Sunday, September 30, 2012
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
What a sweet Ganpati! It belongs to our Blogdost - three guesses - I bet you know who.
On the way back from Kolkata, as we drove to catch our flight back to Mumbai, I watched hundreds of Vishwakarma images being taken for visarjan. When we landed , it was close to midnight, and our Ganpatis were winding their way to countless temporary homes in the metropolis. It felt great to be back! From the air , I could see the shimmering lights of several Sarvajanik pandals gleaming in the dark wetness of the monsoon night. Driving home, I joined worshippers as they shouted, "Ganpati Bappa, Morya..."
There were no ukdichhey modak waiting for me, though. That delicacy ended with the passing away of my mother.
This appeared in Bombay Times yesterday....
Remembering Gautam ….
When Madhuri Dixit broke down during a book release function in front of a vast , pre-dominantly Maharashtrian audience at the historic Ravindra Natya Mandir last week, there was pin drop silence. She took her time to compose herself, tears flowing down her alabaster cheeks. When she spoke about the late Gautam Rajadhyaksha, it was with genuine love for a man whose goodness had touched the hearts of so many people. Gautam referred to Madhuri as his daughter ( the other daughter being Kaajol). And Madhuri’s was the face Gautam picked for the cover of his superb book, aptly titled ‘Faces’. Dixit, looking ravishing and Goddess-like, was accompanied by her husband, who sportingly came up on stage for the audience to get a good dekho of the man blessed enough to be married to Madhuri. His appearance was greeted by a roar of approval.
Once we had finished wiping our tears, it was time for Asha Bhonsle to speak. Before she did that, the presenter read out a moving tribute to Gautam written by Ashatai herself ( she is nearly done with her autobiography). This was such a gut wrenching effort, it was impossible to listen to it without audibly sobbing. Ashatai herself, kept wiping her tears with a corner of her saree pallu. Yes. It was that emotionally charged.They were close, Gautam and Asha. And shared an extraordinary relationship. She confessed she used to sulk and get possessive about Gautam often taunting him to go spend time with Madhuri or Kaajol…. his ‘ladkis’ ( favourites), after a difference of opinion. Ashatai’s secret recipe for ‘Fish Biryani’ ( her signature dish), was shared exclusively with Gautam ( an equally accomplished cook)…. but, she added with a wry smile, it never tasted the same. They shared common passions for music, food, beauty, and much more. Their daily conversations must have been scintillating. She expressed her enormous regret that Gautam isn’t around to see her movie debut at 80 years of age in ‘Mai’. Unbelievable! Perhaps it marks a first in the world …. a legendary singer decides to try her hand at acting in the eighth decade of her incredible life! Would Gautam have approved? No! Said Ashatai firmly. He refused to photograph her as an old woman… and wept when he saw the early stills. In his eyes, Ashatai was the perennial Diva…. one beyond age.
What a fine evening it was. Two extraordinary women ( Madhuri Dixit and Asha Bhonsle), sharing the same platform to honour an extraordinary man!
Green Ganpatis…. an excellent initiative that’s being aggressively promoted. Eco-friendly murtis of Mumbai’s favourite deity have finally caught on with more and more devotees are opting for them.It was always a heart breaking sight to see the beaches after Visarjan day. Let’s all endeavour to make this year’s Festival, the biggest, safest and cleanest…
Fascinating to see the growing trend of item numbers picturised on hotties playing Marathi Mulgis in Bollywood movies. After Vidya’s energetic lavni, it’s on to Rani Mukherjee’s Aiyaa. But before that comes sizzling Bebo’s Halkat! Raj Thackeray must be in heaven!
Sunday, September 16, 2012
That's my birthday boy Aditya, with Avantikka....what a party!
Am off to Kolkata after a really long time.... excited! Lovely time of the year to be there...till mid-week.... I'll be missing from this space
This appeared in Sunday Times....
The curse of celebrity…
Mirror,mirror on the wall… who’s the ugh-est of them all? That’s the question Aseem Trivedi seems to ask in his latest cartoon. Errr…. Aseem? Yup. The same. This is what happens when an utterly nonsensical sedition case is filed against a maamuli cartoonist ( high on anger, low on talent) – it’s called a one-day phenomenon.But here’s the upside to the controversy .The recent furor has drawn public attention to the growing antipathy against the Ugly Politician. It sure looks likes this is going to be The Winter of our Discontent. First came the brutal attack on traffic cop Mohan Lal by a minister’s security personnel. Lal’s crime?He had dared to stop the minister’s convoy for jumping a red light. Then came news of some obscure cartoonist’s arrest in Mumbai. In both these seemingly unrelated cases, the strident howls of protest from the aam junta were similar in nature – they were more against the abuse of power by the high and mighty than in support of two wronged individuals. The big question in both cases - how long before we move on? Mohan Lal may end up nursing a bloodied and bulbous eye all by himself, once the media pounces on an even grislier story. After all, Mohan Lal has not announced his intentions of joining a citizens’ movement or turning into an activist. There is nothing ‘sensational’ about Mohan Lal’s predicament.This beastly incident is just another tragic case of an earnest government servant paying a huge price for doing what he’s paid to – his duty.Congress Minister Taj Moiuddin, will carry on… unapologetic, unscathed and unmoved. His repeated chant that he doesn’t have eyes at the back of his head , will also be filed away indifferently and soon forgotten.
But what happens from this moment on to young Aseem Trivedi will be far more interesting to monitor.Here’s a likely scenario: As of now, Aseem is the newest darling of the media… he has been completely co-opted by those crying hoarse against an archaic law. So far, it reads like a meaty story. Aseem, with disheveled hair and wearing the mandatory black kurta , lends himself perfectly to the darkness of the moment,as he plays to the gallery, spewing contempt and talking freedom of expression. He is also producing cartoons on command as apt photo-ops. That is, when he isn’t posing for shutter bugs, hugging well-known people like Dr.Binayak Sen. Aseem’s minders may have taken over his image building , going by how swiftly he undertook an expeditious damage control exercise when the Dalit heat was about to get to him.Once out of jail, what did our cartoonist friend do – he rushed to Buddh Vihar to pay his respects to Babasaheb Ambedkar, adding he had the ‘greatest respect” for the Dalit leader and the Constitution. He also grabbed a quick lunch at Mayank ( India Against Corruption) Gandhi’s office, before addressing a packed press conference.
What does the future hold for disgruntled young people like Aseem when they are suddenly propelled into the limelight and converted into overnight martyrs? What happens when an Aseem becomes a pivot, a symbol… even a hero? Does collective anger find the outlet it seeks? Or does the initial emotional outpouring get dissipated, leading to absolutely nothing but a few dramatic media clips? Political parties are quick to swoop down on people like Aseem. Any person who can grab headlines is worth courting. In such a cynical scenario, someone like him is a catch. So far, he has presented himself as a somewhat naïve but reasonably sensitized young man, using crude cartoons to express his disillusionment. His life has undergone a 360 degrees change after the misplaced Sedition charge. He is now owned by the media. He is hot property. He will make it to international publications and global channels. For a short while at least, Aseem Trivedi will gobble up publicity and share front page space with movie stars and sports heroes. Someone smart will ask him to walk the ramp – for a cause, of course. He will be wooed to play show stopper during the unending Fashion Weeks. Reality shows will chase him. He may enter the Big Boss house. Get a publishing deal. His career as a budding cartoonist may end abruptly. But so what? For another fifteen minutes, or perhaps fifteen days, Aseem Trivedi will be hailed as a bona fide celebrity… a star. The ravenous media monster isn’t done with him yet. And yes, he also draws cartoons for a living.
Monday, September 10, 2012
I was most touched when my good friend Rashmi Uday Singh sent me this uplifting image she'd clicked when she went to pray at the historic Mount Mary's church in Bandra. She said she had lit a candle for me and my family.... and I got all teary!
It has been that kind of a day.... sentimental and a little weepy. It is Danesh's birthday today.He is one of my oldest friends, and I love him dearly.He lives in Paris, but I still feel we are back attending Summer School in St.Xavier's College, every time we meet. The last time was a few months ago. We were both mourning the death of Gautam Rajadhyaksha. It was raining buckets on the Champs Elysee, as we sipped hot chocolate at Fouquet's, held hands and shed silent tears. I said a prayer for Danesh during my Ganesh puja. And I thought about the death of Dr. Verghese Kurien - an extraordinary man, a true visionary. I remembered vividly the time I had interviewed him in Anand more than 30 years ago. I had called him India's Doodhwala.... and the title had amused him greatly. It was such a special era.... you have to watch Shyam Benegal's 'Manthan' that was inspired by the Milk Revolution started by Dr. Kurien. At 90. Dr.Kurien slipped away knowing he had accomplished a singular mission. What a life! What a man!
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Two feline beauties shot by our Blogdost, Nitin Rai....
This appeared in Asian Age yesterday....
Bechara Manmohan is a beleaguered man these days. We should really get off his back and let him resign with some dignity… after Madam gives him the green signal to do so, of course.Poor chap, here he is getting it right left and centre, at home and abroad, with nobody standing up for him and saying, “There,there… it’s okay. We all make mistakes… we all screw up big time. Don’t sulk. Everything’s gonna be alright….” But that’s not happening. The reason it’s not going to happen either is because we all know nothing’s gonna be alright. And there’s no point in pretending a tooth fairy is going to drop by with a magic wand, wave it around and – voila – India will get back on track. The rather dismal truth is that India ki railgaadi track se phisal gayi hai. To get that train to huff and puff again as it steams towards a great and glorious future seems highly unlikely. But, hello! Why do we need a Washington Post to tell us what is so damn evident? And even if the Post has put it all in a manner so blunt and unambiguous, it made us squirm, the point is, Manmohan Singh had lost the plot ages ago. Today, if he does indeed cut a ‘tragic figure’ it is of his own making. At 79, one expects a certain distilled wisdom to kick in. True, age is an unforgiving and harsh factor for most mortals, but in the case of politicians, it can be a gigantic attribute. Especially in Asian societies that still venerate and respect age. No matter what social scientists have to say about India’s love affair with youth ( irritatingly dubbed ‘Youngistan’), we remain deferential towards elders ( well… for the most part) and do yearn for a wizened old Pitama of the epics, to show us the way out of a bottomless abyss. Someone who has a vast and varied experience of life, who can guide and mentor others, who can be relied on to resolve a series of big and small crises. Manmohan Singh could have been… should have been… India’s father figure. But he blew it – for India and for himself. Today, he faces the ignominy of being described as a weak, ineffectual, cowardly puppet who refuses to quit… and worse… who refuses to do his job as prime minister of a vast and unwieldy democracy.
What are the options in front of him? If he yields to pressure and does indeed resign, does it solve even a single problem? If he quits, what happens next ? Will Sonia suddenly emerge in a new avatar as Ma Kali, and take charge of a chaotic, headless country? Will the BJP seize the moment and gain control over the reins of power? Or will we witness an outbreak of anarchy the likes of which we have not seen before? Which is the better, more sober option? A silent, weak prime minister waiting mutely for orders from his lady boss, or a state dominated by opportunistic players ready to pounce on the rapidly deteriorating situation?The Post has referred to a ‘deeply corrupt government’ and warned Singh that he faces the ‘danger of going down in history as a failure’. Rather a failure than a despot or a tyrant - that’s one line of argument. But a failure at the cost of the country’s progress? Never.
In all this finger pointing, perhaps the root cause of this malaise has been overlooked. Endemic corruption has gone unchecked for over 50 years of our country’s existence. It is only far more in your face and brazen now. Or,more accurately, it is only in today’s more transparent times that we talk about the extent to which corruption has corroded our system. One just has to examine the daily charade that passes for parliamentary proceedings to know what a cruel joke is being played on the people of India. Yes, let it be said loudly and clearly – the Congress Party has fostered and bred corrupt practices across the board for the longest time. But can we single out even one other political party with an untainted, blemish free track record? The Post tells us somewhat sanctimoniously that several things went disastrously wrong under Singh. So they did. The Post goes on to list what those are… stalled economic reforms, the rupees collapse etc. But according to the paper, what is equally damaging to Singh’s reputation is that ‘he looked the other way and remained silent as his cabinet colleagues filled their own pockets.” Oh dear. That is just so unfortunate. His silence. His compliance. His passivity. Par dekho toh sahi - that is the real Manmohan Singh. The essential him. That is the man he has always been…. always. It is our mistake that we bestowed him with exaggerated attributes he never possessed. We labeled him an economic wizard who’d lead India into the Brave New World. We expected him to almost single handedly make us into a global superpower, quite forgetting the inbuilt weaknesses of our own system. It is really not Manmohan Singh’s fault that we read him wrong! As the Post reminded readers, he had famously told broadcaster Charlie Rose in 2006, “I am a small person in a big chair.” Truer words were never spoken. Can we just leave the guy alone now and look for other scapegoats for our collective failure?
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Blogdosts - check out the official press release here: http://list.jsend.in/show/a/29757/b/499/d/2045
and also check out all the press coverage received, in just a few hours time!
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
That's Arundhati in Delhi - a city she loves! Especially because it is so green and clean!
And that's Nayanaa Kanodia's invitation. I like Nayanaa's work - naive and telling. Years ago, I had picked Nayanaa to collaborate with on a canvas that was up at a charity auction, some years ago. She has her fans - I am one of them....
The Prince and the Vegas Girls!
What’s wrong with the world? Why is the otherwise slutty British press frothing at the mouth and getting moralistic? Who doesn’t want a sneak peek at the Crown Jewels? All that big fuss because Prince Harry did what any hot blooded young man would in Vegas – got naked at a wild party? Puhleeze – stop! Prince Harry is not your average Joe the neighbourhood plumber. He may be third in line to the throne. So bloody what? He is a man, first. A very naughty man, at that. Track record ko dekho! Take a look at the scenario. Princey goes to Vegas with a bunch of rowdy mates for some much-needed R and R. Why do people go to Vegas? Not to pray…. not to behave like they are at a funeral… not to save the world. Vegas attracts hard core party people from across the world. And high rollers who are mad enough to think they’ll beat the casinos and make money. Why was the Prince there? To have fun. How did he land up in a fancy suite with ‘hot chicks’ for company? Oh come on… he is Prince Harry. Not the Dalai Lama. Hot Chicks are a part of his environment. He just has to breathe – and there they are. Well… the buck naked part of the story kicks in after the reckless and recklessly handsome Prince decides to play a few dicey games with these adventurous ladies. Adult games. Games that involve stripping. Getting nanga. Till this point, the story reads just fine. The Prince and his lads are starkers, as are the luscious girls. The stakes must have been as high as the party goers, for nobody noticed the cameras. This is the seriously dumb part. Clearly, the Prince was aware that pics were being clicked, since he assured a naked female companion that he would gallantly guard her modesty with his own body! That’s class….however Harry forgot to cover the royal butt when the cameras went click- click. In one photograph, he is seen hanging on to the crown jewels with his hands…. even so, a few glimpses of Little Harry have already set the internet on fire.
My question is broader in scope :The British establishment is outraged and feigning shock. Why? The Defence Ministry is threatening to strip the 27-year-old pilot of his Apache duties , claiming he is not cool headed enough to fly this big, destructive machine. Really? The guy was set for a second round of duties in Afghanistan. Are all those soldiers fighting a useless war in Afghanistan really cool headed? His father has apparently banned him from future ‘boys only’ binges, according to reports. The irony of it all! Prince Charles had an equally wild reputation in his time … he can hardly afford to discipline the boy! Even sis-in-law Kate Middleton has been roped in to keep Prince Harry home and occupied. Her strategy? She’s giving him cooking lessons. So far, Harry’s grandma, the Queen, has wisely not uttered a word. She has raised quite a family herself, and seen a lot of hairy stuff along the way. This is the 21st century, not Victorian England. Harry is young, wicked, rich, single and good looking. Yes, he drinks more than he can handle. He parties hard with dodgy debutantes. He staggers out of night clubs. He throws up. He changes girlfriends as frequently as his socks. He’s normal. Hota hai! He hasn’t killed anyone or otherwise behaved in a violent, unbalanced, dangerous-to-society manner. Perhaps, his latest romp can be dubbed conduct unbecoming for a member of the royal family. But unlike his indiscreet grandpop who routinely makes racist and sexist comments and embarrasses the Palace, this guy’s lifestyle is that of a spoilt brat… a pampered rock star. Nothing worse. Let him cavort naked in Vegas… what difference does it make to world affairs? Let that hot chick make her millions out of selling those stolen pics. There’s a whole world of opportunity out there. It’s a fair free- for- all. The Vegas party is over. We have all seen Harry’s butt and privates. We have not fainted. We understand it’s all in them genes. How can the younger son of Lady Diana and Prince Charles be expected to behave like a monk?
Give the lad a break. Crown him King!
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
The beauteous Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was kind enough to grant an audience to the Parikrma students and hand over her signed jeans for the scheduled auction. The kids in turn, presented her a special painting created by them... and confessed later that their hearts were still pounding hours after meeting their favourite female star. Let's just call it the Ash effect....
This appeared in Bombay Times today...
Golmal at Customs… Kat is out of the bag...
Bashing our Customs’ officers is a popular sport. Let’s face it, being a much feared Customs’ officer is a pretty dicey job to do….but someone’s got to do it! Passengers the world over detest the entire process of clearing Immigration and Customs on arrival. Air travel is no longer a relaxing, much anticipated journey. If anything, it is tiring and tedious. Add to that the long delays, lost luggage, tampered bags and several other irritants. Yup. And those forms, too. Bleary eyed travelers have to rub their eyes, squint and pay close attention to what they are declaring, before sailing past the Green Channel. Mistakes happen. They shouldn’t. But do.Especially with high profile people and super celebrities who delegate such ‘minor’ tasks to assistants. Huge error. As so many of our Bollywood stars have discovered. As Katrina Kaif experienced on her return from Chicago ( Mumbai Mirror, front page story) on Sunday. Katrina zoomed off nonchalantly, leaving Chaddha and Sharma, her personal staffers, to deal with the nitty gritty of getting her bags cleared. Yes, there were a couple of booze bottles, some cash and an Apple iPad. This was not the tough part. Had Katrina declared what she was carrying and paid the duty, there would have been no problem. Unlike a lot of other stars who come back with bags crammed with pricy designer goods ( watches, bags, shoes , outfits, jewellery) which they hope to get in undetected, Katrina’s misadventure looks more like a careless lapse. What was far more alarming in this case was the easy access given to her staff. First, those two guys left the airport with her, ostensibly to see off their madam to the car . Now comes the tricky part – minutes later, they walked right back in to get her bags! This shows just how lax security is at our international airport. It’s not about Katrina’s bags at all. It is about shocking security breaches like this one. Several questions have been raised in the past about the arbitrary functioning of some of our Custom’s officials. Either they go overboard and give our stars a really hard time. Or they conveniently forget the rules and allow celebs to sail past , leaving lackeys to collect their bags – this irregular practice has to be stopped . Not only because it represents a major threat in terms of security, but also because these double standards send out the worst signal to other, less privileged citizens.
I’d say the main problem lies in a lack of awareness. Most passengers don’t read the forms they are filling in and signing, as diligently as required. There has to be a more sustained campaign to let international travelers know what is and is not permissible. Why not display prominent boards in the Customs’ area that spell out the basics? And why not a specially designed crash course for the film industry? Let’s give our stars the benefit of the doubt. Not all of them have criminal intentions. Most would prefer to go by the book. Let’s not pounce on them and brand them potential smugglers, conspiring to cheat the government each time they step out of the country and step back in with suitcases crammed with goodies. Nobody likes to hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. Like Katrina, there have been several other stars who have received flack for flouting Customs’ laws. By the same token, let’s not demonise our men and women in sparkling white who are following the law as Customs’ Officers. If you want to stay out of trouble,it’s really pretty simple, folks – read the form, fill in the information as accurately as possible, sign the form yourself, carry your own bags, and if the goods you are bringing in are dutiable, co-operate with the Customs’ personnel and pay up! No jhanjat. No bad publicity.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Here's the promised image of the gorgeous yellow roses shot by my daughter Arundhati. My heart soars each time I spot them.... even the birds outside her window have been eyeing them since they were placed there...
This appeared in Sunday Times yesterday....
Narendra Modi’s Diet Plan….
Move over Kareena Kapoor. Narendra Modi’s Size Zero is the new mantra for a leaner, meaner and definitely sexier silhouette. You may be the hottest ‘Heroine’ in tinsel town with the best bod in the biz. But there’s nobody to beat Hero Narendrabhai. Especially when it comes to nutrition and diet. He is poised to revolutionise the world of wellness with fresh definitions of what it takes to look awesome. So awesome, that the entire world is compelled to take notice of this unique weight loss programme. For starters it involves turning vegetarian. No problems with that. Vegetarianism is a rapidly growing food trend, as is evident from the number of fancy veggie gourmet options available worldwide these days. Eating ‘ghaas-phoos’ is now considered pretty cool and celebrities who shun meat are seen as role models for the movement. Then there are the Vegan diet freaks… macrobiotic food fanatics… vaghera, vaghera.The… ahem… bottom line remains the same – effective and healthy weight loss. But trust our Narendrabhai to give a new spin to all these fads and beliefs. Modi gives a new spin to almost everything in any case. Why not food?
In a recent interview to the Wall Street Journal, Modi was in a particularly expansive mood. Perhaps it was the diet dhokla he’d eaten for lunch. Or an oil free thepla. Asked about the high rate of malnutrition in the State of Gujarat, Modi glibly assured the interviewer that the problem was not one of a food shortage. It was more an aesthetic issue with the State’s middle class. Apparently, middle class Gujaratis were more concerned about being beautiful (read: thin) to bother with health. It gets worse, Modi then went on to suggest that appearance conscious middle class mothers in his State eat the wrong food or eat less, so as to compete with today’s standards of female attractiveness. This outrageous statement had women across the board up in arms. Leading the protest was Ambika Soni who huffed and puffed about Modi’s insensitivity towards women who ‘sacrifice’ their own food to feed families. As we well know, a woman who starves herself in our society for the sake of her children, is seen as the ultimate mataji. Modi really should have known better.
Making malnutrition a vanity issue , is adding insult to injury. It is the poor in Gujarat who are suffering. As it is the poor across the world who are the real victims of malnutrition.Social Scientist Professor Ghanshyam Shah pointed out in a newspaper interview, “Bluntly speaking, it appears that either he does not know what he is speaking or he is terribly unaware of the ground reality. This issue is prevalent among poor and weaker sections like minorities,tribals, dalits and rural OBCs.” Clearly, figure conscious, middle class ladies do not fall into this category. And someone needs to tell Modi there is a difference between fashionable anorexia and actual malnutrition. In fact, had Modi cared to pay some attention to a report tabled by his own health and family welfare department, he would have been more responsible while making those facetious comments to WSJ. According to the report, every second child below the age of five in Gujarat is underweight. An NSSO survey indicates that the average Gujarati diet has deteriorated due to poverty in the State. Modi’s aggressive attempts to position Gujarat as a land of milk and honey are unfortunately not matched by statistics. Despite these depressing findings, a startling 42% of urban Indians are ready to accept Modi as the next Prime Minister. India is clearly starved in the leadership stakes.
Given Modi’s radical views, his latest malnutrition missile should also be seen in the same context. Perhaps, the next beauty contest can be hosted by Modi in Gujarat. Our lovelies can benefit greatly from Modi’s diet tips, since he is now a self declared expert on weight loss and nutrition. Publishers would happily give Modi a big, fat advance for a book on ‘Thin is In – Modi-style’. The Modi Diet could become a global best seller. Let nobody ruin Modi’s unique theory by pointing to the WHO report that states malnutrition is responsible for 54% of child mortality.Right now, Modi’s on a roll. Ladies of Gujarat, do watch those waist ( not waste) lines. As for the starving folks of the State. Modi, the Marie Antoinette of the Bens and Bhais of Gujarat, may just roar, “Let them eat cake…. Err… make that mohan thaal.”
Sunday, September 2, 2012
I am seriously tempted to use our Blogdost Nitin Rai's stunning images as gigantic posters! He shot them in Portland at the Farmer's Market.... and when I saw them, I felt instantly upbeat. I love the many varieties of Hibiscus I grow myself. Each new bloom becomes an offering to my Ganpati,