Malavika’s Mumbaistan: City of Joy to City of Dreams
After its overwhelming success in Kolkata, where customers and collectors are said to have queued up at 6am for gallery doors to open at 11 o’ clock just to get their hands on a prized piece of affordable art, the Centre of International Modern Art’s (CIMA) Art Mela, the brainchild of cultural doyenne Rakhi Sarkar (mother of the equally brilliant publisher Chiki Sarkar, inceptor of Juggernaut Books), will come to Mumbai at the end of the month where it hopes to recreate its success. Featuring the work of more than 80 promising and emerging artists, and curated by Sarkar, the fair has been conceptualised with the single aim of introducing quality art into hundreds of homes at dream prices.
Sarkar, though an intrinsic part of the City of Joy, where she, along with newspaper magnate Aveek Sarkar, are at the centre of its intellectual and cultural life, is no stranger to Mumbai, where she spent her early childhood. “We lived on Cuffe Parade and I spent my kindergarten study days with a delightful school — The Private European School — which ran partly in the Baptist Church on Wodehouse Road, with afternoon sessions at the home of the Lester family (an English family which had stayed back after Independence),” she says, adding, “Mumbai has always been the epitome of cosmopolitanism for me and everything that went with the times. The Iranian cafes; the sea along Cuffe Parade, long before the reclamation set in; Hindi movies; imported goods before economic liberalization; western music and films; dashing naval officers; and the world of glittering ads and multinational companies! Mumbai was the centre of it all!”
When she launched CIMA, one of the country’s leading art galleries 26 years ago, Sarkar says that it was only natural that Mumbai would be an important pivot of its activities. “I love, understand and feel deeply for the city, including its smells and tastes and I am extremely hopeful that CIMA Art Mela will grip the imagination of young collectors and aspiring and avant-garde clientele. It has all the ingredients that Mumbaikars love! From the pop to the exotic and finally sublime! Mumbai ala re!!!” she signs off jauntily breaking into colloquial Marathi.
Yesterday, speculations were rife that London was playing host to yet another economic fugitive from Mumbai, this time a once-flamboyant and now beleaguered banker, who is alleged to have taken preventive measures before any arrest warrant was issued against him, by moving bag and baggage to the British capital.
Could this be true or just another rumour started by India Inc.’s overheated grapevine? “Everyone is saying it’s true and yes, no one has seen or heard from him for many months now,” said one Dalal Street insider, adding, “But this is one rumour that no one can verify. After all, how on earth can one call him up and ask: Hey, I heard you had fled to London to pre-empt your imminent arrest?”
How on earth indeed.
I wish GDP had a religion so more people would care for it.
I wish healthcare was fought for like we fight for our traditions.
I wish scientific education was valued like our scriptures.
I wish the country’s infrastructure was built like places of worship, with as much pride.
— Tweeted by Chetan Bhagat.
He’s been one of the country’s first openly homosexual men, and perhaps the first champion of its gay rights, and now word comes in that early this week, veteran journalist, agent provocateur and avid right winger Ashok Row Kavi, pioneer of the Indian LGBTQ movement, has stepped down from the post of chairman of the Humsafar Trust, the NGO founded by him for upliftment of sexual minorities. Row Kavi, who in the late seventies and early eighties had gained the reputation of being one of the few brave media persons unafraid to challenge the prevailing left liberal elite or take on its Holy Cows, was also a disciple of the Ramakrishna Mission, when he was not cocking a snook at the establishment, or mischievously questioning the heterosexuality of his peers. “The thing about ARK,” as one of his friends says fondly, “Is that he believes the world is made up of only two kinds of people — those who are gay and those who deny they are gay.”
What now for this bright spark to whom generations of LGBTQ people owe so much? From sources close to him, it appears that Row Kavi, who has earned the sobriquet of ‘Amma’ amongst his circle, will spend his well-deserved break doing what he loves most: Cooking up spicy SEA FOOD curries while penning his long-awaited memoirs, in the company of his beloved Persian cat named Misthi Begum. As one of his LGBTQ colleagues said about his retirement, “It’s because of his hard work, sacrifices and courage that we are able to breathe freely today. Long live the Grand Dame of the Indian LGBTHQIAP+ community.”