My holiday continues sleepily and at snail's pace which is exactly how holidays should be. London in summer is a delight if you can avoid some ace dolts and there are plenty floating around thanks to these goddamn low-cost airlines and cheap air fares. The day is not far when some people will come to London every evening from Paris. Such are the woes of this city.
There is no way you can avoid the Indian Pub (also known as the Audley Pub) if you are keen on going to George or to Berkeley Square. The evenings remain as routine as they should. Guarding the gates to this pub is the ebullient Ravi Ghai of Marine Intercontinental, Bombay fame. He is the macho RG unlike the one who lost the Congress an entire election if not the dynasty, power forever. One evening I sat down with this RG (Ravi Ghai) to be enthralled by stories of his Doon School days (he was Rajiv Gandhi's classmates but thankfully only shared a room with him and not his IQ) and equally the story of how his father acquired the Marine Intercontinental (the Nataraj then) for Rs 12 lakhs only from its erstwhile owner. He spoke eloquently about his days as a man just back from Cornell and how he wanted to re-orient the business thereafter. They don't make people like Ghai anymore. He is not exactly the most virtuous of men given his philandering ways with women, but at least he is honest about it and tells tales as they should be told: with animated excitement. Also, that evening, at The Audley, I noticed a well-known publicity seeking married couple from Delhi holding hands. The only hitch: they are not married to one another but then for Delhi, that's par for the course and a mere technicality.
Culture continues to be the bedrock of my London sojourn. So off I went to this amazing gallery, Castle Fine Art which was exhibiting Raphael Mazzucco's works: Raphael is one of America's finest avant garde photographers and he put up his debut exhibition at this gallery. Amongst other news, there was this elegant evening put together by Sadia Siddiqui of Mustang to raise money for the Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. While on the subject of fund-raising, I must admit this is also the season for Galas being hosted for various causes. I attended two and both were wonderful and evocative. One was the Lions Club of Moor Park's Annual Gala to raise money for leprosy patients and the other was Women's India for various projects in and around Rajasthan in India. It gladdens ones heart to see the kind of effort that people put into these galas. And both Bipin Desai and Sangeeta Talukdar did an admirable job qua both these galas.
Then there was the fabulous launch of a gallery in Notting Hill called Heist by my friend Farzana Baduel: an iniiative that is supported by a wonderfully talented lady from the Rushida family of Saudi. As was the annual Christie's -Tatler Ball where the women were spectacular as was the art.
But the highlight of the week for me was my visit and participation in the Althorp Literature Festival: Althorp is the name of the estate which belongs to the late Princess Diana's brother, Lord Charles Spencer. I was a guest of Christie's and the Saturday I spent at Althorp was outstanding. The estate is magnificent and the setting to hear speeches and book readings is just out of this world. I caught up with my maniacal friend Boris Johnson and was then part of a 12 people lunch which again was elegance personified. There were only two other Indians invited but they didn't show up. But then again typically Indian I would say.
Till now it has been a summer of divine content. Am off for the next chapter of my holidays to the US and shall keep you posted. Till then, name a few more roads in Bombay and keep Uddhav Thackeray busy please.