Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Cheers Maharashtra
It is serendipitous that we had dined with Sonal Holland the night before she was officially proclaimed a Master of Wine. It had been a low-key evening at her home, and did not have Holland indicating what was in the offing (MW is awarded if a series of pretty rigorous exams on the subject are passed). Since then, we have watched as Holland, a Maharashtrachi mulgi with an earthy sense of humour and a veteran of the hospitality trade, has gone from strength to strength (as her husband, Andrew, beams proudly). This fortnight finds her in an 18th century guesthouse of Chateau Soutard in the Saint Emilion region of Bordeaux on a tour of French vineyards doing what a MW must: sample fine wines. But she hadn’t forgotten her roots, we are happy to note. “My kinda labour day... Jai Maharashtra. #winetasting @Bordeaux, France”, she posted along with a rich haul of bottled grape. On the other hand, given the State’s birthday, the labels could just as well have read Sula, Indage, Fratelli...
BLAST FROM THE PAST
“She was just something else,” said popular TV actress Anju Mahendru about this glamorous picture of herself at 24-25 years with legendary yesteryear star Nargis Dutt. “Though she was my mum’s age, she became my friend after a few years,” said Mahendru. “Of course she was highly articulate and educated, but her sense of humour and fun were amazing, and she was always doing the most hilarious things.” What was it like back then, we asked Mahendru, the granddaughter of a wealthy cinema owner with intricate connections in Bollywood. “It was fun and games, we never thought we were working. Today’s generation is much more disciplined and work-oriented and of course, that’s a good thing,” she says, being witness to the change with a busy career in current popular TV serials on her own. “This picture is from God knows where. I was a successful model and had probably just met Kaka (Rajesh Khanna) and had accompanied the Dutts, who as you know, would often arrange morale boosting travelling shows for the Defence Forces,” she says about the picture. Perhaps, to remind her of a gentler era, Mahendru, when she’s not working, is devoted to growing orchids in her well-appointed and stylish home and looking out for the welfare of stray pooches and thirsty sparrows. “In four weeks my sprays will be in full bloom,” she says.
Decades ago, when we were editing a city supplement, we had thought of instituting a folder on our desk titled ‘Media Hounds’. It was the era of Page Three, and newly returned to the city after ten heady years spent in literary Kolkata and political Dilli, this animal was a new breed for us and we were ever delighted by its enterprise to achieve world domination or only to be famous from Pali Hill to Juhu as the case might be. Hostesses who would no sooner than have wrapped up evening soirees, had the photographs duly captioned and dispatched by the next morning; socialites who smothered hapless orphans in vice-like embraces, for photo ops… the list was endless. Mercifully, these days, thanks to social media and the selfie culture, the loud and restless have other means to spread their auras around. But old habits die hard and we are delighted that fellow scribes have shared names and arrived at a consensus on top names on the list. As for their subtle and not so subtle modus operandi? Watch this space…
A CANDLE FOR IDRIS LATIF
The country, and especially the armed forces, lost a towering individual in the death of Air Chief Marshal Idris Hassan Latif, who passed away at 94, on Monday in Hyderabad. He had joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1941 at the age of eighteen and had carved out a legendary air force career, even serving in the Burma war later and enjoying a distinguished career as a governor and a diplomat. But it was his qualities of humanity and personal charm that stood out amongst the outpouring of tributes in his memory. The one that caught our eye is regarding an incident that occurred during the run up to his retirement from the Forces in 1981. During a traditional leave taking, where it is customary for a Chief to make a round visiting squadrons and stations he has commanded, writes the author of the piece, Rajiv Tyagi, Latif was departing in his cavalcade to the Pune airport when he abruptly stopped the car midway and asked the driver to return to the Officer’s Mess: he had not met Uncle, the ancient, bent over and affectionate barman aka Fernandez, a veritable Air Force institution who he’d been fond of from many years ago. The sight of the all-powerful but utterly without affectation Air Chief and the delighted octogenarian barman reminiscing about old times will always be an abiding memory for many who mourned the former Air Chief’s passing.