The idea of India

Feb 25, 2014, 06:08 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

We had heard her speak once before on a similar occasion. Taking center stage at the first big AIDS auction initiated by Richard Gere, Shabana Azmi had moved us to tears with her impassioned speech, which she had chosen to end with a song

Malavika Sangghvi>> We had heard her speak once before on a similar occasion. Taking center stage at the first big AIDS auction initiated by Richard Gere, Shabana Azmi had moved us to tears with her impassioned speech, which she had chosen to end with a song. We recall how her strong brave voice had floated above the room like a benediction.

Something similar occurred this weekend when the renowned actress-activist addressed the high-profile gathering at Rahul Bose’s ‘The Idea of India’ auction for his NGO The Foundation.

Shabana Azmi with Javed Akhtar, Rahul Bose
Shabana Azmi with Javed Akhtar, Rahul Bose

“Rahul Bose’s commitment to the Foundation is that of a missionary,” said the consummate actress about the actor who’d worked tirelessly.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with his wife
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan with his wife

“I have watched him from the beginning of this journey and feel privileged that he has included me in ‘this path less traveled by’,” she said graciously, going on to recite a couplet of her father-in-law, the noted Urdu poet Jan Nisar Akhtar’s. “India is in the air I breathe. India is in the fragrance of the mogra, India is in the poetry of Kabir, Ghalib and Tagore, in the strains of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s sitar. India is the silence of meditation in the muted serenity of the Himalayas. India is also a cacophony — loud weddings, louder prayers, honking horns and shouting TV anchors,’ she said each word inspiring and evocative.”

“India is a country that lives in several centuries simultaneously – she lives back to back in the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and her people at any given time and place encapsulate all the contradictions that come from being a multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic society,” said Azmi ending with: “The long and the short of it, is simply this — I am proud to be an Indian.”

Meanwhile, in an evening of generosity, inspiring deeds and words many collector’s items were bid for by Mumbai’s cognoscenti which included philanthropists Zarina Mehta, Sandra Shroff, Sangita Jindal, lyricist Javed Akhtar, entrepreneur Chirag Doshi and jewellery designer Queenie Dhody(on behalf of and in the company of beau Rishi Sethia).

A chef for all seasons
>> Under normal circumstances, we run a mile from marketing spiel. But one look at the robust Jodha Ram Choudhry, corporate Maharaj at the popular thali eatery Khandani Rajdhani and all our hesitations melted.

Chef Jodha Ram Choudhry
Chef Jodha Ram Choudhry

Because not only is he a man of arresting visage but the eatery’s PRO chose to present his long and illustrious career in a curious list of bullet points like ‘long stints at Thacker Bhojnalay, Matheran hotel, Purohit — and Aram Hotels all known for their mouthwatering fare.

Not only that but we are told that Choudhry’s signature dishes include: Mango kadi, gujju kadi, mohantha, shrikhand and puran poli.’ Undoubtedly, chef Jodha Ram Choudhry is a man who knows his undhiya like no other.

See you at the Khandani Rajdhani Restaurant forthwith, is what we say!

Uber in Mumbai
>> We’d tried their service in NYC and have no hesitation in saying that the Uber cab service recently introduced in Mumbai is the Rolls Royce of public transport (if you can call it that).

Ash Chandler
Ash Chandler

Not only do the limos show up on time but the vehicles transport you into a world of luxury and comfort and the chauffeurs are polite and professional. Just what the doctor ordered for a city like Mumbai, we think.

So, it comes as no surprise that others of our ilk are equally excited about the entry of the service in the city.

Last heard, actor Ash Chandler was heard offering his friends a discount on the service.

Are you a brand ambassador? We enquired. “Not at all!” he said, “After having used Uber in the States and Delhi last month and Chennai last week, I was very excited to share it with my friends on a social network as I know that Mumbai needed it most.”

The women pay the price
>> Oh dear. For many years we’ve been hearing stories of this SoBo wild card grandee, scion to a high-profile fashion clan and himself a well-known name in the glam business. The stories insisted that the gent was having an affair with his wife’s sister. Not only was this hard to digest but what made it creepier was that both women were vulnerable, fragile and considerably younger than he was.

Mercifully, now the affair is over but the collateral damage is that the sisters are not talking, we hear.

Meanwhile, the bounder is back to his high-living and hard partying ways. Sad that the women are paying the price for his irresponsibility!

Canine’s best friend
>> Our attempts at dog owning have not been as successful as they ought to have been; residing in a tiny apartment and favouring large boisterous dogs is not a conundrum easily resolved but that does not stop us from loving dogs, and admiring dog lovers.

Anju Mahendru
Anju Mahendru

And of the latter, we have hundreds in our acquaintance, but amongst these wonderful and caring souls, we have yet to come across one as caring as our friend and cousin, the TV actress Anju Mahendru. Not a day passes when we don’t come across a reference by her to some dog or the other in need of a home.

But, recently Mahendru, who shot to fame as a model and then because of her two famous engagements (to cricketer Gary Sobers and actor Rajesh Khanna), came up against the crass commercialisation of breeders. While trying to find a home for a pedigreed mutt she was told by a friend that most of the ‘Handsome Lab needs home’ classifieds are posted by wily breeders who use this route to worm themselves into the community of dog lovers.

Naturally Mahendru was aghast. But would that stop her from her Good Samaritan activities?

Not likely. The last time we ran into her and mentioned our longing for a dog, early the next morning we woke up to pictures of the many pooches available!

A true friend of the canine population is our feisty cuz!

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