This appeared in the Asian Age yesterday... and I am glad it amused Soli Sorabjee (one of my favourite men!) sufficiently, for him to call on a Sunday morning to share a few laughs. He asked me in his utterly charming Parsee -Marathi why I didn't visit Delhi more often( he lives there). I told him in my Marathi-Marathi that I didn't LIKE Delhi. Being a Mumbai boy himself, he understood the sentiment perfectly!
I drove to Pune and back with my son, Aditya , yesterday. I needed him to guide me on some 'man work' - not what you are thinking - just dull, routine municipal stuff - and we spent a wonderful day in that oven. Topping it off, as always, with a quick lunch at the Blue Diamond coffee shop - and again, as always, I packed the world's best kheema pao to take home for dinner with the rest of the family. Awaiting me was a pleasant, delicious surprise - nulen goorey ice cream. Ask your Bong friends to decode!!!
My faithful old laptop finally gave up the struggle to keep going and quietly died on me. Arundhati promptly got me a new one, but all my precious data remains trapped in the old work horse - including the promised images from Monaco, and the manuscript of the new novel I have just completed.Aah well,tomorrow is another De!
The Prince and the Showgirls…
Okay, so Prince Andrew is no Lawrence Olivier, and there wasn’t a Marilyn Monroe clone in sight, but the ‘vilayati rajkumar’ does have an… ummm, reputation with the ladies. And Mumbai has countless fetching ladies.Perhaps he was smarting from the Capital’s response to his visit. Unkind Delhi journos (after being at the receiving end of a right royal snub), had described him as having the personality of a ‘traveling salesman’. But in Mumbai, the Queen of England’s colourful son (better known as Randy Andy), was treated to a super swish soiree in his honour, at which he happily mingled with glamourous stars from Bollywood and of course, a few billionaires from the corporate world. From spending time with humble potters in Kumbharwadi, to making the mandatory chakkar of Dharavi, and staging a photo-op in full naval regalia while visiting the docks, our friendly prince had a packed schedule in aamchi Mumbai. Fortunately for him ( and us ), the tedium of officialdom was happily broken by a few light hearted interruptions. Like the time he was working the crowds at the official reception hosted by Peter Beckingham ( the Deputy High Commissioner), and a breathless, young, saree-clad lady rushed upto shake his hand and gush, “ I just wanted to tell you I had the biggest crush on you for years… and at the royal wedding, I just couldn’t take my eyes off you!” Somewhat startled by this very public and very candid confession, the obviously flattered Prince, blushed, shrugged, smiled and swiftly moved on. Reminded about the comment at the private dinner that followed the reception, he was more relaxed about the incident and joked, “I wonder if she was referring to my wedding…” The earlier stiffness was gone, as he surveyed the spectacular beach villa of his hosts ( Adi and Parmeshwar Godrej) and handled Mumbai’s society queens and kings with supreme aplomb. Unusually,most of the movie stars had dutifully followed the stipulated dress code and turned up in pristine white. They looked exceptionally stylish. Especially the ladies. A few undoubtedly caught the Prince’s roving eye. But were they equally interested? Naah. They hadn’t heard of him! It was their big night out, and they were happy to party with one another. That’s Mumbai. Ill-mannered and crass. Each person for himself /herself. No ‘faltu time-waste’ on some Prince… from whichever country. Was he offering any of them a role? Anything else? No, na? Then why bother? Social propriety be damned.
The local presswallas left him pretty much alone as well. Those who turned up at the Reception, looked bored and restless when they realized no Bollywood celebs were likely to saunter in. One photographer asked loudly, “That man in a grey suit… is he the Prince? Of which country?” Nobody was embarrassed. His buddy replied, “Woh Prince Charles hai na… Diana-walla? Yeh uska bhai hai…” Poor Andrew. Nobody has ever called him ‘Bonny’. And everybody has mocked his choice of wife, even though Fergie the Redhead, remains her original feisty, bold and brazen self through various trials and tribulations that tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic love to expose. Her ex- insists they remain the best of friends. Which is very civilized of him. It’s actually pretty damn wonderful to have a ‘major’ Royal who is as unstuffy and regular as Andrew. Today, the poor guy has to go out and earn his keep. Gamely perform ‘royal duties’. Shake hands with people he isn’t likely to meet ever again in his busy life. Make polite noises and feign deep interest in subjects ranging from the tattered state of the economy to the grim future of potters in a Mumbai slum. It’s a tough life! At one point during the Reception, I saw the poor man collared by one of Mumbai’s biggest bores, who didn’t give him a chance to greet several others waiting in a long line to meet the Queen’s emissary. Later at the elegant Godrej soiree, a group of Japanese invitees surrounded him and asked him to sign copies of some books they’d brought along. Being Japanese, they clicked several pictures while they were at it. Once again, my heart went out to Bechara Andrew. There were so many alluring single ladies floating around… and there was this single guy not being allowed to hang with any of them. I am sure he would have found Sushmita Sen’s company most fascinating. Or Sushma Reddy’s for that matter. Both are beautiful and have a lot to say for themselves.
Being seen as a broke Prince can’t be easy. But this guy makes it appear effortless. We have quite a few kadka maharajahs in India. But they appear pretty pathetic as they scrounge around for freebies. They have yet not woken up to India’s new realities where their own stock is seriously low and our billionaires are the real, 21st century Maharajahs.There were at least four of them ( billionaires) at the Godrej villa that night. And the royal aura they’d appropriated for themselves was too dazzling to miss. As awe struck diplomats walked around the spectacular premises, taking in the priceless art and marveling at the extravagance of it all , it was really a snapshot of today’s aggressive new India – unapologetic about its wealth and position. If the buffet tables groaned under monstrously large lobsters and massive crabs, if the hors d’oeuvres featured caviar, and the champagne was Dom, it was an indication of more than just the high net worth of the billionaire hosts. It was a taste of what is possible, of what is taking place…. just 63 years after the sun set on the Indian empire, and we had our own national anthem in place of ‘God Save the Queen’. If the Prince was aware of the irony, he camouflaged it well. He was, after all, a mere messenger. Why shoot the messenger??