Loving the Mumbai 'winter'. Normally, it lasts for all of three-and-a-half days. This year we have been lucky to shiver delicately and snuggle under razais for close to a fortnight. Mumbai at 10 degrees celsius? Shocking!
I threw two shawls around my shoulders and headed out to Cafe Zoe's ( 7th day, and no teething troubles) last night. It's a really cool place, very SOHO and hip ( exposed brickwork, mandatory!). Located in a God forsaken mill area of central Mumbai, it is run by a Belgian cutie named Jeremy, and a desi gal called Taarini ( also cute). The food is straightforward and quite wonderful (lamb stew with cous cous, beef burgers, steamed rawas, crab risotto). And the pricing ,not outrageous. Free wi-fi encourages easy dining, and the place is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I see it as the new ex-pat hangout.A little like 'Le Mill' , the very fancy designer store in the dockyard area,where more French than English is spoken. Am literally chilling out today....blame it on the weather!
This appeared in 'India Today'...
A Mumbai Girl checks out a Lucknow Boy…
Dekho bhai, aapun toh aisech hai. Being a Mumbai Girl, it is somewhat difficult to digest a 306 –page tome from a Lucknow Boy, that’s filled with Delhi style bragging ( it happens! Delhi does that to the best of us).Vinod Mehta has packaged the material into a memoir that is, ummm…. rather dull.As an admirer of Vinod Mehta’s roller coaster career – I find it hard to believe he could have written such a boring book. What happened? Something obviously got in the way, and let’s blame it on Delhi. A boring account of an interesting life, requires an alibi to explain why it is so damn boring in the first place. Had Mr. Mehta continued to live and work in Mumbai, I am certain he would have written a far more readable book. In any case,it’s going to be a little tough to find readers who are keen on following the frequent hirings and firings of a maverick editor , for that is the only real meat in the memoir. The world has changed dramatically from the zamana Mr. Mehta lovingly chronicles. When he looks back with nostalgia, it is a little like inviting young readers to a torture session ( uncles and aunties love doing that!), during which they are force fed on stuff they really couldn’t care less about. Even ones own children run away from conversations that begin with, ‘In my time…” And heaven help you if you pull out those old albums and ask them to go down memory lane with faded photographs. Mr. Mehta’s sepia-toned recollections may be of some interest to his colleagues and assorted politicos who wish to be featured in the magazine he so ably edits. Give them Sunny Leone’s unedited life story in ten easy chapters instead – now that’s riveting stuff. What the trade calls a ‘good read’.
The biggest let down in this memoir is the absence of any asli masala. The early years are self-indulgently chronicled but reveal nothing beyond the trite ‘escapades’ of a lazy schoolboy having ‘fun’ with friends. Which makes this particular sentence from the book somewhat ironic, “In Lucknow at that time you could be a liar, a crook, bigot,miser,ugly,lower caste – that was okay.What you couldn’t be was a bore!” Oh dear God… how did the young Mehta survive in that case? Did nobody tell him? Or did that happen only after he moved to Delhi to slay the lions ? It has to be Delhi that is the villain of this memoir. The Mumbai Mehta was an amiable chap. He wasn’t boastful. And he could out-bitch anybody in the room. Most of the time, the bitching was about those absent. Everybody laughed – including his highly ‘intellectual’ friends - tiresome then, far worse now. But Mr. Mehta had not turned as pretentious… nor did he drop names. It’s back to blaming Delhi for his ‘parivartan’, folks!
One can hardly blame Mr. Mehta. Proximity to politicians and power brokers can numb a journalist’s sharper instincts. But a memoir surely needs to deliver more than a loosely strung account of job- hopping? Is sniping a substitute for insights? What about the author’s old-fashioned self-righteousness that pops up on every second page? And all those tedious justifications? So,he pays his own bills.Is that something to boast about? The ball game has changed, and one wonders whether Mr. Mehta’s avuncular advice to aspiring journos will be paid the slightest attention to by this lot. But at least, having dealt with his bug bears and demons in print, one sincerely hopes he gets his old groove back before his current bosses start looking around. The one magazine Mr. Mehta missed editing, and he could still do a brilliant job of, is ‘Stardust’. Perhaps, I should put in a good word for him with my old boss, Nari Hira? Well-written gossip never goes out of style. One wishes Mr. Mehta had packaged his gossip more accurately, and certainly more engagingly. That’s the price you pay for leaving Mumbai, Lucknow Boy!
Come back, Vinod Mehta. All is forgiven!