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Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Five Hundred Miles

mumbai Updated: May 20, 2019 08:35 IST
Malavika Sangghvi
Malavika Sangghvi
Hindustan Times
mumbai news,malavikas's mumbaistan,Edgard Kagan

Edgard Kagan at Pune.

Edgard Kagan, US Consul General in Mumbai, who took over his high-ranking diplomatic post a little less than two years ago, has become a prominent face in the city, often spotted in the company of India Inc movers and shakers. But we were pleased to note that the Yale alum is making a concerted effort to integrate himself with the everyday life around him. He was spotted earlier this week at the CEAT cricket awards and yesterday, he surprised many, as he undertook the single most quintessential local experience to be had in these parts: a journey from Mumbai to Pune on the Udyan Express which was documented with a series of photographs along the way. These included Kagan arriving at the station at 7am (an hour early), sipping masala chai, ordering a vada pao, getting his ticket checked and “making friends with fellow passengers”, before safely arriving AT his destination. Perhaps, he will learn some Marathi next?

The ‘Kar’ Sevas?

(From left) Atul Kasbekar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Akerkar and Ajit Agarkar.

“Agarkar, Akerkar, Tendulkar, Kasbekar! Not very often does one get these four ‘kars’ together at dinner!” Atul Kasbekar, celebrity-photographer and Bolly producer posted yesterday, about this portrait of four talented men from the world of sports, show biz and F&B, who dined at Rahul Akerkar’s new eatery Qualia at Lower Parel, recently. Seeing it, we called funny-man and our fellow columnist Kunal Vijayakar, who could have belonged in the group given his similar sounding surname. Had he spoofed any of the gentlemen on his popular TV show?
“Not yet, but Kasbekar shot a campaign for me during my advertising days and coincidentally, Akerkar was the model in that campaign,” said Vijayakar, quick on the uptake, adding, “I haven’t spoofed Tendulkar yet. I think I’m too fat to do so, but he has eaten with me on my show – The Foodie. And Agarkar and I have met only once! The only thing we have in common, I guess, is that we are Maharashtrians and the ‘kar’ is suffixed to the village you’re supposed to come from. Vijayakar sounds powerful, doesn’t it?” he signed off.
Perhaps he will play all four characters in one of his upcoming shows.

True Lies
Let it be said that there’s no grapevine more active than the Dehli grapevine during election season. And this latest bit of khabar from the Khan Market crowd is to do with the reason why this prominent and charismatic Opposition leader did not stand for election. “The party high command’s internal calculations showed that though she would dent the winning margin of the highest in the land, the incumbent, severely, still she would have lost against him. And though this would embarrass her rival substantially, losing would have sent the wrong signal to party workers. Besides, she is the party’s star campaigner,” said one of the Capital’s most formidable hostesses, whose drawing room serves as a salon of choice gossip most evenings.
“So the thinking had been: why contest and lose when anyway her seat in the Lok Sabha was assured?”
Was Assured? How so, we asked.
“Well, because her brother is winning both the seats he’s contesting from, and he will have to vacate one of them. So the plan has always been that she would contest on the seat he vacates for a smooth entry into parliament. And utilise her time better as a campaigner across the states. At least, that’s what X said the other evening,” informed the Capital’s formidable hostess, dropping the name of one of the Opposition’s blue-eyed boys. As we were saying, there’s no grapevine more active than the Dehli grapevine during election season.

Warm Send-Off

FJ receiving the Long Service Award with the Taj presented by JRD Tata in 1989.

As noted earlier, the Taj Palace hotel at Apollo Bunder occupies an inordinately important role in the life of Mumbai, thanks to its longevity and location. And so, this Tuesday, when Farhat Jamal, one of the hotel chain’s most senior executives, retired gracefully after more than three decades – most of them at the top – the news created a stir beyond quotidian HR announcements. After all, Jamal, the soft-spoken scion of a family steeped in culture and letters, had spent many of those years, especially the later ones, as the face of the group’s flagship hotel in Mumbai. “I joined the hotel business as a young lad of all of 19 and spent my formative professional life on the shop floor of various Taj hotels,” he said about his retirement, in an emotional social media post.
We have first-hand knowledge of this: A few years after he’d joined the Taj group, a 20-something Jamal had been posted as the manager of the Taj Mansingh, Delhi’s erstwhile rooftop Italian restaurant. This is where we recall meeting him for the first time, when, as an equally greenhorn Mumbai journalist venturing out to Delhi for the first time on a story, we had been required to lunch alone at the eatery. Perhaps, noticing our unease, Jamal had gone out of his way to make us feel welcome. We recall thinking even then, that the kind manager would go far in the world of hospitality. He had, going on to assume the hotel’s top positions over the years, including as General Manager of Taj Coromandel, Chennai, and taking care of the visit of the Queen of England when she had stayed there for three nights.
So what now?
“Travel, more reading, watching theatre and finding quality time for family and dear friends,” he said, when we spoke yesterday, adding, “The idea is to give as much time possible to projects that I find meaningful and interesting like the development of tourism, travel and hospitality, in India, and working on a social enterprise that will create jobs for the underprivileged from various sections of society, with particular focus on artisans and craftsmen,” he said as he went on to his next innings.

First Published: May 14, 2019 21:19 IST