The rolling stone

Oct 04, 2017, 06:00 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

One of the saddest mails we have received recently has been from entrepreneur Sanjay Narang

One of the saddest mails we have received recently has been from entrepreneur Sanjay Narang. Sad because it is one more instance of how the spirit of bright and talented people is crushed under the weight of bureaucratese and small-mindedness.

Sanjay Narang with Sachin Tendulkar at the launch of a restaurant. FILE PIC
Sanjay Narang with Sachin Tendulkar at the launch of a restaurant. FILE PIC

Narang's story is a fascinating one. Anyone who has visited the idyllic hill station in Landour, adjacent to Mussoorie, or who lives there, will tell you how he has transformed this little nook in the lap of the Himalayas into a world-class resort over the last decade. An alumnus of Cornell, the restaurateur who created an empire of franchises and eateries, including not just Jazz By The Bay and Waterstones Club (where Sachin Tendulkar chose to announce his retirement), has had a life of struggle.

A family split had left him bereft of the riches that he had been brought up amidst, as the son of India's most high-profile 'smuggler' Manu Narang. The Narangs had once lived jointly in a fabulous mansion (with a famous glass-bottomed swimming pool) in Pali Hill. But tragedy and the snakes of life's checkerboard have been constant companions of Sanjay's life.

His beloved mother's death when he and his sister Rachana were barely teens, along with the family separation, saw the duo start from scratch by working with the Taj group (setting up its profitable flight kitchen and bakery franchise among other things), before branching off on their own empire. This was around the time when the swashbuckling bachelor was very much on Page 3 because of his relationships with glam girls - Raageshwari Loomba and Sushmita Sen.

The way Sanjay says, he experienced an epiphany at the height of his success that inspired him to give up life in the fast lane and return to the mountains, where he had spent the most beautiful years of his life as a boarder at the Woodstock school in Mussoorie. Relocating to the area, the brother-sister duo had gone about transforming Landour into a paradise - quaint cafes, scenic boutique hotels, clean and green roads and unparalleled infrastructure - restoring its churches and hospitals along the way.

But last week, Narang wrote a heartbreaking missive to say that his exquisite home, Halcyon Manor, spread on 28,000 square feet, which had been in the eye of a storm for almost six years because of its proximity to a government site, was going to be demolished this week. The Narangs have received much support from Landour's residents, prominent among them are Ruskin Bond, Stephen Alter and Ganesh Saili, who have campaigned to prevent the demolition. Narang maintains that his property is over the required 70 metres from the said site, while the authorities maintain that it is in the 50-metre range.

We do not know the fineprint of the issue, but having had the privilege of visiting the place last year, we know how tragic its demolition is. The mansion, decorated by Rachana with such a palpable feeling for its environs, is a paean to exquisite beauty and style, right down to its last Wedgewood teacup.

As expected, Landour's residents - Ruskin Bond, Stephen Alter and Ganesh Saili - have put up a spirited campaign to prevent the demolition. Meanwhile, Narang's resignation is bittersweet."Please do not feel sorry for me. As I see it, I got to live my dream.

Now it's time to move on and chase new dreams. In an even more beautiful place... perhaps we'll build another Halcyon Manor near the Scottish coast perched on top of rugged cliffs, where on one side you see the endless ocean," he wrote. And given his track record, we have no doubt he will; but his story will serve as a deterrent to anyone else who follows their dreams… Sad.

Dutt's the way
"This is a personal invite for the Nargis Dutt Foundation Annual Art show to raise funds for our work in the area of health and education," said Congress leader and avid philanthropist Priya Dutt over the weekend.

Priya DuttPriya Dutt

"The Nargis Dutt Foundation is taking forward the vision of my parents, who started it in 1981. Our work is for humanity. For us, life matters. Do come, it will give us an opportunity to showcase our work of the past 37 years and meet old friends."

The charity art exhibition-cum-sale, titled Pigment Features, will have works by over 50 renowned as well as upcoming artists from different parts of India. The funds raised will be used to provide healthcare and educational support to the underprivileged.

Gen Next takes over
Word comes in that Iman and Asim Allana, the two 20-something attractive younger children of UAE-based power couple Lubna and Irfan Allana, (part of the family that owns the multi-billion dollar Allana Group conglomerate), have been invited to the prestigious Forbes '30 under 30' summit in Boston this week, as rising entrepreneurs.

Asim Allana and Iman Allana
Asim Allana and Iman Allana

The relatively media-shy duo, who grew up between Mumbai and Dubai, and graduated from a university in London, are doing their bit to take the family business legacy forward. As is known, the ongoing summit is a gathering of the best and brightest among young future global leaders, who come together in a Davos-like format for a series of talks and debates. This year's schedule includes presentations from Ashton Kutcher, musician Kendrick Lamar and Boston Governor Charlie Baker amongst others.

Tanuja's tribute to tradition, with a twist
"After graduating from the J J Institute of Applied Art, I tried my hand in advertising for a few months. My inclination was always towards design, be it graphic design, interior design or fashion design," says Tanuja Padwal, wife of noted artist Sunil Padwal. She will be displaying her new line of fashion wear at the upcoming Project 7 next week. Padwal's new line of asymmetrical tops sees her playing with the traditional fabric of Maharashtra called 'Khan'.

Tanuja Padwal
Tanuja Padwal

"Women use this fabric for their sari blouses," she says. "I've given a little twist to it, creating a collection of tops that can be worn with flowy skirts, denims or pants, which have a little secret pocket (in Marathi it's called a chanchi; the elderly women in rural Maharashtra used to carry their small change or betel nuts in it)," adds Padwal, who is an ardent fan of the late Alexander McQueen.

And how has her exposure to art (the Padwals are an intrinsic part of Mumbai's vibrant art scene and host sparkling soirees in Sunil's striking studio at Parel) informed her creativity? "Being exposed to the art world helps a lot. I've always loved to visit contemporary museums and galleries here and on our travels. Though Sunil hasn't helped directly, he is a very strong critic, and being with him has enriched my creative imagination," she says, adding "I don't think of them as just garments, I think of them as artistic creation."

Social mountaineering, NRI style
We heard this delightful tale of the brazen social mountaineering of an elderly London-based NRI couple, who had invited a visiting friend from India to dine at their flashy mansion.

The friend had enquired if his Hong Kong-based buddy from biz school could accompany him. The couple is said to have made a stink about this, replying pompously, "Why would you hang out with people like that? Our home is very exclusive, you know. But you could bring him along if you have to."

Here's where the plot sickens. Over the course of dinner, when the ungracious hosts realised that the friend headed a large media conglomerate, which owned luxury and lifestyle magazines, they are said to have made a 180-degree flip and offered to host the bemused gentleman that very week at their country home for a getaway.

They proceeded to repeatedly mention, "We would love our home to be featured and can get a top photographer to shoot it." The Hong Kong-based media man has since not taken their calls, but has now received a handwritten note along with a champagne hamper....Giggle.

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