Malavika’s Mumbaistan: The city in four acts

Let us go then, you and I, when our artisanal lattes are laid out against the sky, wearing our Pendleton smocks and Warby Parker frames, and host an art lunch.
Hindustan Times | By Malavika Sangghvi
UPDATED ON JAN 29, 2020 08:10 AM IST

Let us go then, you and I, when our artisanal lattes are laid out against the sky, wearing our Pendleton smocks and Warby Parker frames, and host an art lunch.

What?! You don’t know what an art lunch is? Think table for eight at an uptown salad bar, awash with white wine, white linen and white lies (”My speciality is the Russian turn-of-the-century constructivism”). Your guest list will be made up of half-a-dozen stylishly turned-out young women and the (very) odd guy – all dressed in vintage skirts from Portobello Road, and hand-knotted multi-strand turquoise colliers; they will have degrees from leading East Coast art/design schools and say they ‘curate’. In addition, you will have to invite at least two emerging artists, who will give your lunch its ‘context’. The scowling sculptor with his trendy haircut and interest in fine wine, and the upwardly mobile enfant terrible in his Uniqlo jacket and Pokemon Tee will be ideal, but if they’re somewhere traipsing in Paris, then at least the presence of a couple of old school cultural grande dames is de rigueur. And while it is not required for both to have formidable collections of Souza’s from the sixties, at least one must be celebrated for her rumoured affair with the artist. No one will be required to say much of any consequence at your art lunch of course. It’s all about the getting the optics right. After all, that’s an art too.


Come, let us throw a Bollywood party. Let us send out an all-purpose invitation to all the stars we’ve known who have more than 1 million followers on social media, along with members of their families, (but only if they have websites and fan clubs of their own) so that by the end of the evening, everyone in the remotest outposts of the country, along with their dhobis, will know every miniscule detail about our bash. Mainly who wore what, who entered with whom and who left with whom. No need to plan a menu or serve any food or drinks, as every one’s on a diet and no one eats at these affairs. That’s for the ordinary folk and little people to do, like making PC or having fun.

A Bolly party on the other hand, is serious business. You show up, you suck it in, you pose for the paps, and then spend the rest of the evening schmoozing with every producer, director, leading man or lady in the room, in the hope of getting signed for their next big movie. Sometimes of course, there could be dancing at these affairs – but even that’s hard work – think of it as an audition where you get to show off your best moves to land your next role. With a bit of luck, you will have made a great impression on your peers, or at least the exposure will remind people that you are still alive and networking.


Ahh, let us organise an India Inc awards night – a glittering gathering of all the men and women whose bottom lines we follow. Should we give awards to all the usual suspects? The geriatric statesmen with his penchant for falling asleep mid-sentence? The infra tycoon whose un-serviced debts amount to the GDP of a small European nation? The telecom czar in danger of going belly up? The now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t billionaire IT boss who couldn’t get past your office reception earlier on account of his accent? Or the scion of the famous family whose talent for running up humongous bills at Annabel’s is unprecedented? No, this year let us give it to the dashing banker whose latest dash out of the reach of authorities, is making headlines.

No wait: let’s give them all awards, so they all show up and make the sponsors happy. Too bad if they hate each other and refuse to pose together for the group picture because of earlier bad blood and backstabbing. We can always photoshop them standing right next to each other smiling ear to ear. (With so much ingenuity, we should give ourselves an award too!)


Oh yes, we would love to attend the opening of your international luxury store, featuring goods we can never afford and would rather be dead than seen with. Of course, we will love to stand in a sweaty crush of people in the foyer of a loud mall waiting endlessly, for the cheap – sorry chief –guest to arrive, while sipping your dubious wine and ingesting your spurious cheese. We love nothing more than air kissing the same half dozen or so socialites while attempting to dodge their relentless social mountaineering on these occasions.

The idea of such events fills us with a thrill that is hard to describe: Sheeny-shiny goods gleaming from shelves, vacuous conversations with event organisers that add up to nada; the faceless hordes who spend each waking hour looking for the next host-less party.

And at the end of it, our reward: a teeny give back memento which we will not know what to do with – and the event’s crowning glory : a mention of our name in the next day’s Page Three. Too bad they got the spelling of our name and picture wrong. There’s always a next time.

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