Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Royal images from Bhutan...

Guys, I was looking in my folders for the column on Bhutan that was published on Sunday in the Times of India. It seems to have disappeared. If I can retrieve it from cyber space, I shall post it here... if not... well, a few delectable images will have to do. This is the gorgeous King (K2, for convenience) and his lovely fiancee Jetsun Pema. And the equally gorgeous Queen Mother with her pretty daughter ( mother of an 18 month old baby, would you believe it?). The search for the missing column shall continue tomorrow with renewed fervour. Till then... good night.

Monday, May 30, 2011

'Virgins Only' Club....

Just enjoyed a delightful tea session at home ( walnut-cream-mango cake, courtesy the delicious Ria), with a beautiful and spunky writer named Madhuri Banerjee. Her virgin book is titled, " Losing my virginity and other dumb ideas." More about the book after I read it tonight. It is selling very well.... but it desrves to sell even better. Madhuri took three months to write this one. She's already on to her second one. And she's doing a special book for me as well. All this frenzied writing between looking after her three-year-old (an iPad addict! At 3!!!). Madhuri resembles a Raja Ravi Varma painting - which is what I'd told her when we first met.She's bright, fun and very clever. I have suggested a 'Virgins Only' Facebook Club to her - what do you think? Any takers??


This appeared in Bombay times today...

Thank God it’s over….!

What’s the bet I don’t have to specify “what’s over” and that everybody reading the heading will know what exactly I’m referring to.For dummies who haven’t got it – it’s the IPL. Call it the law of diminishing returns, but something vital was missing this year. And that something was addiction. Any sport that does not generate passion (“If I don’t watch this match, I’ll die!”), has failed in its main objective, which is to hook loyal fans. And hook them so bad, they are willing to put their lives, wives, husbands, kids, food… even loo breaks , on hold so as not to miss a micro second of the action. The last time cricket generated such frenzy in India was during the World Cup Finals. It has been downhill since then. There was zero hysteria during the IPL Finals. At least in Mumbai ( perhaps because the home town team had crashed out). But that shouldn’t matter all that much to lovers of the game. Well, right after the win, I was at the International airport to collect my daughter. The TV screens were flashing cricket news and showing clips of the awards’ ceremony. Most people were indifferent, asking one another in an idle way, “So, boss… who won?” and not waiting for an answer. Even recent controversies ( Gambhir’s injuries and more) did not light any fires. As to which B-Team will piously play test cricket for the country ( heck! We all know those guys are compromise candidates and sure as hell would rather play for big bucks than Bharat Desh, given the chance), the mighty Board needs to wake up and smell the coffee. To what extent can you flog a game and its star players without fatigue ( physical and psychological ) setting in? If it’s only about the money, more’s the reason to stop and assess the excess-factor which is killing the game. Even those energetic, skimpily -clad Cheerleaders have lost their novelty. Nobody ogles them any longer. Commentators in badly tailored kurtas tried hard to pump up adrenaline levels this year by cutting cheesy jokes and making the format more interactive via Twitter. But ‘illey’, nothing worked to break through the apathy of viewers. Empty stands told their own story. Give us ( and those over- worked cricketers) a break, guys… you’ll be doing cricket a huge favour! Let’s get the mojo back into the Gentleman’s Game before cricket itself dies.
Ah… the airport scene. Have you noticed one recent phenomenon? The number of wheel chair passengers seems to have gone up dramatically in the last couple of years. Does that mean more invalids are traveling abroad these days? Naah! I have watched perfectly sturdy people demanding the service… and getting it! No, they aren’t senior citizens with any visible health issues. On board, their mobility levels are just fine. And the minute they get out of the terminal building, they forget their ailments and jump out of the wheelchair enthusiastically to greet relatives. So, how come they need assistance only during the long walk from the aircraft to the exit? Airport authorities need to put in a couple of new processes to filter lazy bounders from genuine patients. It certainly looks as if the system is being taken advantage of by people who simply don’t wish to exert themselves! If they are well enough to undertake a hectic tour of Europe without collapsing, they are well enough to walk out on their own like everybody else.Standing outside the terminal, I felt I was at the Olympics for physically challenged people going by the procession of wheelchairs emerging from the exit. Sorry… this is not an insensitive remark. Try queuing up behind a long line of such types during peak hours at immigration counters and tell me you don’t feel like dragging out a few of those privileged, perfectly fit people from their wheelchairs and saying, “Walk the Talk!” Or, stay home.
Poor Bips may have been unfairly targeted by Customs’ officials, even though she disarmed her tormentors, by giving them a big thumbs up later for doing their job well. But we still need to get our perspectives right. If high- end jewelry attracts a stiff penalty, are designer handbags and shoes less expensive? Most of the Customs’ guys are exceedingly well- informed and brand savvy. They know their Gucci from a Pucci. Perhaps Bips bought her goodies at throwaway prices during a heavily discounted distress sale? Or they were luscious gifts from a besotted admirer??? Lucky girl…. she waltzed away after paying a measly 12k. Ooohhhh – the power of dimples and curves!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

It's more fun in the 'burbs....

This appeared in Bombay Times...

It’s more fun in the ‘Burbs….!

Heavens!! No self-respecting SOBO resident will ever admit it openly…. but let’s face it. SOBO is on its last legs. It’s all over. Increasingly, those very same snobs who once turned up their noses before deigning to cross the Kemp’s Corner flyover, are waking up to a new and rather annoying reality : the ‘Burbs are rocking! The ‘Burbs are where all the action has shifted. That’s where the big bucks are… and with all that lolly floating around, can glam-sham be far behind? The era of the Suburban Dhamaka began ten years ago. At the time, it was thought to be a freak thing…. some mad people had decided they’d had enough of SOBO slumming – and headed north. People laughed and concluded these guys could no longer afford to stay in the real Mumbai – which was , of course, located in the South. They gloated each time those poor suckers had to trek to their old stomping ground to shop, entertain, eat out in style or party with the ‘right’ crowd at the ‘right’ places. Bandra was the absolute outpost. After Bandra, there was wilderness. The boondocks. Juhu was where the Bollywoodwallahs lived. Andheri was reserved for television types. In between were all these depressing areas filled with non-descript people who didn’t interest anybody. Oh well…. how foolish and comical does all this sound today! No wonder suburbanites are smugly challenging the sniffy SOBO crowd to take a walk on the wild side… leave the safety of their boring homes and check out what’s happening on the other side of that Sea Link.
Apparently, a lot!

South Mumbai wears a pretty deserted look these days. For one, the summer vacations are on. The babalogs with their bachchalogs ( plus maids) have fled for cooler climes. For another, nothing’s really going on, unless you count the IPL matches as big social events. Even the gossip is pretty thanda compared to the red hot developments in the ‘burbs. Going by breathless accounts in newly introduced masala columns( Mumbai Mirror runs a pretty sizzling one), while SOBO snores, the suburbs throb. Most of the splashiest, sexiest soirees are hosted up North. There is a new breed of dedicated , hard partying types that makes sure the music never stops. Most of the high profile hotties commanding premium space on society pages were unknown entities not so long ago. Today, they are the ones being chased by flashbulbs. More restaurants and lounge bars seem to be mushrooming in Yari Road ( wherever that is), than in Colaba. Dozens of boutiques selling top end watches, fashion and jewellery have opted for showrooms in Bhayandar and beyond. For all we know, Bhandup is all set for a make over, and may take over from Bandra as the preferred destination of the upwardly mobile. When that happens, it will be time to move. Preferably, to Bhutan.
Is it just a coincidence that some of the most creative commercials on television happen to be those promoting various telecom services? Don’t you just love the one featuring Mohan Agashe asking his grandson to locate an old acquaintance from way back when? The smart grandson does what any young person would do these days… gets onto FB. And… bingo! The old man Agashe is looking for, is promptly found, much to Agashe’s delight. What does Agashe do next? He decides to pay his former buddy a surprise visit. There is an old score to settle. When the two come face-to-face, Agashe greets his old rival-in-love…turns to the man’s wife and naughtily plants a kiss on her cheek ! Agashe and grandson scoot before the old man can react, laughing uproariously at the prank. Delightful, human, and original. Get idea , sirji! This one beats even you!
Au revoir Cannes. Phew! Thank God the maha tamasha is finally over. Let’s hope Bollywood puts up a better show next year, with quality films in place of tired mannequins. And ladies, do declare your borrowed rocks before jumping on that plane. Or else… kahani Minissha ki!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rajiv Gandhi - StyleBhai!

These are a couple of images from Bhutan. The one with Bhutan's Prime Minister is my favourite ( I am dressed in the traditional Bhutanese Kira) because Lyonchen Jigme Thinkey is such a sweetie! Seriously... he is an erudite, soft spoken, elegant and eloquent scholar. Bhutan is lucky to have him! His session with the delegates was the most fun, especially since he spoke so candidly about his rebellious youth when he sported shoulder length hair and wore jeans.
This was written for a special issue of The Week. It certainly brought back lovely memories of a Prime Minister who cut a fine figure - never mind his slightly loopy politics!


It helps to be handsome.Seriously handsome. Rajiv Gandhi was seriously handsome. An absolute, drool-worthy hottie. With good looks on that scale, anything he chose to wear would have become a style statement – even a sack cloth. Since there are two Rajiv Gandhis to deal with ( before and after becoming a neta), let’s start with the former and that yummy picture of Rajiv and Sonia gazing lovingly at each other, soon after their simple and stylish wedding. Sonia looks glorious with a curtain of heavy chestnut- coloured hair falling over her slim shoulders. But it is Rajiv who resembles a romantic movie star.Or a dishy Prince. This was at a time when Rajiv was very much a ‘bomber jacket and jeans’ sort of guy – laid back, international and effortlessly trendy. He wore leather and denim like his global contemporaries, his feet fashionably shod in the latest Gucci loafers. Critics never failed to take pot shots at his penchant for all things Italian – loafers included. In fact, he and his cronies were witheringly called the Gucci Gang or the Polo Babalog by detractors, who also pointed out Rajiv’s fondness for pricey, limited edition pens, fancy shades ( aviators, but of course, given his professional training as a pilot), and a watch collection that was the envy of connoisseurs. Yet, there was a charming, throwaway nonchalance to all this. An effortlessness about his appearance that added to the casual appeal. He left the flashbulbs to his younger brother Sanjay, who had rapidly switched gears to the politically correct, Congress-approved uniform of white kurta pajamas by then. Since Rajiv Gandhi shunned the spotlight in those early years, his personal sartorial style made zero impact, which must have suited him just fine. He was being himself – reticent and mild-mannered. Happy to be enjoying life as a young dad of two gorgeous kids and husband to a beautiful woman.
Overnight, Sanjay’s premature death caused Rajiv’s world to come crashing down and nothing remained the same after that – not even his wardrobe. He insisted he “Did it for Mummy,” (joined politics) and it’s fair to conclude he was being honest. But once that crucial decision to jump into the fray was taken , Rajiv Gandhi was a totally transformed man. For starters, he lost the hair on his head in the first year itself. He also lost a great deal of weight. Political life extracted a huge price from this man – emotionally and physically. From this point on, his public appearances became standardized - impeccably tailored white khadi kurta pajamas replaced those macho bomber jackets and jeans of old. The makeover was dramatic, sudden and complete. The only concessions he made to fashion at this stage were revealed in his selection of exquisite, one of a kind cotton angavastrams during summer, and meticulously embroidered Kashmiri shawls in winter. He also began the trend of draping those embroidered beauties in a certain way ( a la Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore – with the chador worn under the right arm and flung over the left shoulder). Occasionally, he’d slip into his favourite loafers or wear Ferragamo shoes , especially while traveling. But the trademark , perfectly starched and crisply ironed mid-calf kurtas dominated his wardrobe and were rapidly adopted as the unofficial dress code by his Congress coterie . One can see the trend continuing till today, with Rajiv’s Boys ( well into their sixties, now), still adhering to their late bossman’s original dress code.
It was when Rajiv Gandhi travelled overseas that he wowed the world and the well- cut ‘Bandgalas’ came out in full force – dove grey for morning functions, black for the night. His virgin trip to America, as Prime Minister, had the international press gasping – as much for his winning speech ( the best he ever made), as for his smart, dapper appearance.And yes, he wore a black Bandgala to the White House. Rajiv Gandhi may not have been a style icon in the Bollywood sense of the term. But he did influence an entire generation of young polticians to groom themselves better. Gone was the era of scruffy, paan- chewing netas dressed in shabby, often stained clothes. Gone also were those dreadful pot bellies , crumpled dhotis and discoloured Gandhi topis ( God knows why they were called that, considering Gandhi himself never wore one). If anybody wanted to hang with Rajiv and become a part of his inner circle , it was understood the person had to be well-groomed, polished and attractive. Apart from his Doon School buddies (who also promptly dumped their bespoke Savile Row suits and blazers for the boss-approved khadi gear), even the coquettish ladies in his entourage ( and we are not naming them!), were given a major thumbs up for their ‘ethnic’ fashion sensibilities ( Kanjeevaram sarees , kohl-lined eyes, big bindis and strictly no lipstick).Rajiv Gandhi made desi dressing ‘cool’ by his relaxed, chilled out approach to fashion. His legacy is still evident . Watch those young netas trooping into Parliament – it’s pure R.G. ‘ishstyle’ all the way – down to the designer loafers and prominent pens.
Rajiv Gandhi was the original Mr. Bandgala. Arun Nayar was merely a pretender !

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Meet Osama's Fifth Wife

Blogdosts, I am feeling super special today. Poochho, kyon? I was just gifted the latest iPad by my son Aditya, who came over for a rawa dosa... and I'm guessing the dosa was soooo yummy, he thought his mother deserved some serious appreciation!
Well... I now have a sexy gizmo that I'm treading carefully around. It is far too sophisticated for me. All those amazing functions... the stuff it's capable of... the only thing it can't do is produce a baby. Perhaps the next generation iPad will be able to reproduce, too! By this time next week, I'll become an expert. Or so I'm convincing myself. The raison d'etre behind this lavish gift , says Aditya, is to free me from the tyranny of old technology. Aditya's timing couldn't have been better - I shall pack my iPad when I leave for London next week. I'll be able to blog and tweet and write my columns idhar se, udhar se. What fun.


This appeared in The Week.....

Meet Mrs.Osama….

Poor woman. Imagine her predicament. First, she gets married off at age 17, to a man who is 25 years her senior. He also happens to be the most wanted terrorist on earth.She dutifully assumes her role as his fifth wife and produces a daughter Safiya. Then, after spending 12 years with him, she gets shot in the shin by a SEAL during the dramatic American attack on her secret mansion in Abbottabad. An attack that kills her notorious husband, Osama Bin Laden. Oooof! It can’t get any worse. But apparently,the same woman is supposedly singing like a canary these days from her hospital bed in Pakistan and revealing juicy details to Pakistani interrogators about her dead husband’s sex life. We now know from Amal al- Sadah, the Yemeni beauty that her 54- year -old husband needed the assistance of a herbal Viagra to get things going. At the time of stealth attack, Osama was in bed with Amal, his favourite wife. He was fully clad. This is an important factoid. Had he been naked, he would have been arrested but only after putting some clothes on. Apparently, one cannot arrest a naked person.Amal was fully clad as well. Early reports claimed she had screamed out her husband’s name and attacked the raiding party in a fit of rage. It was also said she’d been used as a human shield by Osama to defend himself. All those are mere folk tales… the narrative will keep changing as we go along. Depending on the story teller. But it is Amal’s extraordinary life as the wife of the dreaded Osama bin Laden that will continue to intrigue the world for years to come… even if she decides to write a ‘tell all’ book ( unlikely scenario, if she values her life and the life of her daughter).
Most women would love to know the nature of her relationship with her charismatic husband, now being portrayed as a frail, delusionary fellow , who dyed his grey beard and made comical videos of himself issuing threats to the world, while frequently flubbing his lines. Assuming she was his favourite wife, how did she share her man with the other two wives who also lived in the compound?Did they take turns? Throw lots? Get Osama to pick his nightly bed companion as per his whims? What did Amal talk about to her husband, since she was not allowed to leave the upper floors of their heavily guarded mansion for six long years? Did she not wonder about life outside that compound? Given that there was zero access to information and zero contact with anybody beyond those high walls, what did the poor woman do to amuse herself? No tv, no music, no scrabble, no retail therapy…? Okay, perhaps she kept herself busy cooking those goats the men bought on a daily basis. Even that is doubtful… unless the kitchen was on the upper floors where she lived as a virtual prisoner. Clearly, she couldn’t milk the cows in the compound – that was left to the men ( excluding her husband). She obviously didn’t join him as he paced around the compound after dusk. How many water melons could she have cut up and cleaned( Osama cured his chronic kidney ailment with a water- melon diet). God! Amal’s existence sounds like a living death to any woman of today. As someone joked, “How awful it must have been for Amal to live in a home with mismatched curtains, and lousy table linen.”
Trivialising the issue may be the only way to come to terms with this bizarre situation. Amal may have survived the attack, but as Osama’s widow, she’s a marked woman for life. Even if she does manage to go back to Yemen and start all over again ( she’s just 29, for heaven’s sake), she’ll never be able to live below the radar. Right now, there is a horrible tug- of- war going on between her Pakistani handlers and the Americans, who want free access to her. Amal remains the only real link that can provide credible details about a mysterious mastermind who held the world to ransom for close to a decade. What was life with Osama all about?How much does Amal know about his diabolical plans? Did he confide in her at all? Did she eavesdrop critical conversations between Osama and the couriers ? Can she, for example, give fresh leads on future attacks being planned by Osama? Perhaps, Amal is aware of her own priceless worth – she is invaluable as a resource. But imagine the trauma suffered by her 12- year- old daughter who watched her father being shot ( American version), and her mother getting hit by a bullet. Henceforth, Amal will be forced to raise this troubled pre-teen on her own , as a single mother, never ever being sure of their joint safety. The nightmare has not ended for this young woman. It may just have begun….

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rascalams - mind it!

I am back from Beautiful Bhutan - refreshed, energised and ready to climb Mount Everest! Yesssss.... I feasted my eyes on the world's most majestic peak yet one more time this morning on our return flight from Paro to Kathmandu , on to Delhi and finally back to Mumbai.This time I didn't waste even a micro-second taking pictures - I just gobbled up the vistas greedily... there was Kanchenjunga. And look - wasn't that Nandadevi? The Himalayas on the Indian side are far more impressive than the range as seen from Nepal or Bhutan, mainly because what's offered is a panoramic view that stretches for over a hundred kilometres. I saw glaciers and pastures, rivulets and ravines... I forgot we had woken up at 4.30 a.m. to catch the flight. It was well worth the torture of being seriously sleep deprived, as most of us were , after 4 intense days of readings and discussions. The final day - a retreat in Paro - turned out to be the icing on the cake. Actor Madhavan was clearly the star of this Lit Fest, literally and figuratively. More at a later date - once I upload the pictures. Maddy's included! ********
I had totally forgotten all about this column, when a phone call from Soli Sorabjee ( how I love and admire this outstanding gentleman) startled me in distant Thimpu. He called to chuckle over the contents and said he hadn't enjoyed such a hearty laugh in a long, long time! His solution to this vexing issue? "Why not design a chastity belt for men, and let the wife keep the key?" Ummmmm... because Sir, it's not all that difficult for serial offenders like DSK to make DUPLICATE keys!
This appeared in Asian Age...

Bobbitt all these rascalams, I say! Too many of them floating around the world doing bad- bad things to good- good women. Look at that fellow Dominique Kahn-Strauss ( does he waltz, or what?). Can’t keep his business inside his pants! Aiyoooo! So much shame he is bringing to his family… all his wives and childrens. Man has no face to show in public1 And he is coming from such a top class background, that to. Just think – how many people become IMF chiefs? You are knowing anyone? I am not knowing. What a powerful job controlling which country to give how much money to and all that. Presidents and Prime Ministers of countries come with begging bowl to his door. And he simply doesn’t care! I ask you, Sir, when you are attacking that poor servant girl…. sorry, chamber maid, are you not behaving same-to-same as our Shiney Ahuja?Proper thinking and good brain went where at that time?? Same question we are asking Shiney - see what happened to him? Jail and all. Still his wife is standing by him. Your wife also, no? But yours is third or fourth wife. Poor Shiney only has one – he may not get another after this.You are also in jail, my friend! But, believe me foreign jails are far, far better than Indian jails. You must be getting good food… meat, chicken, fish and all that. Bed to sleep on. also. Many, many Indians won’t mind being in American jails for that reason only. Better to eat in a prison than starve outside and on top of that have to listen to big-big lectures about freedom and how great India is because of that freedom. All useless talk, I say. First, keep stomach filled, then enjoy fruits of freedom. Okay… some things we are fully knowing and understanding about your type of problem. It is also happening in this part of the world, baba… how men can be different- different from place to place? Anatomy same, brain same, thinking same. See a woman – and jump on her. If she is working for you, then, no problem Like you can use laptop anytime, she also can be used anytime. Whyfor pretend to be a sadhu, all holy and pure, when the truth is fully known to all? But even with this much understanding, it is not proper for you to have done what you did in that costly hotel room. Coming out nanga in front of stranger-lady? Then forcing her to do all that …. Chhee chhee stuff! Not thinking for one minute of your wife and children before doing badmaashi! We call such men total idiots in India. Why? Because smart men know when to do all this physical stuff and when not to. Arrey baba – you could not wait or what?
Now you are saying it is Sarkozy’s fault. Where is Sarkozy in all this scandal nonsense? He is busy making his beautiful wife pregnant. Timing for conceiving is also first class. Election baby is good for vote catching. Sarkozy is a smart chap, that way.France people like to know that their Presidents are manly fellows capable of keeping woman happy in the bedroom. Several women, several bedrooms. All French Presidents are like that only! One mistress here… another one there… two-three wives in between. Nothing new. You should have waited to become President first… then you could have raped or whatever you call it, women right and left, without a care in the world. Your wife – what is her good name? Haan… Annie, no? She has said politicians must know how to seduce. Lucky man, you are ! How many wives are so understanding? So far , at least, Annie is like Shiney’s wife , not Arnie’s wife. Look at that uppity Maria Shriver and how she is acting! That too after twenty -five years of marriage. Women are also similar types about such matters. I think so they feel jealous. After that they feel they must get badla. No need for badla-wadla…no point. Arnie and you can have a frank talk about this sex matter. Also, invite Tiger Woods for a discussion. See … all three of you are big shots – famous , rich, influential. Still you are getting into trouble in America. That way, Italian people are not so strict. See how they are giving chances to their President! Berlusconi is a rascalam of all rascalams. He is boasting openly about those small-small girls he pays so much money for bunga bunga business. Nobody bothering too much for that – in Rome, do the Romans, they are saying. He is not in jail. But you are.
Tch , tch, tch! Everything khallas for you, now. Naukri gone, friends gone, future gone. American judge saying maybe fifteen to twenty years in jail if guilty. That means, life also gone. You are saying world hates you because you are a Jew. American public saying you are racist. Poor maid is saying nothing so far. But because she is a Black woman, you are in even more trouble. God knows how many more women will now start telling the whole world that you raped them here and there – in the office, in the car park, in an elevator, maybe even in an airplane bathroom. How you will keep your izzat and show face to family? In India, we believe in Karma. Maybe you did many sins in last life? Many more in this life also. Now your only hope is for your next life. If those guards in Riker’s Island Correction Centre can be manaoed, khilaoed and pilaoed ( like we do here), you may survive – more time spent in hospital, less time in11x13 cell. At least do one thing, boss – keep your business out of sight. Or else , bheja gaya, aur ‘woh’ bhi ! Bobbitt ka naam suna hai aapne? Women are saying loudly-loudly that is what men like you deserve - mind it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Thimpu Lit Fest rocks!

It all starts with a spectacular view of the Emperor of the Himalayas - Mt. Everest in all its glory, as dawn breaks over what is by far the most imposing range of mountains in the world. The immensely skilled pilots of Druk Air ( Bhutan's national airline) point out the range ( Kanchenjunga, too) as the plane flies enviously close to it.What an introduction to a destination! As we landed in Paro ( Bhutan's international airport), after a two and a half hour flight from Delhi, it does occur to me that one tiny pilot error, and we might have lost a significant number of contemporary Indian writers ( there were so many on the flight!).
I cannot begin to tell you how enchanting this mountain kingdom is - starting with the stunningly beautiful Queen Mother, Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuk, and the young, devastatingly handsome King, Jigme Dorji. We are lucky to be here during this most auspicious season, and especially on the day when King Jigme announced his engagement to a beauteous local princess. I met them at a dinner hosted by our erudite, charming and efficient Ambassador\ author Pawan Varma( the force behind the Lit Fest, evocatively titled 'Mountain Echoes')at his 70- acre, thickly wooded official residence ( it has its own golf course). Perhaps it was an impromptu visit by His Majesty, but as soon as guests were told he'd be arriving shortly with his bride-to-be, the atmosphere changed dramatically! I was told he doesn't like being photographed, but when I asked, he posed most sportingly with his lovely fiancee. I shall share pics on my return... I took a few of the Queen Mum ( who has written two splendid books on Bhutan), and who was with her young daughter ( a Harvard graduate ) - who has also written a book on Bhutan ( its constitution), explaining it to kids! What an extraordinarily good looking royal family.... and for all that, so down to earth, gracious and kind. No wonder their people adore them. And are so proud to be Bhutanese.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More Cannes!

Clearly, someone's having the best time at Cannes. The de Grisogono model is spectacular all the way. Better looking than the stars - Jolie , included!

Am in a tearing rush today.... leaving for the Mouuntain Echoes Lit Fest in Bhutan tomorrow.... three columns to write.... forget packing! Hear it's cold and raining in Thimpu. But with good friends, great books and excellent hosts around.... perhaps I won't shiver too much! Looking forward to the reception hosted by the Queen Mother. And a demo dinner hosted by the well known chef, Pushpesh Pant , at the Taj Tashi.
More coming up.... on the sex rat called DSK of the IMF.... of course, he did it!! What's he talking about?? Let him rot in hell.... while arch rival Sarkozy gets extra brownie points for his under production ( twins for Carla!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cannes! Cannes!

Taaza khabar from Cannes: That is you-know-who (by now!) with Kayne West. And, later in the night, with a desi friend . You-know-who is in the pink saree. Going by the pics, I'm guessing she's having a good time.... what do you think?
This appeared in Bombay Times today...


Desi Designers Vs. Cannes

Desi designers were wringing their hands last week and asking the obvious question: Why do our stars pick outlandish outfits for their international Red Carpet photo- ops, when there are so many talented Indian designers to choose from? One of them cribbed, “It just goes to show their lack of confidence in our abilities. It also shows a lack of confidence in themselves.” They have a point. Looking at some of the more comical Cannes images so far, saw several people squirming in embarrassment. Poor Ash. No matter what she wears, she gets it in the neck from the local fashion press. The thing is, what Ash wears makes a statement. It counts. Nobody gives a damn what other, lesser starlets strut around flashing, because they don’t count!This year may have been one notch better for Ash than some of the earlier fashion disasters, but the Elie Saab gown was certainly not flattering, given Ash’s new, generously filled out frame. One designer referred to it witheringly as an Arab-style wedding dress minus the veil. Most agreed that the rather ungainly , thick frill at her waist accentuated her hipline , while the thick, ornate fabric of the one shouldered gown further piled on the naughty kilos. The make-up was also a bit too harsh and exaggerated on that occasion. Ash’s next appearance in a sleeker, two- toned gown was far more elegant, even if the upswept hairdo looked dated. There’s no point in comparing her look to Angelina Jolie’s supremely casual, yet supremely stylish dress at lunch. She’s Angelina Jolie! That’s enough.
Our gorgeous ladies must assert themselves at such high profile affairs at which they are the cynosure of hawk-eyed journos from across the world. The standard excuse that’s trotted out is that the imperious stylists of some of the mightiest fashion houses dictate what the stars must wear ( remember, it’s all about promotion, promotion, promotion). But that rule applies to minor stars, not the major league ones, who are given a vast choice of selecting the best of the best from a huge, multi-brand wardrobe. Too bad they pick duds, time and time again. If only they’d leave it to their buddy designers back home, they’d be far better off. Our local talent is not just formidable, but they know what suits our girls. Nude may well be the colour of the season, but it does absolutely nothing for our skin tones. We end up looking washed out and drab, when we can look so much better in our rani pinks and peacock blues. Perhaps in the few days left for the Festival to close, our stars will pull out the stops and get those flashbulbs going. Given the stiff competition in the glamour stakes this year, that isn’t going to be a cakewalk for any of them. Pity a prestigious film festival has been reduced to a catwalk by Bollywood. But till such time as we start making quality cinema, we’ll have to console ourselves each time we watch Aishwarya the model, preen and pose for shutterbugs on the Croisette.
While on designers and all things fashionable, some of the big names have been really put off by the starry tantrums and demands of our top actresses whose secretaries and personal stylists pester these designers to send across pricey couture for their clients to flaunt at high profile events. Often , these wealthy actresses ‘forget’ to return borrowed garments, or flatly refuse to give them back saying, “But look at the publicity I generated for your label by wearing your outfit to so-and-so’s party.” As of now, the entire designer community is up in arms against a beauty contest winner who has walked off with her entire pageant wardrobe! Tch. Tch. Not done, honey. Be a good girl and send those frocks back immediately… or else!
South Mumbai wears a deliciously deserted look these days – everybody’s left town! One can zip down those crowded roads in fifteen minutes flat and actually find a table in popular restaurants during peak hours. While we desis are fleeing the unbearable mugginess and mayhem for cooler climes, Liz Hurley is the only one who is voluntarily flying in to be with her man. Love ka side effects and all that.Obviously somebody forgot to Warne our Liz about the LSD syndrome.
For some weird, entirely illogical reason, I believe Shiney Ahuja. Do you?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Prince and the Show Girl...!

Vizag moments - so vivid! That's Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, one of India's most prominent Gay Rights' activist, and the publisher-editor of FUN. With him ( and moi!), the cast of 'Waiting for Godot', an Applause production, headed by Soumya, a Telegu movies' actress with a promising future. Nice mood!

This appeared in the Sunday Times today.....encouraging reactions, especially from an old friend, B.R.Sharan.

‘Poribartan’ now! Demand the women of India…

Namaskaram Amma. Nomoshkaar Didi.Congratulations ladies! Yenjoy! Bhalo Khobar! You’ve done it and deserve the applause.To borrow Mayawati’s words, the time for ‘dramabaazi’ is over. You have won. The people of your respective States have given the verdict. Jai ho, and all that. Your time begins now. Showing the door to rivals is the easy part. Both of you can confidently take the oath, look and feel smug… and if you so wish, dance in the streets … or on the posters of your vanquished opponents. No doubt your myriad followers will join you with abundant joy. Gloat away! But this is about your future agendas – especially those involving your own gender.What specific policies will you be working on that will benefit the women of your state… and maybe even, the women across India?Come on, you two. You can do it! Mamata has spoken eloquently about the appalling conditions faced by rural women in West Bengal. She has said she wants to create infrastructure for underprivileged pregnant women,who are forced to walk up to fifteen kilometers to deliver babies. Well…. action it, Didi. Get those clinics to happen taada-taadi. It cannot be a significantly better scenario in Tamil Nadu. We are also aware of the ‘Corporate Bladder’ syndrome ( no loos for working women in urban Indian), but for how many more years will our village women have to wait for the protective cover of darkness before they can ‘go’? These may look like chhota-mota issues to powerful politicians in search of bigger issues to tom- tom – like attracting instant foreign investment. But please don’t take women’s bladders and wombs for granted! We need clean facilities. Period. Whether it’s maternity wards in which to deliver babies, or conveniently located latrines that are safe for use, day and night. This is not a tall order, but it is an urgent one. If this initiative can be announced and undertaken on a priority basis by both of you, you will win the whole hearted support of countless deprived women who have put up with painful urinary tract infections, botched up births by the roadside and other related horror stories for decades…. no, centuries.
Women of India have waited long enough.Too long. So far , their voices, their expectations, their anxieties were of zero consequence to successive governments. Much was expected from Pratibha Patil as President. Much more was hoped for from Sonia Gandhi. No miracles. No waving of magic wands. Just simple plans and projects that would have made it easier for women to hang in there and be counted . Nothing of any consequence was announced by either one of them unfortunately, and women meekly went back to the starting post to patiently begin their vigil all over again. Perhaps it’s not such a good thing that our women are as passive, as docile.We let off our netas a bit too easily. We make far too many concessions. Mamata’s win was largely based on “Poribartan’’ ( change). But there was little mention in her manifesto of gender specific policies that would be beneficial to women. As the railways minister, her track record was disappointing at a time when women travelers cried out for safety on trains. Mamata’s perceived indifference to the woes of women commuters was seen as being callous and short sighted . Ditto for Jayalalitha, whose past records aren’t exactly impressive with regards to women’s issues. If anything, amma remained aloof and indifferent when confronted. This time, she didn’t bother wooing women… or men, for that matter. In fact, she didn’t woo anybody! She didn’t have to.Her old foes ( the DMK gang led by the old war horse, Karunanidhi)obliged amma by committing hara-kiri while she romped home, without lifting a finger. Our female politicians are street smart and canny. They’ve been told by their minders that raising womens’ issues during elections is not politically wise. It alienates men! And political pundits have consistently insisted it’s men who are the real game changers in any election. The big numbers are driven by men. Why bother courting women? Today, we are crowing about four important women leading four important States of India. Forget, the most important woman in the country ( you-know-who) . It’s time to ask a few uncomfortable questions to these Chaar Deviyaan. Starting with Sheila Dixit and Mayawati, who have been around long enough to have got things moving.But their mahila gaadis stalled a long time ago and refused to change gears, as these two steam-rollered their way past other, more critical-to-their-survival obstacles , conveniently forgetting all about their less privileged sisters.
It’s a terrible fact of life, but the bitter truth is that women in politics have not leveraged their position to do anything substantial for other women. Perhaps, those vintage Ekta Kapoor serials had a point. Which is why they worked. But even Ekta has moved on and away from those dreary subjects to sexier ones. Why can’t our female politicians do the same?This is their chance to win the loyalty of what is, in reality, their core constituency – women. Woo us with policies that transform lives and you’ll never have to worry about your warm kursi going to someone else. Neglect us now… and watch! Just you watch! We’ll show you! Remember,there is no ‘next time’ in politics. Mind it!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cannes do!!

This is going to be a short post. Nothing to do with Amma or Didi ( Column on those two appears in Sunday Times tomorrow). This is a little bit of a 'motherly bragging' type column! Indulge me!
My daughter Arundhati is in Cannes, covering the world's most glamourous film festival for a glossy. This is her Antonio Banderas moment! Seeing him emerge from a limo just a few feet from where she happened to be on the Croisette, made her knees go weak and her hands tremble. To wave.... perhaps, greet... or to shoot.... became a big dilemma. Since her hands were cold and shaking, it took a few extra seconds for her to fish out her camera ( a Cannes gift from me ) and click.... before his burly body guards chased her away as a pesky pap. Well.... nice try, Aru! Next time,get the face, okay???

Thursday, May 12, 2011

We need more beacons.....

My brain is slowly but surely turning to mush in this bloody heat. Normally, I don't leave home if I can help it - especially when I'm mid-book ( like now!). But this being our beloved Bharat, one has to deal with peculiar procedures. Today, it was a Post Office account that needed to be closed. The p.o. happened to be in Dadar and I was summoned there to verify a six-year-old signature. Fair enough. This time I wasn't taking chances with a grumpy Bholanath ( he and I are officially 'katti' ). I borrowed my husband's super smart, super efficient chauffeur, the amazing Subramaniam ( he has been with us for over 30 years). We managed to reach the p.o. on time and I stood in line behind the dustiest counter ever. When I looked around the dismal place, I was so disheartened to see the pathetic state it was in - dingy, filthy,broken down. There were several naked electric wires hanging from the ceiling. Chairs without seats, piles of papers, miserable looking people plodding away at tiny,over laden desks. This was seriously depressing. I spoke my best Marathi to the clerks. But everybody I spoke to replied in Hindi. Perhaps they didn't think me 'Maharashtrian ' enough? I had to fill in several forms, sign on various documents, produce identity cards.... oh heavens... all this for such a small job! It didn't matter to me - I'd factored it in. But I did feel bad for those people slaving away in such a shabby, smelly setting. It doesn't cost much to buy a few dusters and keep the place relatively clean. Why don't these p.o. employees take the initiative and do it? How can they be so indifferent to their work environment?
After I got home and drank a gallon of lassi, I felt much better. But my writing rhythm had gone for a toss. I decided to give myself the afternoon off . I took a nap.... tidied my room. Listened to the insistent calls of the koel in the Brazilian Copper tree outside.... suddenly, the world seemed better. The sun-set was glorious - all golden and show-offy ! And I suddenly thought of the neat, well-proportioned lighthouse that had caught my fancy, perched precariously on the edge of the red sands of a distant Australian beach... it is lovely, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The heat is on.....

The heat is on... and it's getting to me! I spent most of today shuttling between Lamington Road and Elphinstone Road. The heat was murderous... as was my mood. Bholanath, my temp driver was at the receiving end of my wrath, alas. For some annoying reason, I always end up as a navigator in any car I get into. My road sense is pretty damn good ( but I don't drive !). That does not mean I spend my hours in the car giving road directions to men whose job it is to know the damn roads in the first place! Bholanath became surly and argumentative with me , saying, " But you have grown up in Mumbai - it's your hometown , not mine. Howcome you don't know this road?" I snapped, " As a professional chauffeur earning a good salary, it's your bloody job to know the roads. " Before it got into a serious 'tu tu main main' situation, I quickly phoned a friend ( no, not Raj Thackeray!), asked for precise directions and reached the venue on time - fuming - but on time! Grrrrrrrr
These images cheered me up.... took me back to my trip to Australia last year.These were clicked near Noosa, which is fast growing into an upmarket getaway. I was there with my son Aditya.... and we really had the best time.
Lemme know if you want to see some more pics.... I have cooled down sufficiently now. There's nothing a bowl of chilled mangoes with vanilla icecream can't instantly fix!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cannes Alert:Beware! Bollywood on the prowl!!

This is an image I clicked in a busy mall just to test a new camera chip I'd bought. I really liked it a lot - it's so sci-fi and scary! Agree?

This appeared in Bombay Times today....I shall be travelling from next week or so.... this space may not be updated as frequently while I'm on the road. But knowing my addiction to it, I'll manage short posts somehow. Never having been to Bhutan, I don't know how things work in Thimpu, but I'll find out soon enough. Anything to crawl away from the mugginess of Mumbai....

Cannes… watch out! Here comes Bollywood!!

Aren’t we all just holding our collective breaths for that much awaited Red Carpet moment at Cannes? And wondering what are our Bollywood Beauties are going to pull out this time? Some more Gown Disasters? Some really , really tacky ‘couture’ that would make any self-respecting designer blush? Another fashion faux pas that will be hard to live down? Let’s pray hard someone up there loves us… and them… enough to not let that happen. In any case, what’s the big deal about that one blessed Red Carpet, anyway? Why does the fashion world keep its eyes peeled for just these super hyped Cannes appearances… more, much ,more than all the other high profile glam events put together - the Oscars included? Bhagwan only knows. But the magic of Cannes is something else, as anybody lucky enough to have been there for the Festival will readily testify. The Indian presence goes up every year…. which is a good thing. It would have been an even better thing had business followed the same trajectory. If only the quality of our films had matched our enthusiasm for rushing to Cannes, the story would have been different. Let’s be honest, all those gorgeous gals from Mumbai who’ll be parading on that famous carpet, have not been invited to the prestigious festival for their acting achievements. They are there merely as models. Celebrity brand ambassadors. Most of the coveted invitations to our Bollywood brigade have been issued by foreign booze, watch, jewellery, hair and skin product companies . Why? Because India is potentially their biggest market. If these brand ambassadors further push sales thanks to the coverage they’ll hopefully receive, all those brand managers will be over the moon with happiness. And consumers back home will drink more whiskey, wash their hair with shampoos that promise shine, and sport pricey watches that do more than merely tell the time – they make a major statement. For those few magical moments when our stars make it to the most important photo-op in the commercial world, they’ll feel like royalty. But, with all this aggressive promotional activity, will they manage to attract international paparazzi attention? Highly unlikely. There’s far too much competition! This year looks like a real biggie, with mega Hollywood stars in attendance. Then there is the legendary Robert de Niro as President of the jury. Not to forget the presence of the French First Lady Carla Bruni ( preggie or not? She’s not saying as yet). Woody Allen will open the Festival with ‘Midnight in Paris’, no doubt to rave reviews. No matter what Woody Allen makes, the French gobble it up. He enjoys a far bigger fan following in France than back home in America. What real chance do our desi stars stand in such illustrious company? Hilarious as it sounds, it is the fact that apart from Aishwarya Rai ( this will be her tenth Cannes outing ), who will also be there as a brand ambassador for one of the main sponsors of the Festival, the only other local actress who may get recognized is Mallika Sherawat ( remember, she claims equality with Barack Obama, and he may just be her BBM buddy). Assuming, she will be wearing something – anything - on that carpet (her clothes get skimpier by the year), she is bound to attract eyeballs. For whatever it’s worth, Mallika is the only Bollywood starlet this year with a Hollywood film that has a screening at Cannes. That’s more than can be claimed by others who are flocking there to attend promotional parties ( largely hosted by our own Cannes regulars like Vijay Mallya ), and get some mileage back home bragging about their look for the big day. Fingers crossed and hope to God these ladies wow the hard-to-impress attendees at Cannes – after all, that’s what they are going there for. Come on, if you were an International cinema buff , hanging around on the Croissette, would you really notice or care whether a Minishaa Lamba was in the vicinity?
Let’s hope a time will come in the not so distant future when our talented and fabulous looking stars go to Cannes as actors, not clotheshorses. It’s worth remembering this Festival is primarily about films – not fashion.
P.S. : I’m banking on Rani Mukherjee to save the day. If she’s smart, she’ll stick to a sexy saree…. and steal the show.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Geronimo:Kahani abhi baaki hai...Happy Mother's Day!

I love tea....and everything to do with it. These pics were taken inside the famous Tea Room at the Grand Hyatt, Bangkok. The dim sums were to die for, and the ambience outstanding.The choice of teas was awesome.... sipped a lapsong after years... sipped it slowly, lingering over every smokey sip. I love teapots as well, and have a small collection. I lusted after these two, but they weren't for sale!
It's a gorgeous Saturday morning.... it's Mother's Day.
Here's wishing every human being a fabulous Mother's Day... without mothers, none of us would be here!!
Okay, Obama devotees.... do your bit .... bash me! I love your faith in and adulation for the man. I'm sure Obama is a great guy.... but it's totally okay not to adore him unilaterally. Khair.... I do understand the passion of the newly converted.... go ahead, guys. Worship him!

This appeared today in the Asian Age...

“ It’s a go!” said Obama.And they went…!

How I love that line : “ It’s a go!” said President Obama. And they went! It is so quintessentially American. So cowboy! On Friday, April 29th, the mighty President of the United States of America ordered the historic raid that killed one of the most dreaded men who ever lived – Osama bin Laden. Strange, but not even a week later, all the drama witnessed by incredulous viewers across the world, is beginning to resemble a bang bang Western from the early ‘80’s. “Geronimo EKIA…” was the terse confirmation from Leon Panetta,CIA chief, to his boss, after those mysterious SEALS descended on an ugly mansion in a peculiarly named town ( Abbottabad) deep inside Pakistan. Nobody in India had really heard of this blessed place, nobody… except our very own actor Manoj ( Bharat) Kumar, who was born there. Listening to President Obama’s precisely delivered televised speech ( strictly, no emotions), it was impossible not to rub ones eyes in sheer disbelief and ask, “ Is this really the whole story? Will the world ever know what really happened on that moonless night?” The answer is obvious : No, we won’t. The sensible thing to do is take Obama’s word for it…. and move on. There will be versions galore in the years to come. Military analysts will deconstruct and point out the obvious holes in the official version.But for most observers, it’s enough that Obama took out the man responsible for the deaths of so many innocent people, not just in America, but across the world. Why probe? Or go too deeply into how it was done… why now… or even that it came nearly a decade too late. Let’s just say, ‘Thank you, Barack,” and khisko to the nearest disco. The euphoria of this victory needs to be savoured just a bit longer, without nit -picking or bitching. Though, it’s hard not to indulge in either activity, given some of the obvious absurdities and contradictions that are now emerging. Kyunki, think about it: is a dead Osama better than Osama alive? Does his death make the world a safer place?On the contrary, we are back to square one, looking over our shoulders at possible retaliatory action planned by members of the dreaded al-Qaida. Some say the backlash is inevitable.
Two nights after Obama’s announcement , I was with a low key , self styled America expert. This is a very clued in person who hangs out with sources most professional journos would give an arm and a leg to cultivate. I was pretty sure he’d be in the mood to brag a little …or even, a lot! People like him make a pretty cushy living out of creating ‘clout perceptions’ that suggest their proximity to powerful insiders. I asked my acquaintance some basic questions about Operation Geronimo - questions that demanded common sense not military intelligence. From where did those attack choppers take off ?If they flew in from a distance, even a short one, how come they went undetected for close to an hour? What about the noise? Sure, it was a moonless night and black birds ( even gigantic ones) in the sky are hard to spot.But we are not discussing visibility here. What about hearing? Those guys in the neighbourhood may have been asleep, but were they also deaf…did nobody hear the roar of those killer machines hovering over their heads? The expert leaned forward conspiratorially and said, “Why are you forgetting one thing? It is the Americans themselves who have given all the hardware to Pakistan, trained their men, set up the systems. How difficult is it for the very same Americans to use the systems, facilities, locations, codes and machines to conduct such a strike from within the country? Who would suspect or stop them? It is the Americans who have equipped the Pakistani military, armed them to the teeth, given billions of dollars to create sophisticated establishments all over. They merely used their own expertise and free access for this operation. Smart move. I’d call it a good return on their investment!” I immediately bought the guy two more drinks. Whether or not this is an accurate assessment, it made sense. The Americans neatly turned the tables on their ‘students’ and pulled off one of the biggest coups before those sleepy chaps could blink.
The hard work begins now. According to Mr. Know it All, this has been one of Obama’s shrewdest moves, not just to assert himself and work on falling ratings ( up, already), but also to show Hillary Clinton her place. Apparently, Barack is a bit tired of Hill and Bill running the show in Washington. The Clintons were seen as an annoying, interfering duo, trying to dominate the White House with the full support of key aides loyal to both of them. It was time to show them who was boss. It was also time to tell the world he was indeed the Most Powerful Human Being Alive, and never mind detractors constantly reminding him of his failings… his weaknesses. The ‘Situation Room’ images had their own story to tell. Hillary looked worried as the team waits for more live feeds from SEALS in Abbottabad. Obama appeared the coolest customer in the group, casually attired in a white tee and bomber jacket. But it was the President’s calm and strong address to his people and the rest of the world, a few hours later that will become the definitive moment of his Presidency, regardless of what follows. I have to confess, I have always been critical of his much acclaimed oratory. No doubt, he has a great speech writer and Obama delivers those evocative lines faultlessly. But a tele- prompted speech remains a mechanical performance and somehow doesn’t touch hearts in quite the same way as an old fashioned, unrehearsed bhaashan. Clearly, I am in a minority on this one going by the spate of nasty comments posted on my blog after my spontaneous reaction to the address.
Acchha… now to clear the debris left behind by those 79 SEALS in four choppers…. physical and psychological debris.
Khel Khatam? Hardly. Kahani abhi baaki hai. A new khel has just begun. Kyon, Kayaniji?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sick of Obama and Osama...

I can't take in any more details about 'Operation Geronimo'. God alone knows what exactly happened on that moonless night. But whatever did, it's over and we want our old lives back. My interest level in the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, now begins and ends with Osama's Yemeni wife - the youngest one, 27-year-old Amal al Sadah, who was brave enough to take on the SEALS. I'd rather see her photographs than grisly, even doctored images of her dead husband.
And I definitely don't want to look at pictures of Baba Ramdev - whether starving or eating. This whole hunger strike nonsense is getting to me. If every disgruntled VVIP decides to use his\her stomach as a weapon, we are going to get a lot of size zero martyrs floating around, trying to send the rest of us on a guilt trip.
Go starve, you guys. And see if anyone cares....
Oooof.... feeling so much better having said that!
Do enjoy my pics - those beautiful islands near Yao Noi are dramatic rock formations which play host to the birds that create that delicacy known as Bird's Nest soup. There are seasons and quotas in place for the adventurous rock climbers who risk their lives to climb the rocks and retrieve the elusive nests which are then sold to gourmet restaurants world wide. Nope. I have yet to sample the delicacy myself.
The other image is of the famous Erawan shrine in Bangkok, which attracts hundreds of people daily. The Thais were celebrating Songkran ( New Year), the day I shot this image. Looking at it just now made me feel mellow and calm. You can keep your violent footage of a notorious mansion in Abbottabad. I'd rather stick to a peaceful shrine in Bangkok.
And while I am in nostalgic mood, let me go spray myself with the world's most divine fragrance. It is called Acqua di Santa Maria Novella. And I found it in Bangkok! It goes back to 1612 and was originally produced by Dominican Friars when they arrived in Florence in 1221, and started growing herbs in the monastic gardens. It is now run by the descendants of Cesare Augusto Stefani and sold through their outlets in several European countries, as well as in Japan and Taiwan.
Trust me.... one whiff.... that's all it takes. I'm hooked!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Banyan Tree musings...

This image is for all those of you who wrote such sweet things about the thirsty bird. I love trees.... and I flipped for this particular Banyan Tree in Phuket. I saw it in a different light, literally and figuratively, each time I came back to the old-fashioned resort of the same name, known for its exquisitely polite service.

As for all the Breaking News today.... ho hum. Tell me something I don't know, guys.
Absurdly enough, the fate of the missing chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh seems to be of very little interest to anyone. Compare the poor coverage his missing chopper has received to the sort of carpet bombing of media that had followed the chopper crash of the c.m. of Andhra Pradesh not so long ago. Howcome? No wonder people from the North East feel such a sense of marginalisation.... even isolation , from the motherland.
Guys, will someone please tell me WHAT Hillary Clinton has done to herself , virtually overnight? Did you watch her official statement on tv after the Osama killing? She was almost unrecognisable! That perfectly coiffed hair, the toned down make-up, and several feminine touches to her otherwise severe pant suit ( green scarf, matching beads). Hmmmmmm. Botox can only take care of that much. The rest?? If Hillary has had major work done, then for God's sake tell us who did it!!!! Competing with Michelle in the fashion stakes? Hillary is looking like a million bucks. Good investment, girl.

Obama-Osama aftermath....

This is an image I shot on a recent holiday. I felt like posting it today because I am sick of watching horrific pictures on television - fake or otherwise. Osama is dead. Do we need to crow about it in such an unseemly fashion? Somehow, all that strutting and posturing by the President of the United States of America, looks immature and ridiculous. Like a school boy bragging about some victory on the cricket field. Grow up, Obama. Or get a better speech writer. All that "I,Me,Myself'' chest-thumping reflects rather poorly on your position. Let's face it, you had a job to do. You've done it. Now.... get over it, dude!
What do you want as a reward ? Another Nobel??

Monday, May 2, 2011

Obama gets Osama!

Gotcha!!! It's taken the mighty United States of America nearly 10 years to 'find' the world's most wanted mass murderer. And where was the man ultimately found? Not in some remote cave.... not in an inaccessible jungle.... but in a luxury apartment not too far from Islamabad in Pakistan! Sorry.... but I have a major credibility problem . Look at the timing! Just when President Obama's ratings couldn't have sunk lower.... and even a man like Donald Trump could announce his intention to run for President, here comes the big news the civilised world has been waiting for. Osama ( just one letter of the alphabet separates their names!) has been located and killed in a 'firefight'. Conveniently, this important news is broken at prime time on a sunday! That gives Americans a chance to come out onto the streets and celebrate...especially in front of the White House. Overnight, Obama is Superman!
Chalo... theek hai. His second term is guaranteed. God bless America.... and yes, the world , too!
This appeared in the Sunday Times : A kiss is just a Kiss....

Aaaawwww! Come on, everybody. The silly season is upon us. Mid-summer madness beckons. It’s time to kiss and make up! Preferably in public. PDA is here to stay. Why not pucker up in right royal Windsor style and go for it? If Kate and William can, so can you! Yup. Even without an audience of four billion panting viewers across the globe. Minus a palace setting. A packed stadium will do… right Liz? Right Shane? Cricket fans are getting more than their money’s worth days these days, what with Siddhartha Mallya kootcie- cooing with Deepiks Padukone in the stands. And the ever dependable Liz Hurley going into a rapturous clinch with the even more dependable Shane Warne . Kissing in public has become an epidemic and is considered super cool. Everybody is hard at it. Seal it with a smooch, is the new celeb mantra. And see the difference it makes … to your image, maybe even, your fortune.
We strongly recommend this non-violent, far more effective approach to resolving tricky issues to some of our stodgy, high profile politicos. Suresh Kalmadi has passed his sell-by date on all levels, kissing included. So, he can sulk away in custody, shut his eyes for a long, long time to come, but chances of anybody offering to kiss the man and forgive him, are very remote. Chappals , not chummas for this bloke. Raja, however has a lot of takers. But he’s playing hard to get. As for Ajit Pawar, Maharashtra’s asli Lover Boy, he is pretty isolated as of now, with hardly any ‘Adarsh’ left.The only person who may oblige the guy, is his long suffering wife, Sunetra. In the same context, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde could do with loads of TLC – not necessarily from their respective spouses, though. Both ‘Vaahinis’ are low key ladies who barely make eye contact with their husbands . Understandable. Those two are out! Also out is Sharad Pawar. One wonders… when was the last time Sharad Bhau kissed? Or received a kiss? Fifty years ago? Though, his daughter Supriya, can definitely buss hubby Sadanand publicly and nobody will blink. It may not be that easy for Kanimozhi to follow suit, unless she kisses Rajathi Karunanidhi, her beleagured mother( a kiss does not require language skills, and advancing years are not a barrier. So, no excuses for exempting the old girl this time). Amma may have a whole lot of serious making- up- before -breaking- up ahead of her now. But hey.. there’s a lot of Jayalalitha to love, as well! Mayawati is way too fierce for anybody to kiss.Khair, who knows? It’s hard to visualize Mamata Bannerjee cracking a smile, leave aside kissing her detractors. Ditto for Sonia Gandhi.But in their own individual interests, they could take the middle road and kiss a few hands… for Sonia, it would be a queenly gesture reserved for loyal subjects. All the minions have to do is bow deeply and kiss the air above her clenched fist as a sign of abject surrender. No dearth of takers for our Dimpled Darling. Rahul Baba’s countless acolytes will be more than happy to kiss a body part one normally sits on.Manmohan Singh and kissing don’t quite go together. In any case, where will the poor man draw the line? How many adversaries can he possibly placate at this point?Murli Manohar Joshi is definitely not in the mood to kiss the P.M. He could always take tips from P.Chidambaram ( none from Pranab Mukherjee, alas). Our P.C. could give Emran Hashmi ( Bollywood’s serial kisser) a run for his money in this department.Talking of air kissing in the prescribed manner, our netas could hire the services of prominent Mumbai-Delhi socialites to demonstrate the art of going cheek-by-jowl, pretending to kiss without any actual physical contact taking place. It is indeed an art…even if most amateurish players butcher the moment by planting a noisy peck on a reluctant cheek, or grimacing while dodging a clumsy attempt to grab and mwuaah mwuaah with the best of them.
Now, comes the sexy part. Our original stud muffins – those dashing cricketers ( also known as testosterone- in- motion) could win another World Cup in kissing.. Dhoni will attract wall-to-wall kissing partners if he so decides… fans who will willingly pose as foes for the privilege. Yuvraj Singh’s lips need some down time, or else he’ll have to be forcibly rested. We don’t want him on the benches and out of action, do we? Bhajji, too. He’s an expert ( when his vigilant mother is not looking over his broad shoulders, that is). Girls may be scared to kiss Malinga and get lost in all that wooly hair.But there are any number of takers for the dashing Pollard, as recent pictures will confirm. Saina Nehwal has beaten Sania Mirza in the kissable stakes. Badminton is suddenly sexier than tennis. So there. Leander and Mahesh are both taken ( by luscious ladies, at that). Rule them out, girls. I doubt Vishwanath Anand is a world champion at kissing, somehow. But boxer Vijendra Singh could well be.
The kiss of kisses is the one Corporate India has been waiting breathlessly for. It is a brotherly one. The day Mukesh and Anil end the feud by sealing and healing the rift with a public kiss ( okay, we’ll settle for a hand shake) the sun may rise in the West, and the moon may follow, but the huge sigh of relief that will greet this special moment will just blow the planets away and out of their orbits! Just do it, guys! Kiss… and don’t tell! Do we have a deal?