Magic Realism at Warden Road

Apr 17, 2012, 07:07 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Whereas fans of Salman Rushdie's seminal Booker prize winning Midnight's Children are legion, it has a special place in the hearts of Mumbaikars, being as it is the finest book on the city that never sleeps

>> Whereas fans of Salman Rushdie’s seminal Booker prize winning Midnight’s Children are legion, it has a special place in the hearts of Mumbaikars, being as it is the finest book on the city that never sleeps. And so, we present one of the first peeks into the much awaited movie based on the film, directed by Deepa Mehta that features a host of Indian actors, like Rahul Bose and Soha Ali Khan slated to be released in October 2012.

Incidentally, for Rushdie fans here’s a Mumbai story about the author — as infused with magic realism as any of his famous novels. Shortly, after he won his first Booker, this diarist had accompanied Rushdie back to his childhood home at Warden Road, (see pic) to write an article that aimed to take him back down memory lane. The home now belongs to Sunita Pittamber, one of Mumbai’s most glamorous hostesses, from whom we had sought permission for the visit.

It was an emotional moment for Rushdie as he was returning after many years, and so when the liveried and white-gloved bearer opened the door and handed him an envelope borne on a silver salver, the author turned as pale as a sheet. “Sir, this arrived for you yesterday,” the butler said, handing over the missive: it was a letter from Tata shares addressed to his father, notifying him about a transaction — almost four decades after he’d left the country!

Incidentally, Pittamber who was in the house never showed her face all afternoon as she was sulking with Rushdie for turning down an invitation to dinner with Mumbai’s café society!

Less attitude — more service please!
>> Ok. So here’s our retail rule of thumb: the fancier the décor and the hipper the sales/service people — the worse the customer experience.

And we are not the only ones who have this opinion. Ask any Mumbaikar and they will agree that whether it’s one of those fancy foreign beauty salons, where the stylists have more piercings than experience, or a chain of bookshops where the assistants have never read a book leave aside caring about them, it’s a well-known truth that for a true blue, genuine Mumbai experience of good well-informed service, you have to look beyond the decor and the brand name and seek out the gems: the scruffy Chinese-run salon where the hairdressers are up to their gelled and buffed fingernails about the latest products and innovations, or the fusty run down bookshop where the salespeople are passionate about reading themselves and not only make it their God given duty to find you the book you want but can recommend half a dozen in its genre. When and how did hip, bubble-gum chewing, iPod listening, be-jeaned and bejeweled sales people change the superb sales and marketing culture of Mumbai? And please, when we step in to buy something we expect service and not top of volume stereophonic muzak!

The geeky Mafatlal
>> Our favourite Mafatlal —Miheer — great-grandson of family patriarch Gagalbhai, is back in India after a self-imposed 11-year exile in USA where breaking with the family tradition of noblesse oblige, he rolled up his sleeves and actually worked: founding an IT infrastructure company and living a simple anonymous suburban existence with his wife and kids.

One of the pioneers of the nascent Internet industry in the early ’90s, few of India’s click happy cyber citizens know that the self-taught geek Miheer played a vital role in bringing IT awareness and culture into the country when he unofficially lent his expertise and advice to VSNL, which was experiencing some early day hiccups. Those were the days when young Miheer used to sit at the fabulous Mafatlal mansion in a darkened room surrounded by computers, cables and other IT paraphernalia, with close friends actor Shammi Kapoor and Vijay Mukhi celebrating the wonders of cyberspace.

An insider says that if it were not for Miheer’s intervention at that time, the Internet’s arrival in India as a tool for common folk would have been delayed by another 2-3 years. Fitting that Miheer has returned to the country of his origin to set up Mafatlal Cipherspace Pvt. Ltd a company that deals with IT infrastructure services. And ironic that when we spoke to him, his own Internet connection was down!

Bandra Ahoy!
>> What has a chemical consultant and a jeweller got to do with the city’s culture scene? A four-storyed building we would say! Tucked away in the leafy bylanes of Bandra, is the new and upcoming culture hub ‘Temperance’.

“The entire building is dedicated to art, culture and promoting talent,” say the owners, cousins and Bandra girls Hema and Viola of this soon-to be launched ambitious project. The structure is divided into four storeys, each dedicated to a certain area of interest. The first two levels house the deli, the next is dedicated to different dance styles, another floor houses yoga while the top-most level is home to a mixed martial arts gym with space for movie clubs, workshops, exhibitions, shows, etc.

The owners hope the hub turns out to be a culture hotspot for the suburbs. Viola Wadia (the jeweller) says, “There hasn’t been a place in Mumbai, where you can just chill, take some dance classes and catch a bite etc and since the property was there, me and Hema (the chemical engineer) decided to have such a place.”
With classes starting on the May 1 and the Deli café by the 10th, it’s one more reason to move to Bandra, we say!

Beautiful Beginnings
>> For years one of Mumbai’s best kept secrets were the humble Beauty Palace stores at Crawford Market where every hairstylist, salon owner, beauty industry worker and budget conscious young woman would head to shore up on their products. Run by two enterprising arms of a Bohri Muslim family, the shops sold international beauty and hair products at staggering wholesale prices.

And matched it with efficient and informed but old-fashioned service. So now, how wonderful it is to learn that the store has moved considerably up the retail ladder and taken its place amongst new India’s fancy universe with a tie-up with a German makeup brand for a recently opened posh store in Bandra.

Managed by one of our favourite makeup artists Cherag Bamboat the launch saw 30 international makeup personnel fly in from all over the world, hosted ably by the Beauty Palace folk. It was a Kodak moment when old India met new India.
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