Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Delhi’s Winter Cheer

Ah, those long Delhi winter lunches on the sprawling lawns of Lutyen’s bungalows belonging to leading members of India’s political elite.
This picture was taken at one such lunch last week.
This picture was taken at one such lunch last week.
Updated on Jan 07, 2019 12:44 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByMalavika Sangghvi

Those who watch daily Indian television news are forgiven for thinking that Indian politics, particularly in Delhi, is an eternal battlefield where the worst manner of savagery and aggression can be witnessed. However, Capital insiders might differ. For all those cross words exchanged on prime time and parliamentary debates, there exists another season in Delhi’s political life: it’s known as winter, when regardless of the fiery exchanges and the heat and dust they cause, the dappled sunlight of a balmy December afternoon brings about an unimaginable amount of bonhomie and good cheer to the most pugnacious of political hearts. Ah, those long Delhi winter lunches on the sprawling lawns of Lutyen’s bungalows belonging to leading members of India’s political elite. Rustling silks and corduroy jackets, rows of government cars with red lights on their roofs lining the streets and a banquet of a la carte, kebabs and off the cuff bon mots from the assembled guests. Here, old hostilities are buried, harsh words forgotten and opposing political ideologies fade in to the afternoon haze as leaders from various hues and parties come out to play. As seen in this picture taken at one such lunch last week, which featured the likes of the NCP’s Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel and Supriya Sule; the CPI’s Sitaram Yechury; the Congress’ Ahmed Patel; the DMK’s Kanimozhi; the RJD’s Misa Bharti; the Samajwadi Party’s Jaya Bachchan and the National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah amongst others, looking like they’re at a teddy bear’s picnic.

Wait a minute, it might just not have been as innocent and bucolic a gathering...after all we didn’t spot a single member of the BJP in the cheerful group and with growing evidence of a grand opposition alliance banding together to fight the general election next year — could it be a teddy bear picnic or yet another Mahagathbandhan in the offing…? Ah, Delhi…

Long Live the King?

Lalit Modi during his vacation. (Instagram)
Lalit Modi during his vacation. (Instagram)

Not a fortnight after he posted a picture of his son and himself performing the final 13th day rites for his late wife Minal Modi who succumbed after a long and hard battle with cancer last month, came this picture of the bon vivant, economic fugitive and architect of the IPL, Lalit Modi, lounging on a day bed in the sunny paradise of St Barts in the West Indies, where he’d gone along with his son and a couple of friends to bring in the New Year. Liked by a staggering 57,493 of his followers when last seen, it demonstrated that Lalit Modi means exactly what he says. The accompanying text of his earlier post had ended with the words, “now time to heal and dwell on the beautiful memories we shared as a family…,” hinting at his determination to put the past behind him and move on. Hindu scriptures after all prescribe a detached acceptance towards personal tragedies and a stoic resolve to move on, and Lalit Modi appears to have done just that with the same flamboyance and chutzpah which has seen all manners of Indian authorities tear their hair out in frustration. “Enjoying the beautiful day at the poolside,” he said, citing the location of a newly reopened luxury hotel. And whereas the post did attract a few messages of surprise from those who’d expected a more subdued widower, there were enough coy and not-so-coy messages from a series of glamorous girls about parties which fittingly alluded to beautiful villas and flights to be taken (with one female admirer even referring to the swarthy gent as ‘the little boy and blue) to suggest that the other King of Good times is alive and kicking…

Modern Dictionary:

To babysit (verb): an act of great aggression, demonstrated in a sport where someone demolishes their opponent and wins the game. E.g. ‘Wow! Mary Kom sure baby sat Hanna Okhota’s kids recently!’

An Ode to the Good Ol’ Days

Harish Manwani, Sanjay Subedar, Bharat Kamte and Jyotsna Madgavkar Singh.
Harish Manwani, Sanjay Subedar, Bharat Kamte and Jyotsna Madgavkar Singh.

In the same week when Mumbai’s iconic St Xavier’s College celebrated its 150th anniversary with a high voltage concert and gala charity dinner, about 300 or so former students of the other legendary South Mumbai college, Elphinstone, met over an elegant dinner and dance at the stately The Willingdon Sports Club for what they referred to as the mother of all reunions this Friday (Declaration of interest: We’re part of the alumni). Everyone is familiar with the range of emotions, from poignant nostalgia to giddy excitement, that such reunions generate. This one resulted in a WhatsApp group consisting of over 200 tech-challenged souls from the analog era, all speaking at the same time during the run up; the ghosts of many an unspoken infatuation coming to light. And long lost friends reuniting.

Zarine Minocher-Homji, Saroj Merani, Shireen Vakil Akeel Bilgrami and Dilbar Futehally
Zarine Minocher-Homji, Saroj Merani, Shireen Vakil Akeel Bilgrami and Dilbar Futehally

What’s best of all is that it displayed values that the college had amply inculcated: the alumni who attended spanned almost fifty years of the college’s history, the oldest member present belonging to the Class of 1945, and the youngest from the Class of 1995, thus making it a meeting ground for a vast demographic; the event’s organising committee, which often at affairs like these begins to take itself too seriously, appeared remarkably devoid of any ambitions of personal gain or glory and preferred to stay virtually anonymous; and, there was a welcome absence of speeches and chest-thumping; Instead, over delicious chaat, kebabs, pulavs and pastas, the likes of Yusuf K Hamied, the chairman of Cipla, Harish Manwani, former global chief operating officer of Unilever, Justice Sujata Manohar, retired judge of the Supreme Court, Madhav Apte, former Test cricketer and Akeel Bilgrami, professor of philosophy at Columbia University, met their college mates, relived their salad days and even managed to discuss future plans to restore their beloved alma mater to its former glory. One more thing: in what is almost unprecedented for a party in today’s times, there was a marked absence of selfies shot: all the photographs of the reunion seen the next day had their subjects standing a demure distance from the cameras, with both their hands at their sides and not a pout betwixt them. Just like in the good old days!

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