Malavika’s Mumbaistan: The Fallen Prince
Literature Live’s founder Anil Dharker likes to tell a good tale. And this one is about Rajat Gupta, one of the most enigmatic personalities of the financial world. Gupta, the Indian-American businessman had helmed the leading management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company from 1994 to 2003, before witnessing his career and reputation go up in smoke, after he’d been indicted for insider trading in a case that had made headlines in 2012, and had resulted in him spending two years in an American prison. We recall seeing Gupta at the height of his stardom at one of the city’s most glamorous residencies, being fawned over by its tycoons and glitterati, but that had been before his denouement. “I was in the dining area of our tented community at the Kumbh Mela this February, when I saw a familiar figure walking in alone. ‘Hello, Mr Gupta’, I said, introducing myself. He seemed pleased to be recognised and happily joined my table for dinner,” Dharker said. Dinner conversation between the former editor and the erstwhile financial statesman had proceeded on polite, social lines subsequently. “How do you broach the subject of a man`s downfall, from the highest pinnacles of the financial and management worlds to prison?” Dharker had wondered. But finally, the subject had come up, through news of Gupta’s forthcoming book, ‘Mind Without Fear’, which he’d been inspired to write by an American cellmate (a writer, who for some reason had been denied permission by authorities and had conceived an elaborate subterfuge, writing what were ostensibly long letters to his wife, but were actually pages of his novel sent out in weekly instalments!). It had been a riveting evening of course, but as he narrated it, prisons, writing and cellmates were not the only things occupying Dharker’s mind when we spoke yesterday. Next week when he presented Gupta his book in Mumbai – India’s financial capital – Dharker wondered if its captains of industry and the hotshots of its finance, the men who’d earlier lionised Gupta and hung on to his every word, would turn up at the book launch. “Once upon a time, they would have tripped over to shake his hand. But whoever amongst them I have rung to invite so far is ‘out of town’,” said Dharker, adding, “But let’s wait and see on Wednesday. Perhaps, the world isn’t all two-faced.”
“Guess guess, who’s in a mess?” It was our friend, the Oolong Tea-Serving Society Hostess Friend (OTSHF), calling early (by her standards) in the morning yesterday, her voice heavy with the previous night’s indulgence of Ghazals and guzzling. She’d recently returned from Japan, where she’d gone to study, amongst other things, 12th century charcoal etchings and the formation of a particular mushroom found only in the rock temples of Kyoto, and she sounded chuffed and excited as she always did, when she happened to pick up a particularly juicy nugget from her travels that needed to be broadcast forthwith. “So try and guess who’s in a Mess? An heir to an empire and owner of a team. A pretty heart-breaker. Nothing more, nothing less,” she continued trilling, until it occurred to us that she was attempting to speak in rhymes.
Huh? we said.
“Yes Yes,” continued the OTSHF. “Apprehended in the land of the rising sun, a name I will not confess…Now in trouble with authorities. A mystery you must undress.”
And then she hung up, her mind already on to her next call. And of course, we had no idea what on earth she was talking about…
“More horror films should be made. Then people won’t need a leader to instil fear.”
- Tweeted by film director Shirish Kunder
Giving Back In Style
This weekend when we’d taken a ferry to Alibaug after many years and alighted at the Mandwa jetty, we couldn’t help being impressed by the improvements that we saw. Earlier, the jetty, a relic from another era, had been a fear-inspiring structure, crumbling and heaving, and the entire experience of getting to the city’s so-called Hamptons had been fraught with anxiety. But that had been in the past. What greeted us now was a well thought out infra plan that ensured easy arrival and departure, with a large and clean terminus, restaurants, restrooms and shops , that all toted up to a pleasant travel experience. What had particularly impressed us were the efficient electric buggies that carried people back and forth and the roof of the terminus that provided shade under the blistering sun. Both had borne the Raymond signage. “I’ve been going to Alibaug for the past 40 years,” said the textile giant’s chairman Gautam Singhania, whose brainchild it had been. “On my journeys, I used to notice senior citizens and the infirm finding it very difficult to negotiate the length. So, I gifted five buggies to the local workers there a few years ago. They ply people and earn a bit of money from the tips they receive from the travellers. The same goes for the roof of the structure which I donated. If it helps people, why not?” Contributing to the improvement of the infrastructure is not the only intervention from the textile heir, known to be impassioned about outdoor adventure and the sea. Recently, he planted rows of laburnum trees to line the road that leads to his weekend mansion, around five minutes from the jetty. “They are my favourite trees,” he said, adding, “I know that they only flower for a few months, so I thought why not shade the path and enjoy their beautiful yellow flowers. Besides, my wife Nawaz was pleased,” he said.