Saturday, July 17, 2010

Small town India hits big time....

Okay... so here's a pic of TopGun Ravi just before we took off on the first leg of our chopper ride across the emerald isle that I so love. This was right next to the Galle Fort, which is truly magnificent. We had spent two incredible days at The Dutch House ( a converted orphanage, built in 1712 and now run as a boutique hotel by Geoffrey Dobbs, who had generously given me the same suite as the one Sting had occupied). Our Indian cricketers may party there when they play in Galle - it is a jewel of a place, with a great resident chef. But to get back to Ravi, he is a man with nerves of steel, I can tell you. Throughout that ordeal flying in the blinding rain, he kept up a cheerful banter with three nervous ladies on board, and joked about our co-piloting skills being terrible! Now that he has us as founder members of his fan club, I am sure his repertoire of wisecracks will get still better!

The other pics are taken in Colombo. The first one at 'Barefoot' where I met readers and signed books. It is much more than Colombo's very stylish lifestyle destination, I can tell you. It has a great cafe attached, and the most beautiful cotton sarongs in the boutique. The saree pic is at the Galle Face Hotel just before my book reading and 'in conversation'. The gentleman in the pic is one of the oldest employees of this historic hotel ( older than Mumbai's classic Taj Mahal Hotel, and equally beautiful). I make it a point to meet him each time I'm in Colombo. I love this property, and the gracious owners, Sanjeev and Surekha Gardiner, who host the most elegant dinners ( would you like to see those pics?), in '1864', their fine dining restaurant. Oh.... I have more images which do NOT feature me. Perhaps you'd prefer those.....?? Say the word , guys.... I can handle it! Swear!!


This appeared in The Asian Age today...

Small town India hits the big time….

It’s all about the numbers.And right now Dhoni’s numbers are looking just great! Signing a staggering Rs 210 cr endorsements’ deal isn’t exactly small change, particularly in these tough times when even international superstars are accepting paycuts. What cricket fans are getting all excited over is the fact that Dhoni at age 29 has gone past the 37 - year- old Tendulkar’s record Rs180 cr deal which ended in 2009. Come on guys…. haven’t you heard of that old saying which goes….the old order changeth yielding place to new? Shakespeare sure knew a thing or two about jawaani deewani…and the premium attached to it. Dhoni is on top of his game ( and I am not restricting that to cricket). He has displayed the sort of robust common sense that has seen him through various crises, professional and personal. And now as a newly minted bridegroom, even his previous romantic chakkars with assorted Bollywood\Fashion lovelies are taken care of. Dhoni is the ultimate symbol of aspirational\inspirational India. What is there not to like and love about this guy? He is handsome, self made and successful. His entry into the big ticket world of international cricket has been entirely on merit, without the benevolent hand of a powerful godfather over his head. He has seamlessly negotiated the murky political cess pool that is cricket today, winning the Captain Cool tag in the bargain. The man is a bloody modern day marvel ! He can act, he can sing, he can dance…. who knows … maybe he can walk on water, too. For all that, Dhoni remains a small town guy – and that’s where his real strength lies.
Something major is underway in small time India that most big city folks have paid scant attention to. One can sense it each time a journey into the hinterland is undertaken. This goes beyond malls and money. But hey – why not begin with the malls and money? Wasn’t it a dumb Mercedes dealer who stupidly ignored an order for 83 swanky Mercs, because he couldn’t believe that farmers from Aurangabad would be serious about such a gigantic purchase? But guess what? That’s where the actual lolly is…. in dem hills. And those guys in shiney suits living in India’s Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities are the fat cats shrewd advertisers and marketers should be aggressively chasing – instead of the comparatively kadka urban socialites sporting designer logos on their bums. Logos, that in all probability have their origins in the fake goods factories in Taiwan. Talking to the Delhi franchisees of the most prestigious luxury labels in the world, I was told that most of their sales are generated by farmers from Punjab, who make special ‘trousseau trips’ to the capital to pick up the priciest ‘It’ bags and designer gear for their darling daughters. It’s a strictly ‘Cash-and Carry’ crowd of dedicated shoppers and these guys justifiably believe money talks. Bundles of thousand rupee notes carried in inconspicuous plastic bags are poured on to the counter, much to the horror of the snooty sales’ team , accustomed to bowing and scraping in the presence of Bollywood stars looking for freebies. Not that this lack of so-called ‘class’ matters to their bosses in Milan, London or New York. Those foreign number crunchers rub their hands in glee as the euros, dollars and pounds roll in – from rural India, of all places! Given the dismal economic story dominating Europe, what would these snob stores do without the patronage of our richie rich kisaans and shetkaris?
And so it goes on other levels as well. Small town India has come into its own, be it in Bollywood or in big business. When I read about the 23 year-old Kangana Ranaut from Himachal Pradesh booking a sprawling four bedroom apartment in Mumbai’s tony Bandra neighbourhood for a whopping Rs. 15 crores, I fell off my chair! Here’s a girl who gate crashed into Bollywood less than five years ago, hooked up with a much married, much older Aditya Pancholi, broke up with the same bloke after a few well publicized spats, made a couple of small budget films, got noticed, got fame, got new boy friends… and… and got rich. Seriously rich. Today, she zooms around in the latest Audi, wears the best designer labels, signs countless movies, and is right up there in the showbiz pecking order.
One would imagine that Dhoni and Kangana would have nothing in common - but they do! It is the fascinating journey of two young and daring people to the top of the heap that makes them interesting. On a recent trip to Sri Lanka, I got talking to a hugely successful businessman ( you could call him the beer king of the island), who said he was not interested in the pursuit if either money or admiration. Loftily…. very loftily, he added such a chase was for the under-privileged and the hungry, who need both. But for someone like him, born into one of the wealthiest and most privileged families, his dream, he said airily, was to appreciate beauty and enjoy life! Lucky bugger, I thought to myself, as he picked at his gourmet lunch in Colombo’s smartest restaurant. He pointed to a brand new and very gaudy high rise apartment close by. “ It’s expensive …. even by Indian standards. But would I live in it? Never! It’s for the peasants who have made money and are stupid enough to move to the city.” Earlier that day, I had met a tea garden owner whose exclusive ‘ Virgin White Tea’ retails in fancy tea boutiques in New York and Paris for $1,500 per 10 grammes! I kid you not. What makes this tea so special? The publicity claims it is picked by virgins (“ But I don’t certify them,” he chuckled wickedly) who cut the leaves with a pair of gold scissors and collect them in a gold bowl. Well, that’s a part of the myth.But the extraordinary success of his limited edition tea has made it possible for his workers to dream technicolour dreams. One of those fit and handsome boys playing cricket in the field close by, could well replace Kumar Sangakarra, the dashing captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team, in the near future.
There are versions of Dhonis and Kanganas being born every day in some small, relatively obscure part of our world. Who knows – the Commonwealth Games may throw up a few right here in our backyard.May the best underdog win …. and all that rot. While we are at it, let’s ask Oracle Paul what the odds are of India winning even a single measly medal?


सुशीला पुरी said...


Alpana Verma said...

Thanks for posting these pics...In picture ..chopper gets all my attention[Sorry :P]..Great trip you doubts!
In second pic..yellow and green dominates..:)
third pic..Gentleman[old employee of the hotel]steal the show..:P
but You look so beautiful and admirable in the last pic.
please share other pics too.
Nothing to say about Kangana.
You know..Paul is retired now..many other versions would be in the market :D..have to find out about them.

RAJ47 said...

Hi Shobhaa,
You look so....... refreshingly vibrant in all the pics including the one in the last post with your daughter in yellow dress, that one wants to reach out and hug you.
The pic in "Morpankhi" dress is really very summery.
Post only the ones with you or your family in it.
Keep them coming.

Anil Kumar said...

Your column is similar to Gavaskar's expert comments during cricket matches. Gavaskar praises or criticizes a player's shot selection based on whether he scored a boundry or got out. He is such a mediocre commentator, I wonder how he is still the most respected one in India.

Dhoni is good material to be captain of the side. But he doesn't deserve these kind of stupid deals worth 200 crores. It's a case of of Khuda meharbaan tto gadhaa pahalwaan.

There are so many jokers in the advertising industries who give so much money to some of these average cricket players. And once this gets into their head they play for themselves, rather than for their country.

It's same Dhoni who has a dismal record in past three competitions when all cricketing nations played.

As Bishop the great west indian player rightly said....the Indian players are good at home and are spineless when it comes to facing the opposition under difficult situation. Dhoni is no different..

a hindu seeker said...

as for dhoni, he got married to the daughter of his father's friend. both used to work together in a pump station. so not only did he follow the conventions and customs of his family but also he makes a point to live a modern life.

as for kangana, there was a time when she was being laughed off for not being able to speak english pretty well. now the things are different.

as for you shobhaa, you have got a good writing sense, i will give you that. i envy your writing style but given the fact that you have been doing this since the age of 11 (as you say it) it's fairly obvious and unsurprising.

Unknown said...

post more pics shobhaa......we wont mind even the pics DONT feature u!
u compare dhoni with kangana? of course,both of them come from small towns.but,i think the comparision ends there.helluva difference between their professional standing... said...

nice...and u look very refreshing!!!

Anonymous said...

The best about Shobhaa(aunty?):
She knows she is an attraction - writing skills or looks or both.

Unknown said...

Dear Shobhaaji,
This is my first ever comment on your blog. I regularly read the interesting articles you write on your blog. Your writing style is somewhat simillar to Great English writer Charles Dickens. But what I feel sad is that you devote most of your precious time and blog space either for either bollywood, mostly, or non-bollywood celebrities. I just want to remind your goodselves that Shobhha De is not an ordinary blogger, neither a mediocre writer. Your columns are read by millions of people in the sub-continent. You have more reach than Sonai Gandhi. So, please raise more social problems faced by ordinary people instead of praising the so-called celebrtities.

kakaka said...

well shobha advertisers dont go after these guys is becuz..unlike people living in cities, these people believe in kundalis and not the latest trends. Most of them might not be interested in the all of this. And you are wrong when you say urban kadkas....urban dwellers have become kadkads becuz we spend so much ...we dont know how to save..but given the bad roads,pollution, small appts everything i would still live in a city anyday.

Vrinda said...

No matter how much worth deals Dhoni signs, he's worth for nothing.

Kangna she is an awesome actress, she deserves it.

goodluck said...

I dont grudge Dhoni or Kangana. it is simply money changing hands. It is the way capitalism works. Money goes to people who already have enough while the needy die of hunger and unemployment.
Saree makes you look gorgeous whereas dresses make you look not so gorgeous. That is the beauty of saree.You, Hema and Rekha are the real divas along with Dimple Kapadia. Taller people have this advantage.
As for that wealthy creep who calls others peasants must be suffering from huge inferiority complex. This mentally ugly fellow wants to find physical beauty!

Reflections said...

Loved the post...thought-provoking really:-)!!!!

Buzzintown Blogger said...

i agree @goodluck...Shobhaa you look great in saree. Awesome saree!!!!!

Hope you'll continue sharing more pictures. Without pictures a post looks very bland.

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Pooja Rathore said...

Maa De,
I liked the picture ( the one you are wearing gown nice dress ) you look beautiful and fresh. post small town hits big time- agree with your views - good observation and comparison.
Both Dhoni and Kangana deserve to be at the top i like both of them.

james said...

Shobha, you look beautiful in the beige sari. That colour is a killer on you. About small town talent- I couldn't agree more. If the talent were tapped among other prizes India would be winning many gold medals in the olympics. Another example is the singing talent contests. Remember when Sa re ga ma started? It created a sensation at the time and opened the doors for the many young superb singers we now listen to. The Indian habit of nepotism and dynasty results in a lot of mediocrity. James

Sidhusaaheb said...

Cricketers from rural or semi-urban areas have made it big before in this country and so that's not new. The major change that has come about, perhaps, is that the advent of Twenty-20 cricket has brought along a number of new opportunities for players to earn more money, especially through endorsements.

Also, Hindi films have had heroines from Tier-2/Tier-3 cities before, isn't it?