Poonawalla's master bid

Sep 05, 2013, 14:50 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

And so, after buying up a collection of prized European Masters recently, Cyrus Poonawalla is flexing his considerable financial muscle on home ground now

Malavika SangghviAnd so, after buying up a collection of prized European Masters recently, Cyrus Poonawalla is flexing his considerable financial muscle on home ground now. Tuesday night saw him outbidding other punters to snap up the highly coveted 6’x4’ painting by Raja Ravi Varma of Seth Lachman Das at Pundole Art Gallery’s art and collectibles’ auction, for approximately Rs 3 crore!

Incidentally, insiders were grateful that the slightly odd bunch of bidders who had appeared at the last Pundole auction featuring Husains from the collection of a Hyderabadi gent was not to be seen this time. As one long time bidder said, “They were suspected of being office staff of the collector planted there by him to raise prices. This time thank goodness this did not happen.”

Cyrus Poonawalla
Cyrus Poonawalla

Ah, Taj!
Now that RK Krishna Kumar has finally stepped down as vice chairman and de facto boss of the Taj group who will run the show? We learn that Raymond Bickson, the personable Hawaiian Chief Executive of the chain has been given an extension for at least a couple of years, but that still leaves a vacuum in the space formerly occupied by KK.

Cyrus Mistry
Cyrus Mistry

At Taj headquarters in Colaba, rumours fly faster than a speeding humming bird. One theory is that Cyrus Mistry will offer the job of Vice Chairman Indian Hotels to the highly regarded Noel Tata as a peace offering for having pipped him to the post of boss of Tata Sons. Another view is that Mistry will ask Bickson to report directly to himself.

RK Krishna Kumar
RK Krishna Kumar

These are testing times for the Taj with the Orient Express shares and the cost of the Sea Rock acquisition dragging down the bottom line. So, it remains to be seen whether India’s other Taj can find a suitable emperor who can restore it to its former glory.

Raymond Bickson
Raymond Bickson

Driven To Tears
And then there’s this father-son team of over leveraged businessmen whose penchant for ‘the girls’ is well known in corporate circles. Inevitably this leads them to sponsoring film award nights, dance shows, Bollywood parties and such like. But whereas, the father is said to have at least managed to fraternise with a few minor TV and film ‘stars’, the son, poor chap (in his mid 30s) has had to content himself with junior artists and chorus line dancers.

So desperate is he for this vicarious thrill that last week at a film party while he was said to have been cavorting with a couple of nubile nymphets, his long suffering wife who is always brought along for the occasion was driven to tears by his antics. Incidentally, this is the same gentleman who was the victim of a honey trap extortion bid a few years ago.

What they say/what they mean
Decoding the double-speak in public life

What they say: “One of the principles of ideal behaviour for saints prescribed by the scriptures is to maintain a distance from women, including their mothers, daughters and mothers-in-law.” - Baba Ramdev, alluding to the charges against self-styled godman Asaram Bapu for sexually assaulting a minor girl

What they mean: “But, of course, no such distance required for saints when it comes to vulnerable young girls and underage boys.”

What would Mumbai be without its smells?

Salaam MumbaiEntering the Gare de Lyon station in Paris yesterday to catch a train to Florence, I was sure I was in the wrong place. This couldn’t be a railway station I thought after all where was the railway station smell? Forgive me for saying this gentle reader, but in Mumbai we know what a railway station smells like.

They may have painted the walls, swept the platforms, upgraded the railway carriages, even, god forbid, air conditioned the compartments, but whether its on the Harbour line or the Western, Bombay Central or Bandra station, the one thing we know that will never change is that fetid, acrid stench of the railway station.

Come to think of it, Mumbai is an aggregate of memorable bouquets. Asleep in the back of the car in early childhood while my parents drove us home to Juhu from south Mumbai at night, I used to identify the places we would be passing through their pungent smells alone.

I knew we would be passing Prabhadevi for instance, because at a particular junction (where the catering college now stands) stood a chemical factory that gave out the whiff of ‘gas balloons’. From Bandra creek, of course, wafted the reek of drying fish; and when we turned the ‘aeroplane park’ to enter Juhu Tara road, the marshland (on which the SNDT University and other residential townships now stand) emitted a redolence all of its own.

Other places had other smells too: in our school assembly hall, the noxious smell of sweaty socks and damp keds; in train compartments, the familiar odour of hair oil and stale jasmine, in markets like Santacruz and Dadar, the scent of wilting flowers and overripe fruit and vegetables and in housing society lifts, the reek of unwashed unabashed human sweat.

Chowpatty smelt of sea salt and bhelpuri, onions; Juhu beach of ponies and fish and Colaba of attar and other exotic Middle Eastern fragrances. What would Mumbai be without its smells? As distinct, invigorating, maddening and intoxicating as the city itself, Gare de Lyon might be one of the best stations in the world but for a Mumbaikar like me, if it didn’t have a smell of its own, well, it might as well not have existed at all! 

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