Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Up Close and Personal with Sharma

It was a packed Wednesday evening at the NCPA’s Godrej Theatre for the Literature Live! Evening with Ruchir Sharma, in conversation with author-columnist Shobhaa De, about his latest book, Democracy On The Road, based on his twenty five years of covering Indian elections. What’s more, the audience had shown up on time, requiring Anil Dharker, the literary platform’s founder, to have to politely turn latecomers away. As expected, Sharma, whose day job as Head of Emerging Markets and Chief Global Strategist for Morgan Stanley in New York requires him to manage a $20-billion fund, offered some scintillating insights and anecdotes from his many years of being up close and personal with India’s electoral landscape (‘the caravan’, De had referred to his expeditions as): these included a brush with a famous film star-turned-politician who had received Sharma and his group in his hotel room, clad only in an undershirt and lungi and had proceeded to climb into bed, conducting the rest of the conversation from under his bedcover! And a powerful CM, who had received Sharma in her pink nightdress (“Please wait,” she‘d said, “I will be back after I Colgate.”).

On a more disturbing note, the celebrated author revealed that India’s ongoing general elections had been the most polarised and divisive that he had seen in all the 25 years; what was more disturbing was his comment that he also noticed a sense of fear among the people he spoke to, which made him wonder if they were telling him the truth about their voting preferences.

Interestingly, when he himself had been asked by eager members of the audience and later by guests at the smart dinner at Shobhaa and Dilip De’s residence about who would form the next government, he too had been evasive, diplomatically side-stepping the one question everyone wanted an answer to.

Fear or diplomacy? All will be revealed on May 23.

Sartorial Splendour in Venice

Move over PC and DP. If you think it’s only Mumbai girls who can sashay down international red carpets with the best of ‘em, think again. A claque of Delhi divas, led by Shalini Passi, have just upped the sartorial ante, putting their best Balenciaga-shod foot forward at what is being described as the Ball of the Century, fashion house Dior’s Tiepolo Ball at the 17th century Palazzo Labia in Venice, with the backdrop of the Biennale, this Saturday. Said to be a homage to the label’s founder and the artist Salvador Dali’s original extravaganza, the evening, which saw attendance by the likes of Dior’s artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri, Tilda Swinton, Karlie Kloss, Sienna Miller, Hamish Bowles and Ellen Von Unwerth, had the Delhi-based Passi, whose art foundation champions conceptual and subversive expression outfitted by the Venice-based Antonia Sautter — the designer behind the Il Ballo del Doge, the luxury event of the Carnival of Venice. But more attractive than her sartorial splendour undoubtedly was her choice of escort: the beatific art historian and writer, Dr Amin Jaffer, curator of the exquisite Al Thani Collection, outfitted every inch like the nabob he is.

Tweet talk:

“Forget Raghuram Rajan, Urjit Patel, Dr Krishnamurthy Subramanian, Shaktikanta Das,” said the twitter-happy industrialist Harsh Goenka yesterday, reeling off a string of star economists, adding, “I am the true representative of the economy:

My hairline is in recession

My belly is in inflation

And all this is leading to depression!”

Heart-warming Encounter

Can there be anything more heart-warming than this picture, featuring LBGTQ activist aka The Godfather of India’s Gay Revolution, Ashok Row Kavi and the distinguished (retired) Justice Arvind P Shah, the man said to be the architect of gay rights in India? After all, it was Shah’s historic judgment on July 2, 1999, which eventually led to Article 377 being struck down last year. “So lucky that a chance meeting turned into this historic photo,” said Row Kavi, who met the judge, widely celebrated for his progressive ruling in areas such as prison reform, the disabled and artistic expression too, at Delhi’s Royal Plaza Hotel on Janpath, where the jurist had come for some professional work. “We were having our UNAIDS workshop, ‘After 377’, and he saw the board for the workshop and was collared by our lawyer, Anand Grover of Lawyers Collective, and taken to the coffee shop for a snack. And voila! That’s where we snagged him,” said a delighted Kavi.

“I said to him, sir, you are the architect of our liberation. I must give you the silver jubilee remembrance notebook of our NGO Humsafar,” said Row Kavi. “It’s a simple exercise-book with inserts of photos and pictures of our 25-year-old journey, of employees now either dead due to HIV or who just burnt out. But it has a rainbow-coloured cover to show we will always fly the rainbow…”

First Published:
May 17, 2019 01:08 IST

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