Category Archives: Events

Times Literary Carnival – Stories of charming panelists

Event: The Times Literary Carnival

Venue: Mehboob Studios, Mumbai

Spread over three days: Dec 2-4, 2011

When you sit some 20 feet away from Saurav Ganguly and hear him talk, you become his fan, once again. This time around, for his charm and wit. Sure, I’ve seen him on the TV, but I tend to not believe all of it, for smart editing can always show us exactly what the channel wants us to see. (Just like they show Amitabh Bachchan squirming in his seat every time Rekha goes up to the stage during award functions. No sir, that’s not what really happens!)

Ganguly was part of the panel at the Times Literary Carnival where they discussed whether cricket has lost its charm. I found the topic blasphemous, and the panel unanimously responded – no, it definitely hasn’t. Others on the panel were Sri Lankan writer Shehan Karunatilaka, cricket journalist Boria Majumdar, writer Anuja Chauhan and regional player Deep Dasgupta. The discussion, as it happens with most such cricket talks, turned to the 20-20 format of the game in comparison with test cricket. I won’t write about views of all panelists here (for I believe that Anuja was a misfit), as it was clearly Ganguly who stole the show. Not only did the guy rattle off numbers and stats with ease, he spoke lovingly of his memories. Of his first test match outside the country, the time he played in Kolkata, anecdotes on other players.

The superb Saurav Ganguly, on stage with moderator Boria Majumdar.

He surprised me the most when he spoke uninhibitedly about BCCI rules, players he thought shouldn’t be on the team and some more. There was almost a collective gasp in the audience as everyone was alarmed for a second about his forthrightness. When a listener asked him whether he would join politics (considering his excellent leading skills), Ganguly replied nonchalantly, “I will step in when Bengal has no leader.” Maybe I found him intriguing because I had expected him to be politically correct and sit on the fence about flammable topics. But Ganguly was clearly not like the one I had in mind. This one easily batted his way to the win.

He spoke with panache and threw witty answers right back at listeners who later asked him questions. For serious (read technical) questions asked by young boys, who I guess were U-19 players themselves, he took a couple of moment to fish for the appropriate advice. It wasn’t just some clichéd blabber. Well, I guess you get it by now that I am totally bewitched by the man.

Another session at the carnival was one where it was discussed if classical and contemporary cuisines are on a collision. It could have been an engaging discussion, had it not been for the moderator of the talk, Karen Anand. Not only was she full of herself and her son who cooks, and her students at the catering college, she also interrupted guests and answered their questions when audience asked a few!

A well-known face on television, Madhur Jaffery was a guest and another one for this talk was the chef and owner of The Table (in Colaba) Alex Sanchez. Karen succeeded in putting me off within the first two minutes she started yakking, and I found myself piqued only when Alex spoke. A dapper young man, Alex was shrewd with his answers. He was fighting off charges of being elitist with his restaurant, when Karen asked him a settler, “Does one find salt and pepper shakers on the table in your restaurant?”

“It is available,” came the reply. Only on further prodding did he reveal that general/mass items such as salt, hot sauce (he didn’t say ‘Tobasco’), etc are only provided when explicitly asked for, and are generally discouraged.

And while we’re talking of chefs, the dashing Vikas Khanna (you may know him from MasterChef India) was present for the event too, but I missed his talks as they coincided with others which I attended.

Fatima Bhutto, though I caught only the last five minutes of her discussion with Kabir Bedi on the experience of getting to know a parent as a grown up, seemed like she had the listeners wrapped around her finger alright. I must also mention that she looked gorgeous in her sari.

On Sunday, the last day on the event, Meenal Baghel (editor-in-chief, Mumbai Mirror) had a terrific discussion with Manu Joseph about her book Death in Mumbai, and then proceeded to launch it. Meenal is my former boss and Manu, a most favourite writer; I couldn’t be happier. Death by Mumbai traces the story of Neeraj Grover’s murder by Emile Jerome in 2008, involving Maria Susairaj. Knowing Meenal, I’ll bet the book is a riveting read. I bought a copy there and got it signed by her. This was a first time I got an author to sign my book, and the author even knew me – double win!

Writer and co-organiser of the event, Namita Devidayal moderated an interesting talk with three authors about the love, longing and loneliness in metros, especially Mumbai. Meenal Baghel, Anuja Chauhan, Vikram Chandra and Altaf Tyrewala discussed it. The conversation veered into a pretty dark realm, with Sex and the City pastiche-d as Stress and the City. Anuja – who’s written books with happy romances served a feeble foil to the three others – much as she spoke about pinning our hopes on the girl from the Mumbai chawl who derives joy from a stolen glance of a neighbourhood boy she fancies. I am quite intrigued by Altaf Tyrewala’s views and plan to get his forthcoming book, Bombay Noir.

Vinod Mehta, author of the newly launched Lucknow Boy, spoke with Tarun Tejpal. I often lost the context of discussion as they became nostalgic about politicians and scams from over 30 years ago. Mehta spoke enthusiastically and I’m guessing his book will be full of inside stories on various journalists and politicians.

There were other specialists of their respective fields: fitness expert Rujuta Diwekar, Jaya Row (who gives excellent spiritual discourses on Bhagvad Gita), film industry’s Anuvab Pal, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap and Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif (who I heard was excellent), and writer Chetan Bhagat. The Carnival also saw the Mumbai launch of shooter Abhinav Bindra’s memoir, a poetry reading session by Gulzar, and performances by Raghu Dixit and Paradigm Shift.

I attended two days out of a total of three and enjoyed myself immensely. I’m all for more such literary festivals, which refrained from becoming intellectually heavy on a reader, with generous servings of various fields such as food, city, tarot, music and films. Besides, there was a lot of people-spotting to be done. Many senior editors of magazines such as Caravan and Upper Crust, popular bloggers, and others from the world of television media were present, and mingled with the crowd. I also got to do a bit of small talk with Anujha Chauhan, who’s another favourite (girls, read her The Zoya Factor now!).

Saurav Ganguly, though, remains the highlight of the carnival for me.

Were you there at the carnival?


India beats Pak 4-1 in Hockey World Cup qualifier!

Days after the sweet victory in cricket against South Africa, the Sunday’s match of the FIH Hockey World Cup held in India kept the viewers at the edge of their seats, pitting India versus Pakistan. Both nations are gunning down each other’s soldiers across at the borders, so when their hockey teams were on the ground, tension in the air was as tight as the match that followed. By the end of the clash of sticks, the Indian emerged victorious by 4 goals, against Pakistan’s 1.

The home team converted two penalty corners out of three to go 2-0 up the first half. Immediately after the start of the second half, popular player Prabhjot Singh penetrated a bunch of skirmishing Pakistani defenders to score India’s third goal.

Indian Prabhjot Singh and Pakistani captain Zeeshan Ashraf at the Hockey Wprd Cup 2010

Indian Prabhjot Singh and Pakistani Zeeshan Ashraf at the Hockey Word Cup 2010

Four-time winners Pakistan are led by Zeeshan Ashraf, who had said recently that beating India here would mean more to Pakistani fans than winning the Cup itself.  India, the 1975 champs, are led by Rajpal Singh. India coach Jose Brasa has said India must keep their emotions under check while playing Pakistan.

Spain defeated South Africa 4-2 in the opening match of the World Cup at New Delhi’s Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Sunday. Next, England defeated Australia with 3-2 game score.

Sachin Tendulkar proves he is God, again.

“Cricket is religion and Sachin Tendulkar is God” is a common saying in India. The one-day international match at Gwalior, India, between India and South Africa today (Feb 24, 2010) just proved why, all over again.

Tendulkar thwacked his way into the books of history with an unbeaten 200 runs a terrific end to the first innings, and India erupted with joy and chants lauding him. And as many of the recent records under MS Dhoni’s captaincy, India too entered the record books for scoring their personal highest in an ODI. They were 401 for 50 overs.

Toward the end, Dhoni added an element of doubt to the inevitability of a Tendulkar’s 200 by denying him strike at the end of three successive overs. Tendulkar’s fans all over the globe were livid. Luckily, Dhoni’s last hit failed to make it to the boundary, thanks to SA’s quick fielder. And Tendulkar finally gets his strike to create history. And that he did.

Gwalior and the rest of the world witnessed a phenomenal double ton they probably will never again. A tired Tendulkar took off his helmet and waved his bat to world in acknowledgement. And the world bowed back to him.

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar after scoring 200 in ODI against South Africa on Feb 24, 2010 in Gwalior, India.

More on Sachin Tendulkar, courtesy Cricinfo:

After 39 years of ODI cricket, Sachin Tendulkar chose arguably the best bowling attack doing the rounds, to eclipse the record for the highest score ever before bringing up the first ever double-hundred in the game’s history. The lucky spectators at the Captain Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior were privileged by one of the most special knocks from Tendulkar’s blade, as he batted without any of the shackles he has imposed on himself in the latter part of his career. Nothing could deny the master – be it bowlers, fielders or mix-ups. Dinesh Karthik, Yusuf Pathan and MS Dhoni stood by and admired as Tendulkar unfurled all the shots in his repertoire and more, to take India past the 400 mark.

In the 46th over, with a flick for two past short fine-leg, Tendulkar broke the record for the highest ODI score, going past the 194 made by Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry and Pakistan’s Saeed Anwar, and to say that he acknowledged his feat modestly would be an understatement. He didn’t raise his bat, merely shook hands with Mark Boucher and simply carried on batting amid the din. Coming from a man who is not known to showing too much emotion with the bat in hand, it wasn’t surprising. He reserved his celebrations for the magic figure of 200, which he reached in the final over with a squirt off Charl Langeveldt past backward point. He raised his bat, took off his helmet and looked up at the skies and it was only fitting that one-day cricket’s highest run-getter reached the landmark.

Sachin Tendulkar  – Lessening the number of atheists in India since 1989.

Filly gallops her way to the win at Indian Derby 2010

The McDowell Signature Indian Derby 2010 was an extremely high profile event, with Mumbai’s rich and famous attending it. With the betting turnover in crores, these were some really terrific races that gave the crowd a super adrenaline rush. For me, it was just great to be in the same seating area as Vijay Mallya, the tycoon who owns United Spirits, an airline, and much more.


Jacqueline, the winning filly

But the highlight of the event was the final race. What a twist and what a run by the winning filly Jacqueline. Outstanding! Check out a little more about the record Jacequeline created to bring home a prize money of $12.5 million, here!

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