Monday, April 26, 2010

Adios IPL.But G'bye Modi? No chance!!!!!

Just when we thought it was all over.... khel khatam..... that the IPL circus ended with fireworks lighting up the sky after that clumsy defeat of the Mumbai Indians..... guess what? The real fireworks started.... Lalit Modi's fiery 'farewell' address turned out to be an open invitation to a Kusti match - and he wanted the "people of India' to be the jury. Why not? Indians are pretty smart. They definitely enjoyed the masala matches. And they know the IPL would not have taken off without Modi. But does that mean " the people of India'' are not bothered about getting to the bottom of this sleazy affair? If Modi has done no wrong - let it be proved. And if he has - let that be proved, too.
But if you are asking me whether heads will roll? Are you kidding?
The Commonwealth Games are next. The money making machines are already in overdrive.
No questions are being asked.
There is hardly any accountability.
And yes , big ticket politicians are involved.
The party never ends in apna desh.
This appeared in Bombay Times today....
We will miss…. the IPL Gal Pals!

Now that it’s over – can we please get on with our lives?? Errr…. do we even want to? The better team has won, and let’s not spoil the moment by discussing who fixed what, and who made more money. At least for those few exhilarating weeks, millions of cricket lovers had a great time watching some heart stopping action, and rooting for their favourites…. and the bestest part?Often without leaving home! But for those following the million dollar ( literally!) masala scandals that really made this IPL the top rated reality show across channels, the lull to follow is going to be dull indeed! Us voyeurs had gotten used to our daily fix featuring a yummy platter of bite sized gossip, with amazing quotable quotes that really rocked! The word ‘slut’ suddenly became kosher! Everybody was throwing it around with total abandon, even Supriya Sule who said something about not ‘slutting out’ children by dragging them into this mess. Pushkar Ma’am also insisted she was no slut and that the wicked media was conducting a witch hunt and damning a respectable, female professional – her! Soon, two other young and attractive lassies hit the headlines – Laila Mahmood and Poorna Patel. While they avoided the ‘s-word’, they provided some more eye candy and an interesting youth angle. Amazing how competently these two young ladies navigated those shark infested waters without once losing their cool. While the likes of Jayanthi Natarajan fumed and hyper ventilated on nightly panel discussions, often completely ( and crudely) drowning out what the others were saying , these two PYTs were totally chilled out even as people around them went ballistic hurling all sorts of accusations at them.It’s called impeccable training. Let’s leave it at that.
But what do we do now? Breaking News is a nasty addiction. We have been spoilt after those two terrific media bombs exploding on our small screens back to back ( forgotten ‘Shonia’ already? ). Without the excitement of anticipating the next dhamaka, viewers are likely to get impatient and bored. Bhajji’s many fans now want him to perform off the field and preferably in public – he can pick his act. He is a made-for-television person, capable of providing hours of mouth watering titillation. He understands front page photo- ops better than anybody else on the team – and happily plays to the galleries. If people are a bit sick of Siddhuisms ( he has run through his repertoire ), maybe it’s time to rope in Harbhajan Singh. Throw him into the same frame with the old, saucy, sexy Mandira Bedi ( let’s face it, the day she gave up those noodle straps, cut her hair, lost her curves , and stopped giggling,was the day she surrendered her USP) and watch the two sizzle. There is something awfully sexy about observing women in traditional testosterone pumping sports ( Sandra Bullock in ‘The Blind Side’ ) that makes viewers go weak in the knees. Besides, nobody takes any of this seriously anyway – let’s face it, Mandira was not hired for her cricketing knowledge…. and by the same token, Boria Mazumdar is not expected to wear noodle straps. But going by the numbers, the presence of gorgeous gal pals in the IPL has certainly added oomph value to the game. And here, I include the super glamourous team owners ( take a bow, Preity, Shilpa… and yes, you above all, Nita!), besides wives and girlfriends within camera range ( Gouri and her girl gang ). There was as much to ogle in the stands and at the notorious IPL after parties ( Poorna’s brainchild), as the fast paced action on the field. Insiders would say, what went on post-match was far more hectic and exciting than all those run outs and sixers the public was treated to ( consolation prize, guys!).
Ab kya hoga?
Come on, Bollywood. Get into fifth gear. Give India something to drool over. We are counting on Hritik and Barbara to add some sizzle to the long, hot summer ahead. And no kite flying this time. The real thing, or nothing. Okay??

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Tenshun Mat Lo, Yaar"....IPL Zindabad!

Asian Age \ Deccan Chronicle column this morning.Eerie how India is being manipulated....

India taken for a ride….

Oh oh….. should I be worrying about the price of wheat or the future of cricket ?? “ Sports should not be politicized,” said NCP ka aadmi DP Tripathi with a straight face, and I almost fell off my chair with laughter. Politicians have a stranglehold over every marketable game going….it is ONLY about political monopoly. And this guy had the gall to say this at a press conference! He also added sweetly, “ Truth needs no furniture!” That was priceless, given the ‘furniture showrooms’ his party owns. He glibly told reporters that Sharad Pawar met his cabinet colleagues that crucial Modi Bombshell morning, not to discuss cricket at all … but to talk about the price of wheat. Yeah, right! He went on and on about there being no ‘saboot’ to nail anybody at this stage…. and I said to myself, why are we wasting our time on this rubbish? Kuch nahi honewala! Guaranteed. So, don’t be bloody naïve and expect a bloodbath, with mighty heads rolling, and the guilty being marched off to jail. It ain’t happening. This is how it works in India – always has, always will. It’s like asking the Godfather to set up a commission to look into the Mafia’s misdeeds.In reality, our ‘investigations’ are like a romp in the woods. A naughty teddy bear’s picnic. The main players involved ( and I mean players), have finished laughing all the way to the bank ( several banks in strange destinations across the world, actually). They know there is going to be no fall out. And by this time next week they’ll be singing ‘‘Aaal eeez welll.” The only idiots who will be left scratching their heads will be the citizens of India.
This is precisely what the Big Boys have been banking on. All that sho-sha about fixing this one and fixing that one, resignations, enquiries, investigations, raids…. don’t we know how this works? A great deal of noise was made all of last week. Every television anchor worth his pinstripe (and her kurtis ) went hoarse following the hot, hot, hot story that finally ended not with a bang (ooooh!!! Sorry Tharoor!!!), but a whimper. It suddenly went ‘phoos’ – kaput! Strange…. in any other country, this would have signaled the beginning of a very thorough and detailed investigation, leading to arrests. That magic word – arrests!! Nothing turns us on as much as watching the high and mighty in hand cuffs. At the end of the day, we are voyeuristic spectators in a packed arena – we want to watch those gladiators bloody themselves and maul one another. We want action… lots of it! As it is, the IPL had become the best Reality Show on television. With trusting cricket lovers playing judges. Just when the elimination rounds were starting to get exciting, a few wet blankets ruined it all by declaring a truce. Since viewers have been kept in the dark about the details of this truce, naturally we are thirsting for more – more of the adrenaline pumping moments that had us mesmerized all of last week, with a Breaking Story every hour. What followed has been an absolute anti- climax! At the time of writing, Modi was still gassing big time, while his ardent supporters were trotting out that annoying line – ‘‘Let the law take its course.” We know what that means – ‘Let’s buy time.’ I loved the ‘new, improved’ Shilpa Shetty appealing to the media to show restraint since Modi ‘has done such a great job.’ No doubt, he has. Only a Modi could have pulled off such a mega plot. For plot it is. In terms of sheer brilliance and outstanding ingenuity, Modi deserves a medal. Roping in the right partners ( money bags of varied hues and ambitions) was step number one. An obvious step, but an invaluable one ( it helped that Modi’s own family members were only too delighted to oblige). Working around government road blocks seems to have posed zero problems for this master strategist. He used his old connections and clout to flatten ( or buy out ) any opposition. With the cunning of the world’s sharpest insider traders, he struck deal after deal, secure in the knowledge that the mega returns he had promised investors would seal their mouths. Crazy how easily this worked – he had stuff on them, they had stuff on him. Everybody had stuff on everybody else. So, nobody could squeal. Nobody did. Till that blessed twitter war got going.And that was it.
Well, guess what?
There were disgruntled elements in Modi’s carefully protected paradise. And they were the ones who eventually ratted on the self- appointed IPL Commissioner ( or The Great Dictator ). Sick of his arbitrary, arrogant, high handed style of functioning, they decided to whisper in the right ears. Some of those ears were out to get Modi, even while pretending to be his best friends. Too many egoes had entered the picture, while in Modi’s vision there was place for just one - his own.Everything would have gone tickety- boo had another ambitious upstart not ruined the cosy party. Enter Shashi Tharoor – the political rockstar, who richly deserves a shot at playing himself in a Bollywood blockbuster. Shashi was easily dealt with, and as of now, the guy is cooling his heels and waiting it out like a penitent schoolboy after a caning. Shashi is the least of anybody’s problems. He is seen as a chhota mota nuisance valuewalla – his bite no more lethal than a machchar’s. People are openly laughing at his many indiscretions, and even more at Kofi Annan’s rather juvenile attempt to link India’s democracy to this mosquito bite.
The most serious error made by us Indians was in believing this entire mess has to do with cricket!! What absolute chumps we were to fall for this. The IPL was never about cricket. It was always about money.So today, when one hears earnest cricket lovers talking about how this gentleman’s game has fallen so low, one doesn’t feel like consoling the mourners. You want to yell, “Wake up, you morons”. See it for what it is – a monumental scam. In the same league as all those other multi-crore scams – and look where they are today. Buried deep, somewhere inaccessible and mysterious. It’s the standard game government agencies are so adept at – keep delaying the investigative processes till people either forget….. or die. Officialdom is vastly amused by all the fuss being made over Sunanda ( “call me Sue” ) Pushkar’s piddly seventy crores!! Come on…. seventy crores?? Are you kidding?? What’s the big deal? It doesn’t even count as petty cash.
Ab kya hoga?? Kuch nahi. There will be more chest thumping and fire breathing. Assorted political bods will be accosted by hysterical tv anchors and lie through their teeth. They will do it in a manner so brazen and besharam, we’ll be left gasping. Perhaps, in a fake show of ‘we mean business’, Modi will be asked to back off for a bit and Tharoor , to cool it in the backwaters of Kerala.This will give the much needed time to the ‘asli’ fixers to do what they do best – fix.Which is why I say, “ Tenshun mat lo, yaar.” Aish karo. Par sirf cricket se.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pillow Talk versus Willow Talk

Guys.... first an important clarification: That juicy, masaledaar earlier blog on Sue was written by a hugely talented senior journo called Vrinda Gopinath. NOT ME!!!!!! I wish I had written it, but.....
Secondly, I thought I had made that amply clear in the very first line. It even says 'By Vrinda Gopinath'.
Right now my mind is on pillow talk not willow talk!! I have finally found the pillows of my dreams. Not goose down but duck feather. After the excitement of the match last night ( like Nita Ambani, I too was ready to jump straight into Bhajji's waiting arms), I came home to a Kheema pav dinner and .... and.... surprise, surprise.... found these extraordinary pillows waiting for me. They not just looked inviting, they were incredibly comfortable with just the right amount of yield built into them. I knew I would sleep well at night - and did! My husband was mighty pleased with my reaction, since I had been cribbing about the pillows we shared earlier for months and months. He triumphantly told me about his duck feather hunt which ended at 'The Good Earth' - surely one of the best home stores ever!
Oh.... I spent the day in a relaxed ,happy mood thanks to the pillows, which helped me to bond warmly with Shakuntala. Shakuntala??Who dat?? She is a beautiful lady (with even more beautiful daughters), who comes to Mumbai all the way from Himachal Pradesh to sell beads of various kinds. Shakuntala has been coming to our home for years - but this time it was after a long, long break. As always, she bullied me into buying strings upon strings of beads I definitely don't need!! But what the hell, just looking at them , touching them, and soon .... wearing them.... has given me joy. And her.....much needed money. I think it has been an altogether fair exchange.
About the IPL.... ummmm...... wrote a really long column on the latest developments.... so right now, I am totally IPL -ed out. Perhaps tomorrow.... perhaps not....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Go Sue.....!

A friend in Dubai sent this delicious report, and I just had to share it with my blogdosts.

Got A Girl, Named Sue
And she knew just what to do. Sunanda’s eye-popping life-story.
By Vrinda Gopinath
Now, why does Sunanda Pushkar sound preposterous when she says it’s insulting to present her as just a proxy for good friend Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for external affairs, in the multi-million dollar IPL franchise sale? Because it’s a bit ambitious on her part to claim she’s a businesswoman in her own right when her present job profile says she is a mere sales manager at tecom Investments, a commercial real estate company in Dubai. But you’ve got to hand it to Pushkar, for her spunk and drive that took her from a gawkish girl from small-town Jammu two decades ago, to becoming swell Sue in Dubai and Toronto, to contriving her new image as swanky Sunanda, the brassy, bold entrepreneur of the eye-popping Emirates.
The belle from Bomai, a small apple-growing hamlet in Sopore, Kashmir, was convinced she was not cut out for the idyllic life of mofussil India, as she excitedly told her pals when she landed in Dubai in the early ’90s, and like the many hick-chicks before her, she took the marriage route to escape a dreary future. The teenaged Sunanda met and married fellow Kashmiri Pandit Sanjay Raina, a hotel management graduate, while she was still studying in the Government College for Women, Srinagar, between 1986 and 1988.
But it wasn’t Raina who took her to Dubai; it was his best friend, Sujith Menon, whom she married within two years of her failed first marriage. The couple landed in Dubai in the early ’90s—Menon settled in a job with the insurance company, Eagle Star, while Sunanda worked as an accounts exec with the marketing and ad agency, Bozell Prime. Their lives would have soon settled into a mundane routine if it were not for Sunanda’s hyper hunger to rise above the plain folks. She begged her friends for invitations to glam events and then cashed in on the ’90s marketing trends of organising small-time fashion shows.
She soon catapulted into the world of event management, of the C-class variety—of starlets and bimbos—but stunned her colleagues with her insatiable ambition. She figured out the magic formula and began networking hard and fast—tying up with artists, getting sponsors, and making a small, tidy profit from the enterprise. Her skills in occasionally getting well-known sponsors made her rivals green with envy but the snide bitching barely fazed her. Says a former rival acidly, “Sunanda would claw her way to a sponsor and have him eating out of her hands, she was not a girl’s girl.”
Not surprisingly, Sunanda was leaving not just her friends behind but her husband too. Their last attempt to save the marriage in a collaborative business deal was disastrous both financially and emotionally. They staged a fashion event which turned out to be a dud, and Menon had to finally leave Dubai after falling out with his company. He, tragically, took his own life later in India.
Sunanda, though, continued to live in Dubai with her son, struggling as a small-time event manager. She moved in as a paying guest with a girlfriend in the more modest suburb of Satwa, in a pokey apartment above a supermarket, changed her name to Sue, in middle-class western-trendy, unusually adopted her father’s name Poshkar (and turned it to Pushkar), rather than the surname, Dass. Her business card read Sue P. Menon, and till today, Dubai knows her as Sue rather than the vernacular Sunanda.
By the late ’90s, Sunanda had joined the emigre rush to Canada, and moved to Toronto with her son and a new banker companion. But she hated her life in an Indian ghetto in a white town, and yearned to return to dazzling Dubai. She was back in Dubai within a few years, but this time with a Canadian citizenship and passport to boot. Her new status liberated her from the tough immigration rules and visa restrictions reserved for South Asian citizens, and she soon saw an opportunity in this new-found freedom.
By 2005, Sunanda had joined tecom, and was poised to ride the wave of the swelling real estate boom. A famous socialite in Delhi remembers meeting her a year later in the Capital when she was introduced as the companion of another successful Kashmiri businessman living between Dubai and London. “She was soon handing out business cards as a real estate promoter,” says the social queen, “and inviting people for investment opportunities in booming Dubai. She struck me as someone on the go, but I must confess I didn’t recognise her in the pictures today, she looks quite different.”
Sunanda-watchers in Dubai say it was around this time she adopted her new style statement—Dubai flash trash of peroxide hair streaks, heavy make-up, razzle-dazzle, seductive couture, false eyelashes, chrome nail paint, and Louis Vuitton victimhood. It was a sign of her arrival in the league of the neo-rich tycoons.

When Tharoor and wife Christa landed there in ’07, Sunanda was the P3P queen of Masala Dubai.

It was also the time (2007) when Tharoor and his Canadian wife Christa Giles (he had been earlier married to Tilottama Mukherjee) landed in Dubai to take up residency after he joined the investment firm, Afras Ventures. They were on opposite sides of the glistening turf—while Tharoor and wife were cocooned with the Big Boys from Kerala, Sunanda was the p3p Queen of Masala Dubai, chasing the glittering mirage with vampire-like thirst—hyper networking and coursing business deals. Then Dubai was Las Vegas on acid, the boardroom was the lounge bar, the deal room was the penthouse. It was party time.
And as Sunanda orbited faster into the inner circles of the mega rich—she was now the exotic Sunanda from Kashmir—she and Tharoor met in October 2009, at a soiree hosted by Sunny Varkey, the billionaire owner of the GEMS education empire, and the evening turned electric.
It was a whirlwind affair and to Tharoor’s credit, he outed Sunanda almost immediately, especially in Delhi, as the official consort of the MoS, external affairs. Their eagerness to be accepted in the power capital was evident with their presence at every social do and event. Sure, it’s hard to make friends when you are living between two cities, but as a hostess sniffs, “Sunanda invites people she meets on a plane for an intimate dinner with the minister. It may be first class but this is not Dubai, this is Delhi, where pedigree counts, not wannabe.”
So, will Tharoor give up the chair for his lady love? It’s a 21st-century tale of love in the time of opportunity.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is the IPL party finally over....??

The story isn't over till the Fat Man sings. Welllllll..... the Fat Man ain't singing. The song is off key, anyway. And now that the guns are trained on Tainted Modi ( Shashi Tharoor was neatly disposed off) , there are several bigwigs running for cover. Behaving like machchar being pursued with a can of mosquito repellant.
Shilpa Shetty has given Modi a clean chit from her side, declaring his innocence and requesting the media not to make this any murkier. Unfortunately, our journos behave like purring pussycats in the presence of Bollywood types. Nobody challenged her.... nobody asked pointed ,well researched questions about her own involvement, where she had got the money from.... whether she knew who the other investors were etc. She grandly said her piece and swept out of the venue. Anywhere else in the world, her syrupy words and impertinent references to the press, would have led to a barrage of uncomfortable questions. Instead of squirming under scrutiny, she smirked and stuck to her prepared, well rehearsed script, about the IPL generating revenues for the country, bringing glory to India etc etc. AAAARGH!
This column appeared in the Bombay Times yesterday....
There are people in Mumbai who remember partying with a tall, pretty woman called Sunanda Pushkar, who at that stage ( a few years ago) claimed she was Canadian. From all accounts she was striking enough for those admirers to goofily recall the heady evenings when Sunanda served delicious Kashmiri specialities, especially cooked by her. “ She was such a sweet and simple person,” they now exclaim, staring at the pictures of a brassy, brazen blond who has inadvertently opened a Pandora’s box and spilled far too many dirty secrets about the sleazy IPL shenanigans. So….. what happened to that sweet and simple Kashmiri-Canadian beauty? She turned into Sushi!! ( Sunanda meets Shashi – geddit?). Nothing was ever the same again. The wheeling and dealing days of Sunanda’s influential friends - the IPL high fliers - are clearly over, now that the excreta has hit the ceiling. But what will become of Sunanda – the femme fatale at the centre of the controversy? Will the dashing Tharoor make an honest woman out of her once the divorce from his second wife ( another Canadian!) comes through? Will the two of them ( Sushi) lie low and stay away from the spotlight till the muck settles down? Will Sunanda jump on the first flight back to Dubai? Will she continue to run her beauty business and spa? Or will Delhi society neatly absorb her the same way it does numerous other dodgy men and women? Strangely enough, nobody in Dubai’s small and close- knit NRI social circuit recalls coming across Sunanda at the innumerable parties this crowd is known to throw. A rather puzzled lady from Dubai, visiting Mumbai over the weekend , wondered aloud about Sunanda’s mysterious credentials, saying, “ It is such a small community of Indian and Pakistani expats living in Dubai, everybody knows everybody else. Someone as attractive and ambitious as Sunanda would have been hard to ignore or miss.”
If she is indeed such a mystery woman, it is all the more surprising that our suave ministerji ( External Affairs, at that) was indiscreet enough to get mixed up with someone like her. It is a sensitive post in a sensitive ministry. Tharoor maybe a comparative stranger to desi political life, but he’s no spring chicken or greenhorn. Public life is not new to him, given his earlier United Nations posting. Assuming he fell for Sunanda’s undeniable charms and said ‘to hell with the consequences’ ( it happens), it is incredibly naïve of him to have got her and himself mixed up in the Kochi conundrum. People were openly laughing at the way he was done in (presuming he was taken for a ride, and not the other way around). But look at it another way – Sunanda may have done everybody a favour. Had it not been for her very visible presence during the past week’s scandalous developments, would anybody have bothered to dig as deep? Thanks to her quotes ( and Shashi’s, of course), one thing led to another and now the sinister plot is known to all.Though, it is said what is known so far, is but the tip of the iceberg – the complications are just about beginning to unravel. Not that it will go much beyond the point it has reached – there is too much at stake, and too many sacred cows involved ( you’d be amazed at some of the names being thrown around). With such heavyweights ( literally and figuratively) in the picture, chances are they will find a fall guy to take the rap, and everyone will go home happy. Lalit Modi? Ha! He has survived criminal charges as a student in the U.S. – this is a piece of toast for the guy. As for all those very high profile people ( Bollywood jodis included), who partied nightly in his penthouse suite at central Mumbai’s posh hotel, well….. they are sure as hell running scared right now. Who knows what sort of witch hunt will follow? From income tax raids to drug busts to match fixing charges – anything is possible.
But it sure was fun while it lasted…..

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beautician and the Beasts...

Sorry..... forgot all about attaching the column in the earlier post. Here it is....

Beautician and the Beasts – ‘Su’ has a nose for trouble!

You are warned – this is going to get personal. Sorry Sunanda, but it is our business. Whenever there is an attractive, single woman at the centre of a controversy, it always gets personal. Besides the time to get down and dirty is now! After ‘Sho-nia’, who? The answer’s obvious ‘Su-shi’. This ‘Su-shi’ platter doesn’t even need a dash of wasabi to spice it up – our nostrils are on fire already. Of course, the media is going to chase the juiciest scandal after the Sania-Shoaib chakkar. Of course mediawallas will go overboard with every new dirty detail that emerges from the latest IPL lafda. Deal with it guys .Especially since at the epicenter of this delicious, salacious cracker of a story is a luscious woman. Someone who has emerged on the national scene out of nowhere and is likely to stick around, if she becomes our dishy ministerji’s third shrimatiji. Strange how readers and viewers have clearly indicated their insatiable appetite for more juicy details on Sunanda Push(y)-kar - and to hell with everything else. Lalit Modi’s very dodgy crime record ( according to press reports in the U.S. he was arrested in 1985 on charges of ‘conspiracy to traffic cocaine, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill’ . Phew!). Let’s put that down to, misguided, youthful follies as a student in America. His many misadventures thereafter are being duly reported on a daily basis, since the IPL war has heated up and the protagonists are all well matched, seasoned players. But, it is Sunanada who steals the show each time she tosses her bottle blond bob around, or readjusts her designer shades. A rather cruel tabloid report rubbed the lady’s nose in the ground after it managed to unearth some telling ten year old ‘before-and-after’ photographs of the former beautician.Apparently ,expert rhinoplasty fixed her old, extra long nose to produce the current pert one. The surgeon who was given a Padma Shri in 2009 for his contribution to the field of plastic surgery ( was it a belated ‘thank you’?), went on to reveal some more graphic details about other surgeries undertaken by the Kashmir Ki Kali, before she launched herself on the international scene as a player not to be messed with.
As things stand, she has given her gentleman friend ( Tweet King Tharoor) several charming character certificates. We now know he is a “kind, great, principled and honest guy”, who is her good friend. Tharoor has generously returned the compliments by assuring everybody that Sunanda is not just his good friend, but his very, very good friend, who is being hounded by the media because us unsophisticated folks in India do not know how to respect attractive, woman professionals ( Chanda Kochhar, Naina Kidwai, Zia Mody – protest forthwith!!!). Excuse me, but when someone has the audacity to pass such a sweeping judgement on successful female careerists in India ( considering Tharoor’s boss, Sonia Gandhi herself falls into this category), I’d say he and his lady love are asking for trouble. Today, more than ever, India is celebrating the incredible contribution of women in the work force. Women who have had to battle enormous resistance and prejudice to make their way in life. Sunanda Pushkar’s story does not fall into this category. Going by her own family’s accounts, Sunanda comes across as an adventurous woman who didn’t always play by conventional rules ( a source in her plastic surgeon’s clinic says she was not charged for the 3 or 4 lakh nose job since she had come with a ‘recommendation’). Her IPL supporters claim she was given a nearly 70-crore gift ( come on, let’s not confuse everybody with technicalities – call it sweat equity if you want. Gift, it is), for services she was going to render. Services such as marketing, event management and endorsement deals …. in the future. She herself said all this was in lieu of a salary. Sorry…. this doesn’t sound like an ace professional talking.
When women like Sunanda Pushkar hit the headlines, it sends out the most terrible message about women in the workplace. Let’s face it, Sunanda is as much of a hot potato as she is a hottie. Every possible stereotype is being dragged out of closets and paraded with a sneer and a predictable putdown that goes – “ See – what did I tell you? Women are like that, only!” No sir. No ma’am. For every Sunanda out there, there are thousands of exceedingly hard working, extraordinarily committed women merely doing their job. And yes. Many of them are stunningly attractive,too.
When Tharoor tried to make India go on a guilt trip about his future wife, it was a low blow. Love can make even the world’s sharpest, smoothest Casanovas behave in an irrational, gooey ‘lattoo’ way.While we fully understand the Minister’s heart condition and wish him well with his latest bride-to-be, this is one coup de coeur that goes beyond his personal life. Today, the IPL story has brought disrepute to not just the game of cricket but several prominent personalities. It has also focused attention on the rot and corruption that lie behind the glamour and glitz of this multi-crore tournament. Charges of rampant drug abuse, underworld involvement, hawala transactions, prostitution, bribery and worse are doing the rounds. With so much sleaze and muck to deal with, the game itself has become incidental.And the man who set the ball rolling – Lalit Modi – will find it near impossible to crawl out of this pit unscathed. I have no sympathy for these big boys. They know how to take care of themselves. I have no sympathy for the lovebirds, ‘Su-shi’ either. By the time their big day arrives, there will be enough people to dance at the baraat ( as it happened during the ‘Sho-nia’ shaadi). We are great ones for celebrating ‘weddings-sheddings’…. that’s us. Sentimental fools, all. In this case, the bride has a lot to blush about. And so does the groom. But at least one thing is guaranteed after the garlands are exchanged – no more bad hair days for Shashi. Jai ho!

Cherchez la femme... and round up those Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

I just had to take a break from all that hypocritical rubbish on television right now. Especially Farouq Abdullah making the silliest, most sexist comments that had no relevance to the IPL controversy. He was all but drooling on Barkha's show when he talked about Sunanda and how beautiful she is.... like that took care of everything, including the sleaze factor. He was even sillier on Karan Thapar's show when he talked about the role of politicians who can make things happen 'rapidly' and open doors for people like Lalit Modi! Tell us about it! He claimed he was doing all this for the people of his state..... I left the room, unable to hear another idiotic word on the subject. At the time of posting this entry, Tharoor was still hanging in there but Sunanda had 'surrendered' her sweat equity ( some sacrifice ). Her lawyer in Dubai and Abdullah in studios conveyed that this great act of hers was enough to let her and her boy friend off the hook. It took a BJP lady to ask whether a thief is declared innocent if he\she returns what was stolen. Gosh.... the Indian Private League of 'chaalu' people is likely to dominate the news for a while to come, especially if Tharoor steps down tonight as expected. But that will not solve a thing!! Now that the can of worms has been pried open, let's go all the way .... nail all those biggies once and for all. Spare noone. Himmat hai sarkar ko?? Not a chance. Everybody has something on everyone else. The name of this game is blackmail.... with corruption going all the way to the top. ALL THE WAY!
Interesting to find out who planted those low intensity bombs in Bangalore. Sounds too amateurish to be the work of hard core terrorists. It appears to be the clumsy handiwork of people interested in distracting investigators and the public from core issues that are threatening to destroy the IPL itself. What a monster the game of cricket has become. Toba. Toba.
This column appeared today in the Sunday Times of India....

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bikki Oberoi rocks!!

I have known and interacted with Bikki Oberoi over the years and always found him an exceptionally charming man. I don't say this lightly for his is not a switched-on, 'society charm'. This soft spoken, dapper man has to walk into a room to take it over - yup - just like that. Effortlessly. And, mind you, he is a compact package, just over five feet in height. But you can't miss him . Even to this day, he works tirelessly for his hotels with the same level of energy, shrewdness and passion that once defined his legendary father, Rai Bahadur Oberoi's style of functioning.
So it was no surprise when he sent out a personalised invitation to announce the re-opening of his Mumbai hotel - the same one you probably saw on television screens when the 26\11 terrorists devastated the posh premises and killed several guests ( we lost five friends ourselves). What makes this invitation rather extraordinary is the genteel, discreet wording. Bikki isn't merely inviting his friends to a grand opening night party - oh no - been there, done that! He is inviting them to stay at his refurbished hotel - not just for that one magical night, but for as long as they like!!!!
How's that for class??
Is this a first in the luxurious world of international hospitality?
Wonder how many well-heeled invitees will take him up on this super extravagant offer???
I am tempted....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The whole nine yards.....

Guys, I have just come back from watching the most thrilling cricket match where 'my' team won! Why my team? Well, I am a Mumbaikar, the Mumbai Indians are like a home team, they were playing in Mumbai, and the owners invited us to cheer. Simple! Not that I know too much about cricket's countless intricacies, but what I enjoy is the atmosphere. Today it was beyond electrifying and I am just so glad I kept my writing on hold to enjoy a few hours of pure, undiluted adrenaline. At one point, while watching the energetic Mumbai Indians' cheerleaders doing their thing with the pom poms, I turned to Mukesh Ambani and suggested a change in their routine and costume. Assuming the Mumbai Indians make it to the finals ( and they have a bloody good chance here), perhaps those comely blondes sporting the blue and gold colours of the team on their butts in outfits that are oh-so-predictable ( hot pants, athletic bras, gold boots), could switch gear and wear Maharashtra's original nine yard kashta saree with sexy cholis?? I can't think of a more sensual statement. Since the kashta saree is worn like a dhoti, through the legs, it won't hamper their energetic moves either - my recommendation for the dance routine is the local 'lavni' which is as raunchy as you can get without getting arrested. Mukesh LOVED the idea and said he would 'implement it' immediately. I genuinely believe cheerleaders clad in nine yard sarees ( they can keep those gold boots) and grooving to 'Aikka Dajiba' would be far hotter than these all- American chicks swinging to dated Bollywood hits
( " aaallllll eeeez welllll."). Well .... if the idea does get 'implemented' .... you know where it came from. I'll extract my pound of flesh from Mukesh through the totally yummy Delhi-style chaats he and Nita serve at their dinners.
Talking of food, apres- match, we came home to our standard Bong khaabar, but there was also a treat in store. Our lovely neighbour Amishi Dhanuka did it again!! Don't stop, I want to tell her. What did she do?? Amishi had sent the most subtle and exquisite 'sandesh' from Kolkata which we nibbled at and savoured tiny bits of, because it is just so precious. It is not your garden variety sandesh - it is sandesh from an old mishti maker, Girish Chandra Dey, whose family has been producing sandesh for gourmets since 1844. And I thought to myself - how silkily the French promote Fauchon - the world famous fine epicerie. Here we have Girish Chandra Dey, producing orgasmic sandesh flavoured with saffron stamen, cardamom, rose water and more. We take all this for granted and pay a pittance for such a refined culinary creation. I had the mad impulse to let the whole world know about this sandesh and how special it is - sigh - it's all about marketing, isn't it?
My husband told me to shut up and gorge. We were celebrating the Mumbai Indians win. That was the official excuse..... now for the finals. And more sandesh!!!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The De of the Penguin......

When I say last week went by in a happy blur that had nothing to do with the glasses of vintage bubbly consumed, you'd better believe it! It was an important week in my life. And 9th April, an important day. As my friend Rashmi Uday Singh put it on a clever cake she produced - it was the 'De of the Penguin." Not sure how many people got the pun ( how many of you remember 'The Day of the Jackal'?) - but I was totally delighted and didn't really want to cut that terrific chocolate cake in the shape of a book which had the world famous Penguin Books logo on the cover. This was at the celebratory party thrown by John Makinson, the Chairman of Penguin Books, who'd flown in from London to announce the creation of a new imprint - The Shobhaa De Book. Yup. It is considered big deal in the world of international publishing. And it is most certainly a first. can pardon me for bragging just this once. I am on a high. It is every writer's dream to be a Penguin author someday. It was mine, too. It came true . And now, I'll be in the publisher's chair myself!! Full circle .... or what???? I call it 'redocking with the mothership'. Ever since the announcement, closet writers have been crawling out of the woodwork and bombarding me with manuscripts. Of course,there is a story in everyone. But .... hold on.... it's all in the telling, right??
In case you guys are interested in checking out the coverage, our Blogdost Aparna, has very kindly located a few links and posted them in Comments. It was a great party, even if I say so myself. The mogras on my right wrist added to the fragrance....
This appeared in Bombay Times today....

Has Goa lost its groove.....??
I received a call from one of the many bored wives who’d accompanied their husbands to the just concluded Goafest. She was cooped up in her room and wondering what to do with her time. The weather was beastly….and so was her mood. Aw come on, I said – nobody gets bored in Goa. Well, guess what?? These days people do!There are enough old Goa addicts sheepishly confessing that they are done with the beaches and boozing. Goa is no longer the glamourous, gorgeous getaway it once used to be. So…. what happened? Nobody can quite put their finger on when exactly Brand Goa got tarnished, but it would make a fascinating case study for those in the business of deconstructing brands – we need to get to the bottom of the story. Brands are such delicate and slippery commodities – people take years and years to build them, and boom – something slips, and the party’s over almost as soon as it started.
I was thinking of this in the context of three sports personalities – Sania, Tiger Woods and Michael Schumacher .The ‘Shonia’ saga has cost the newly minted Mrs. Malik two major brand endorsements. After all the naach gaana is over, and izzat-honour debates are done with, Sania will be carefully assessed for what she represents in the popular imagination. As of now, her ratings have taken a nosedive. Getting back into the game is not going to be easy. What sort of options does that leave a young woman, who has still to hit her thirties ? While I realize not everybody can be Saint Tendulkar, and lead a blemish free existence , most sports personalities are acutely aware of their limited shelf life and smartly cash in on the big bucks when the going is good. Sachin’s graph in this regard is exceptional by any standards. He started at the top and has remained there, with nobody even close to him in terms of stature. If Sania’s tennis itself is shakey, what is she left with…. what does she do next? Become a sports entrepreneur? Why not? She is sassy, sexy and feisty. I think she should have her own television show – and not restrict it to tennis alone. That would be the smartest way of leveraging her current brand – a bit of defiance, a generous amount of attitude ,loads of chutzpah, and a sharp tongue. A great package for a made-for-television personality. We could do with a few brats out there, in place of pontificating, pompous anchors who bellow and bully their way through shows.
Tiger Woods ki kahani is very different. His swing will have to do all the talking – and it had better talk championships. I am not sure if his shrewd minders were all that smart when they advised him to apologise publicly and go down the “ I am so ashamed of myself road.” He is a sports stud, for God’s sake – not a priest ( ooops – wrong analogy at this point). Whatever happened in the Woods’ marriage should have remained a miya-biwi affair. He needed to beg his wife’s forgiveness – not the world’s. Well, his endorsements will start rolling in once he holds a few major trophies aloft. He knows it. His minders know it, too. Besides, men are judged by an entirely different yardstick . Female athletes\personalities always have it tougher. Ho hum ….. so what else is new??

That leaves Schumi. And I can’t help but think about Madhuri Dixit. Why Madhuri?? Oh…. it’s the big comeback story. Never a good idea for superstars. When they leave at the height of their success – they should stick to the decision. Legends remain legends if they time their exits right. Schumacher has devalued his enviable positioning by signing up for a new season, when clearly he has lost his mojo. Just like Goa. Aaaah – that word. Mojo. It’s like lycra – either you have it or you don’t.

Monday, April 5, 2010

So, who's the liar??Yawn Yawn - not Sania-Shoaib again!!!

I swear this is it!! No matter what happens! Ayesha can opt for a sex change, Sania and Shoaib can elope in order to escape this tamasha, Sania can fuel rumours she is preggers. Or an ex-boyfriend of Ms. Mirza can emerge from the woodwork bellowing, " Yeh shaadi nahi ho sakti !" But I am done!The story has been flogged to death and there is nothing more left to peddle. Even the Thackerays have pulled out. Yup. It is that dead and dull.
Khair, we can keep our 'Mubarak ho' on hold for now.
Obama is officially Black. Tiger Woods remains in the dog house. And the IPL bores me.
For whatever it is worth.... read on....
My fiction writer’s mind is in overdrive. This is one story that cannot be topped by even the most enthu Bollywood script writer . It has enough masala in every twist to keep the masses ( and asses) salivating for more. Nothing gets readers and viewers as fired up as a salacious story involving young, good looking, affluent celebs. And if one of them ( guess who?) has loads of attitude to boot – wow!! The media has got itself a whopper of a winner. Sania-Shoaib ka gadbad ghotala has been front page news for days. And it is also the number one breaking news story on every channel, never mind the horrific rape of an MBA graduate in Pune. At the time of writing everyone including his uncle, aunt and neighbour , had been interviewed - from Lahore, Sialkot, Hyderabad and beyond. There were Sania sightings on the balcony of her Hyderabad villa. And we had been treated to theories galore, culled from available information. But despite the bombardment on all fronts, one thing is still unclear – who is the liar in this drama?? And above all – who is Ayesha?
I may be in a minority of one on this, but I am pretty sure Shoaib was misled at some point. The girl he thought he was marrying ( and he definitely did marry someone in this rather bizarre episode) may not have been the girl he thought he was in love with. Chances are, he met two girls ( Ayesha and Maha), fell for one, but accidentally married the other! Sounds absurd, but given the craziness of this entire set up, it is also possible. Somehow, and this may sound cruel, I cannot see a handsome, ambitious Pakistani cricketer falling for the rather plain looking, overweight girl - the same one we have been watching on television. These guys have the world’s best looking females throwing themselves at them. Why would he settle for someone like her, that too when his career was rocking, unless there was a catch in the story? I listened with interest as his brother- in- law Imran from Lahore, patiently and politely took viewers through the rigmarole, while Ayesha’s mother wept hysterically on Arnab’s show. Imran maintained that the girl who wooed Shoaib over the phone and internet, was in fact, not the same girl he’d flipped for in person, but her clever friend. He also said that the two or three times Shoaib went to Hyderabad to meet his bride-to-be, she was never there! And the family would come up with some lame excuse ( she had to leave town suddenly, she was in hospital undergoing surgery, she was in some other city on work) and distract Shoaib. Assuming Shoaib really and truly fell for this ruse, he must be one hell of a dumbo. And if he is such a dumbo, why is Sania the Smartie, marrying such a guy? Can’t be for the money ( she has much more), can’t be for the fame ( she is way ahead in the fame stakes), then why? Aaha – she has fallen for his boyish, good looks and rakish sex appeal. That’s it! She’s a woman in love, and as we all know, a woman in love will do anything… defend a scoundrel, stand by the fellow and agree to marry him, even though he may be married to someone else.
The date’s set. The wedding is on. Unless something changes between now and the 15th of April. Something significant and dramatic. Unless the real Ayesha turns up. The one Shoaib fell in love with. In which case, what will his current wife do??? Oh my God. This is getting a bit too complicated even for me. Must be the heat. I think I’ll go cool off and watch some cricket – oops, wrong game. Too many maidens getting bowled over.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lambey Race ka Ghoda.....!

Happy Easter! I had a traditional Easter feast at Alex and Namita Kuruvilla's art filled home, and gorged on the hard to resist culinary treats in an entirely unladylike manner. How can one not attack the typical Syrian Christian cuisine of Kerala ( dry beef is Alex's speciality)? Combine that with piping hot aapams from the griddle, dipped into a steaming chicken eshtew ... Oh god!! Stop me, someone! You get the story? It was the most perfect way to spend such a special sunday. Especially since Alex and Namita are such laid back, warm and chilled out hosts.
I pounced on the latest swimsuit issue of Vogue India ( Alex heads it ), and trust me when I say this - summer and white bikinis have never looked better! The theme is subtle but strong - 'The Dawn of Dusk' the magazine boldly states on the cover which features India's top models - not just any models - these are the ones who happen to possess the most delectable honey gold skin. In other words, these gorgeous ladies do not fall into the 'Fair and Lovely' mould - thank God! The entire issue celebrates dusky skin without any kind of overstatement or cheesy emphasis. This is really a big one for Vogue - a bold step to announce the arrival of dusky on the fashion front, after years of worshipping pale! Well done Alex!
I strongly recommend you go check this one out for yourself - it may just become a collector's item.
And here's my Sunday Times column.
For my take on Sania-Shoaib, you'll have to wait till tomorrow. Watch this space!


Dubai’s Sheikh Mo is a ‘lambey race ka ghoda’…

“ A man has two choices, either to be a follower or to show initiative… we greatly desire to be pioneers.”
Thus stated Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE,Ruler of Dubai.It was a clear and strong message – Dubai is open for business. Again. And if bail out partners, Abu Dhabi, are getting over ambitious, whoa, Sheikh Mo still has the best thoroughbreds and jockeys. He is certainly not in the mood to rein them in or hand over the Derby winnings. The jackpot remains in Dubai. And what better venue for a coming out party than the recently opened $ 1.5 billion race course complex? Sheikh Mo was in full flow as he welcomed 500 celebrities from across the globe for the priciest horse racing event on earth – the Dubai World Cup, where the prize money was a staggering $ 10 million ( the Brazilian winners went home a deliriously happy couple after their filly Gloria de Campeao won by a nose). But what left the generally hard-to-impress guests gasping was Sheikh Mo’s legendary hospitality. He had pulled out all the stops – with good reason. It was time for Depressed Dubai to reassure disheartened investors that ‘aaal eeez welll,” in the desert kingdom… the money is about to start rolling in once more, and hello!! Who said anything about those trendy sheesha bars shutting down?? Sure, building activity is not happening and the day-and-night cranes have stopped whirring, but wait a minute, Sheikh Mo has a thing or two to say about the future.
Protocol is protocol, even if you are a Russian oligarch. And the instructions were perfectly clear . You don’t talk to Sheikh Mo – Sheikh Mo talks to you. And when he does, you make sure to address him as ‘Your Highness’ ( he isn’t royalty, and comes from Bedouin stock , but so what, he’s the mighty ruler, remember?). But if his lovely wife, Princess Haya favours you with an audience, make sure she is addressed as ‘Your Royal Highness ,” ( she is legit royalty from neighbouring Jordan). Nobody was taking chances – these tips came as written instructions in a neat folder. The impressive Chinese delegation seemed bewildered ( peasants are not supposed to acknowledge such proletariat issues), but the Japanese could be spotted cheerfully bowing away to every dish dash that passed. It was obvious that there was a clever strategy behind the super lavish, shrewdly marketed weekend that saw British royals ( Prince Andrew , better known as Randy Andy) and Liz Hurley ( dressed like a lemon sherbet, and equally refreshing), besides business and media czars from everywhere, who were treated to a Phantom of their own to chauffeur them around. Sheikh Mo made his agenda abundantly clear during an informal speech on the beach ( interrupted by his own cell phone ringing loudly over the p.a. system). He talked about people standing by him during good times and bad, (“ You remember those who support you when things are down” – we hear you brother!), adding significantly that Dubai continues to value its independence, its cultural identity, its special position, and is not about to surrender or sell out There are leaders and leaders, he reminded the audience, but only one remains number one – “ because number two does not exist.” Wow! If there were VVIPs from Abu Dhabi present, they must have been hiding behind the camels.
Later, as he strolled hand-in-hand with his favourite wife ( same lady – Princess Haya), he once again sent out a message that wasn’t lost in translation – Dubai will remain the L.A. of this volatile region – a chilled out place for good timers to have an even better time ( alcohol service was not suspended during his address). The focus will remain on attracting international high rollers ready to put their money where their fun is. All that nonsense about banning wine in French cuisine, imposing bans on PDA s or implementing unrealistic dress codes, will be tossed out of the window, just in case Abu Dhabi was getting ideas. Oh…. about those innumerable abandoned buildings ( crazily overbuilt in the first place – there are enough empty apartments in Dubai to house half of Shanghai and all of Mumbai), the people will come. Or that’s the Dubai Dream. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi can model itself on Washington and become a political\cultural hub with an emphasis on education and mushrooming museums. Dubai will remain the desired destination for heavy duty, non-stop partying – the Middle East’s answer to Las Vegas. And if the tallest, swankiest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa – has had to be renamed in order to appease Abu Dhabi, it doesn’t matter. After all, it still stands in Dubai, where everything is bigger and brighter.
Nearly sixty thousand people watched that nail biting finish at the Dubai World Cup from those state of the art stands that are true architectural marvels. Heaven knows how many million across the globe watched the race (and the spectacular closing ceremony) over television. After the well synchronized fireworks, there were top class performances by Elton John and Carlos Santana. It was total paisa vasool – even if you didn’t win a dirham. That’s entertainment. That’s also brilliant P.R. As image building, morale boosting exercises go, this one is hard to beat .
Who says Dubai is broke??
Maybe we should hire Sheikh Mo for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi???

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Goodbye to a good soul....

I have just come back from a 'Besana'. For those who may not know what a 'Besana' is, let me tell you just one thing - it is perhaps the most healing and comforting post-funeral ritual whichever culture you compare it to. A traditional 'Besana' involves the entire community, which gathers together to comfort the family of the deceased. In this case, it was still more poignant since the person whose sudden death we were there to mourn ,was just 30 years old. It gets worse. He had taken his own life. After leaving a sweet and loving letter for his mother. So.... if the letter was sweet and loving, why did he do it? Because he could no longer live the life of someone suffering from a bipolar condition. He was done with the heavy medication and the abrupt mood swings that typify this syndrome. He wanted out.
What was extraordinary about this particular 'Besana' was the turnout. He was not a 'somebody' , not a celeb.... not even a celeb son. He was just a very loveable, very troubled young man who touched people's hearts with his simplicity and guilessness. A pure soul. An innocent human being . A person without a trace of malice. People adored him. People forgave him . Even when he drove them mad with his unpredictable behaviour.
I watched his mother dealing with the endless stream of mourners who had thronged to the venue to pay their last respects.... the hall was overflowing ( I had to stand outside, along with fifty others ), and his closest friends who'd been watching the IPL matches with him a few hours before he decided to end it all, were reading out tributes in choked voices, tears streaming down their faces, their complete puzzlement evident to everyone( why did he have to do it?). The framed picture said a lot - he was smiling happily in it, as if teasing fate. His older brother kept shaking his head in disbelief, wondering whether they had failed him in some way.
No they hadn't.
They had loved him in the only way they knew. And that was enough.
But try telling that to a devastated mother who could only recall their last conversation and ask herself why she hadn't sensed something terrible was about to happen...
I held her closely for a long, long time. And let her cry.
And when I left the venue..... I knew she would heal. Because that is what traditional 'Besanas' are for. Grieving and healing.Unlike 'Wakes' in the West, which are silent and solemn affairs, here in India, it is okay to cry openly, to express the grief you are feeling in your heart, to hug strangers and seek comfort, to converse compulsively about the person who has died, even to laugh at some of the memories. Emotions are there to be expressed, not suppressed. Sorrow is there to be shared , not buried. And the memory of the person is meant to remain as fresh as the flower garlands adorning the portrait of the deceased, as fragrant as the incense burning slowly through the long proceedings.
I looked at the beautifully turned out Gujarati ladies in crisp organdie sarees, their delicate ear lobes curling slightly with the weight of flawless solitaires. I looked again at the shell -shocked mother who had tragically lost her most precious, most priceless jewel.
Farewell darling 'N'. We will always love and miss you...
It is going to be a long and lonely night....