Lalit advising Vijay?

May 30, 2016, 06:01 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Readers might recall an item we’d written about a unique consultancy service allegedly thought up by high-flying fugitive Lalit Modi

Readers might recall an item we’d written about a unique consultancy service allegedly thought up by high-flying fugitive Lalit Modi. Said to be named ‘Last Call,’ it was touted to be a service for the very rich and famous that found themselves on the wrong side of the law and were in need of legal, security, governmental and other such support.

Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya. File pics
Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya. File pics

In short, for the last call a head of state accused of mammoth corruption might make to seek aid. Who better than IPL architect Lalit Modi to provide expertise in such matters, as how to circumvent extradition laws was the enterprise’s alleged USP. And as it’s so called inceptor, Modi, who is said to be having a whale of a time jet-setting in Cape Town and Switzerland recently was unarguably Last Call’s best brand ambassador.

So now the inevitable appears to have occurred. Vijay Mallya is said to be availing of his fellow London based fugitive sybarite’s counsel. Someone passing through London had recently gleaned this from a conversation with Mallya himself. “He is said to have sounded weary but stoic,” said our source, adding, “He indicated that he was fed up of India and would be quite happy if he never had to go back to it.” “And he mentioned that Lalit was advising him on keeping one step ahead of extradition.”

Fair enough we said, in fact, we would not be surprised if this is a growing trend amongst India’s beleaguered tycoons feeling the heat of regulatory authorities. Most of them prefer living abroad in any case. “In fact, a good way to gauge if PM Modi means what he says about fighting corruption, would be his success in preventing such instances in the future, since every one knows it’s going to become a trend” said the astute source. Indeed.

One lazy Saturday afternoon in Sobo...
One is at the very top echelons of India’s leading biz monolith, in addition to being related to India Inc.’s First Family. The other is a self-made billionaire and one of the oldest friends of the country’s most powerful man, who happens to head the same monolith.

Hital Meswani and Anand Jain Pic/Malavika SangghviHital Meswani and Anand Jain Pic/Malavika Sangghvi

So what did Hital Meswani and Anand Jain do when they found themselves at their neighbourhood pizza joint one Saturday afternoon? Jain, an assiduous family man clad in de rigeur tycoon weekend wear was spending some quality time with his son and grandson.

Meswani, in similar attire had dropped in along with wife Bijal and musical wiz son Harsh. Neither denizen of Mukesh Ambani’s inner circle had known of the other’s plans and so were palpably delighted to bump in to each other. And then, before anyone realised it, both had abandoned their tables and gravitated to the bar (both men are teetotalers) where they became instantly absorbed in a long conversation about football scores, a new app or Sensex news, which made them forget all else.

Polite and later more urgent reminders from both sets of families who had by now finished their pastas and pizzas did not mar their concentration. Boys after all will be boys. That’s when we clicked this picture.

Convocation of Cheekbones
Some of the country’s most attractive cheekbones assembled this week at the Otter’s Club for the latest instalment of ‘Former Model Reunion’. We had periodically reported on the phenomena, which involved many giggly long-tressed lasses gathering for much mirth and good cheer.

The former models at their reunionThe former models at their reunion

“This was a glamorous reunion as Madhu Sapre from Switzerland, Pooja Batra from LA and Farheen Allsopp from London were in town,” says Sharmilla Khanna, a former model and leading choreographer. “We have a WhatsApp group and are constantly on it,” she said, explaining the bonding. “We go back such a long way and wish the best for each other,” she said, adding, “It’s a completely no agenda friendship. Such a relief in today’s times.”

And so, without further ado here’s Pooja, Madhu, Farheen along with Queenie Sethia, Gauri Singh, Sharmilla Khanna, Suzanne Pillai, Reshma Bombaywala and Ujjwala Raut, amongst others who made many heads turn one
more time.

Of Haji Mastan and Kamila Tyabji
Ever since activists stormed the citadels of the JLF’s SouthBank literature festival and questioned the ethicality of an internationally-recognised environmental abuser sponsoring a LitFest, which had projected liberal values so far, the question of what to do when ‘bad’ people do ‘good’ things has consumed much airtime.

Kamila Tyabji and Haji Mastan (below) File picsKamila Tyabji and Haji Mastan (below) File pics

Vile banks that fund think tanks, scam tainted corporations that support culture, dodgy builders who promote the arts – we ‘are all familiar with the phenomena and the jury is divided on its ethics, usually on the lines of ‘do ends justify means’?

However, we are reminded of a story about the subject from long ago. Apparently, when the late great Kamila Tyabji, the daughter of the former chief justice of India Faiz Badruddin Tyabji, and a contemporary of Indira Gandhi’s at Oxford had begun setting up of Women’s India Trust (WIT), the before-its-time women’s empowerment NGO, Haji Mastan, one of the country’s most colourful smugglers who lived down her road had expressed a desire to fund her.

“He rang up claiming he was very taken with the way she drove herself in her sky blue Rover into the most deprived, insalubrious areas of the city and wanted to help,” says one of the grand lady’s descendants. “She happily took his ill-gotten donation, telling him that she would not thank him since it was HE who was (probably unsuccessfully) trying to pave his way to redemption and the money was much better spent on sewing machines than booze & firearms!” the descendant told us.

Shedding pounds in the House of Debt
It has earned a reputation of being the go-to spa for India’s plutocrats, its Bollywood crowd and its fashion frat who want to shed a few kilos and detox before they can party again. We’re talking about the European spa where an expedient exchange occurs with frequency: pounds for pounds (or Euros).

But recently, it is said to have been nicknamed ‘House of Debt,’ when its popularity amongst some of the country’s biggest debtors, was noticed. “Two families, both in infrastructure, whose debts run in to many zeroes,” said our Oolong Tea Favouring Society Hostess friend knowledgeably, “have been at the Spa recently.” She looked a bit irritated at being caught out on not knowing how many zeroes make up a thousand crores, but continued nevertheless “So now, we all refer to it as ‘House of Debt,’” she cackled. “Isn’t that clever?”

Very, we said. Just the kind of thing a clever girl who reads the Economist would say, we said on our way out as the OTFSH happily trilled “Boy zara hot water lao please.” A lesson for our times? Not likely, after all, those were many years ago, when even smugglers were gentlemen.

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