Flying high with Clinton

Apr 12, 2013, 07:43 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

For those Mumbaikars who were part of the gilded set that got to hear former US President Bill Clinton speak at the NCPA (where, like a certain Rahul he spoke about the bees - not in conjunction with the birds, we might add) we can now reveal that the lecture almost never happened

>> For those Mumbaikars who were part of the gilded set that got to hear former US President Bill Clinton speak at the NCPA (where, like a certain Rahul he spoke about the bees – not in conjunction with the birds, we might add) we can now reveal that the lecture almost never happened.

Bill Clinton

According to our source, a top banker, “Clinton arrived straight to the NCPA at 6 pm flying in from Dubai. Just before he got on stage, he told me that the windscreen of his private jet had suffered damage and that he had to leave it behind in the Middle East and continue the rest of the journey in Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Prime Minister and Vice President and King of Dubai’s private plane.”

King of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

We, too, have been in a similar situation (notice: high bragging alert!) when we had to abandon our private jet for a similar reason at Paris airport, the time we accompanied then PM Narasimha Rao to Washington many years ago! And yes, the object of or travels was to meet a certain Bill Clinton at the White House. Just saying.

Banker’s bonhomie
>> It was a delightful aside, played out in the margins of the star studded Kotak Presidium on Wednesday night showcasing the best of Mumbai’s substance and sophistication.

Smita Parekh and Falguni Nayar

Because not only were tardy industry VIPs requested to troop the further echelons of the auditorium as there was free seating, (we saw quite a few undertake this with grace) but we also saw Smita Parekh, wife of India’s leading banker Deepak (Chairman of HDFC) and herself a noted educationist make a valiant effort to reach out to e-commerce entrepreneur Falguni Nayar, wife of Sanjay Nayar, CEO of KKR India (and former CEO of Citigroup’s Indian and South Asian operations) to offer her a seat besides herself.

Nice to see two such accomplished wives of India’s leading bankers share such bonhomie.

The ferocious entitlement of the rich
>> Our friend Amitabh Nanda’s FB page, the ominously titled ‘Don’t you know who I’ is getting feistier. Recently, it carried a link to an article written by feminist publisher Urvashi Butalia for the New Internationalist Magazine.

Called ‘India’s elites have a ferocious sense of entitlement,’ the essay sets out to examine such crucial issues as ‘being rich, and the privilege, callousness and arrogance that comes with it.’

Urvashi Butalia

“The rich have so much, what does this wealth do to their minds that they always want more, they don’t want anyone else to have anything?” asks Butalia. Already creating a flutter on the net, Butalia’s searing commentary examines all kinds of obnoxious behaviour that the privileged classes get away with impunity. We like!

Taj responds
>> Following an item we wrote about changes in the Taj group (‘Ah Taj’, Wed, April 9), we received this statement from its official spokesperson.

“During the course of hearing the Delhi High Court today asked NDMC to respond to Indian Hotels Company Limited on the injunction suit filed on 4th April 2013 and has been posted for hearing on 18th of July 2013.

The court has given them two weeks to do so. Additionally, Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) has been granted liberty to approach the court if any coercive steps are taken against it by the NDMC.

The Court order has been applied for and is awaited. As the matter is now subjudice, we are not in a position to comment on this any further. We stand committed to the city of Delhi, all our guests, employees and partners and business continues as usual”.

Engaging with Mira
>> Since we are not revealing any real details we think it’s okay to tell you that there’s going to be a very special evening celebrating Mira Nair and her latest offering The Reluctant Fundamentalist in Mumbai. Slated to be an evening of gravitas and glamour, the organisers are looking for someone to engage the director in an intense conversation over dinner. Who could this person be? Personally, we can think of at least half a dozen names: We’d love to see the erudite and dry humoured Naseeruddin Shah (so memorable in Monsoon Wedding) to speak to Nair about films, terrorism, Pakistan, and being Muslim in India.

For an insight into her craft and also what it was like being an undergrad at Harvard, there’s Sooni Taroporewala, who has collaborated on some of Nair’s most acclaimed movies. If it’s an audience that includes a lot of financial leaders they could invite FICCI President Naina Lala Kidwai to interview Nair. After all, not only were they fellow boarders at Tara Hall, Simla (where they competed for head girl’s post) but also their lives have closely mirrored each others. Kidwai can bring out what it means to be a woman, achiever, a wife and a parent. And if this were not galaxy enough of potential Nair interlocutors: here’s a stellar thought: invite Anand Mahindra to do the honours.

Not only was he an undergrad at Harvard at the same time, but he also took a few of the same film courses — and is articulate about a range of subjects from film to popular culture along with being an industry leader. That settles it. Anand Mahindra pleases for an evening of great conversation, people, food and wine!

Giving it up
>> News comes in of the 50-something scion of a Mumbai business family with interests in construction and hotels who not only sold off his shares in the family business recently for Rs80 crores, but donated 60 of them to his favourite ashram in Central India where he now resides with his wife leading an ascetic and meditative existence away from the hurly burly and the madding crowd. Sigh. The good life and a cushion in the bank. What more does one need?

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