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Wilfully flamboyant in Monte Carlo

There’s a limit to how thick one’s skin can be. Even after reports that the beleaguered State Bank of India with a staggering unrecovered loan of Rs 1,600 crore to the grounded airline Kingfisher, is exploring ways to declare its Chairman Vijay Mallya a ‘wilful defaulter’, the former King of Good Times saw no irony in parking his yacht at Monte Carlo and throwing a party to celebrate Formula One racing.

Held last Thursday at the billionaire resort, it featured all the trappings of his legendary flamboyance, we are told.

Vijay Mallya. PIC/GETTY IMAGES
Vijay Mallya. PIC/GETTY IMAGES

And this coming on the heels of the anguished letter of complaint sent to him in March, by his female employees who had been unpaid for 18 months, makes us wonder what the disconnect between reality and delusion might be.

“Do you even understand what it means being mother and how we feel when we have to deny our kids even the most genuine demands?” they’d written, adding, “We wonder at times how a person can be so insensitive to human feelings and emotions.” Well, perhaps they’ll just have to go to Monte Carlo to be heard.

The view from Goregaon
Last week not heeding the dire predictions of our Sobo friends, we shifted to Goregaon to be near Film City where we were attending a five-day workshop at Whistling Woods International.

Nishant Agarwal
Nishant Agarwal

Having grown up in Juhu, we have always had a fondness for Mumbai’s northern suburbs, and we looked towards the shift with a sense of excitement and wonder, regardless of the fact that we had been urged by one Sobo friend ‘to carry a tube of Odomos-for the mosquitoes!’

To discover new facets of your own city is a rare privilege, and we did not allow traditional insular snobberies to curb our enthusiasm. Friends had recommended we stayed at the Westin Mumbai Garden City, owned by Starwood Hotels, one of the leading hotel companies in the world.

Anuraag Bhatnagar
Anuraag Bhatnagar

“Starwood owns many other celebrated brands like St. Regis, W, Le Méridien and Sheraton, amongst others, and its new Mumbai property is set in a campus of greenery, overlooking the National Park and boasts every five star luxury, and then some,” they insisted. “A first rate spa, a great Italian eatery and excellent in-room dining and other facilities,” they said.

And you know what-they were right! Staying at the Westin, we had to often, especially at nights, while overlooking the sleek skyline outside, remind myself that we were in Goregaon Mumbai and not in Dubai or Paris or Singapore!

From little details like the high speed internet, the ergonomic workstation, the super luxury bed and bath amenities, the hotel’s attractive restaurants and the stunning view from my room afforded by floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows that allowed in natural light, we were gob smacked.

But in retrospect we ought not to have been surprised, after all, the Westin is run under the leadership of industry veteran and award-winning hotelier Anuraag Bhatnagar, Area General Manager of the Mumbai-Pune region, and it was to his hotel that we would return to each evening and wonder how our city had changed so dramatically.

Nishant Agarwal, the hotel’s Executive Assistant Manager noted our surprise with bemusement. A friend from his days at the Oberoi where he’d served as F&B manager before this stint, Agarwal was used to the exclamations of delight and surprise his hotel evoked.

“Our proximity to Film City makes us a convenient pit stop for the stars,” said the urbane executive, an aficionado of fine malts and cigars. “They come for meetings, photo sessions and of course, our Executive Chef Ajay Chopra’s outstanding cuisine, especially his kebabs at the ‘Kangna’, acclaimed for its breathtaking northwest frontier food, and the authentic Italian fare at Prego, fast earning the reputation of being one of the best Italian eateries in the city.”

So all in all, we were happy to make acquaintance with Goregaon in general and the Westin in particular and we are happiest to say, that contrary to all spurious Sobo snobbery-we didn’t have to use our Odomos tube even once!

A model citizen
A glance at former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi’s Twitter account reinforces his reputation as an International playboy. Modi who is active on Twitter (usually attacking Sreenivasan or Arun Jaitley) with around 17,000 tweets to his name, has a large following on the social networking site, with his follower count at 7,25,000.

Lalit Modi. PIC/GETTY IMAGES
Lalit Modi. PIC/GETTY IMAGES

But while he only follows 517 people, it is interesting to note that a large amount of these are international models, and modelling agencies in New York, London, Miami and Europe. At last count it was observed that there are 36 accounts of International models (not including their Indian counterparts) and 21 Modelling Agencies. Could it just be aesthetic interest?

Down and out and off
Sad news that one of Mumbai’s most prominent young couples, the gold standard of its nightlife, is reported to have finally split. Rumours of trouble had been circulating ever since their business ran aground and had to be sold.

“We had heard that she was dating a younger guy,” said a source about the wife, “but no one thought it would come to this, and that she would leave him when he’s at his lowest!” Tch Tch.

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