush off as coincidence: From the financial ruin and untimely death of its high profile residents like Harshad (Big Bull) and Rajan Pillai to the broken marriages of others (the most high profile being that of Farhad and Anju Taraporewala is attached the possible sale of Bungalow Number 3 which belongs to the brilliant IIT trained nuclear scientist-turned-marine engineer and businessman, Dr Vijay Paparao and his charming and socially prominent wife Rajalaxmi (a member judge at the National Consumer Redressal Commission, in Delhi).
Apparently, Dena Bank has been showing the bungalow and its sylvan settings to prospective buyers. But who will buy the beautiful pile given the superstitious baggage that accompanies it? Is this why some of its residents are so keen on holding havans and prayer ceremonies in their homes to ward off the evil eye? Rumours hold that the complex was constructed on disputed land and it is this that is responsible for the fault line.
>> But in this season of journalistic clouds there’s a silver lining: our friend and former colleague at the Times, CP Surendran has been appointed Editor in Chief of DNA. Congratulations CP. Just don’t stop writing that exquisite poetry please!