Malavika’s Mumbaistan: A Bite Of The Big Apple

Few at India Inc can match Anand Mahindra’s suaveness or style. The quip-a-minute, Twitter-savvy chairman of the Mahindra group had duly exercised his franchise along with other responsible citizens during the elections last Monday. But unlike most others, Mahindra had jetted off to NYC soon after to keep another important date: one to bring in his 64th birthday – which fell two days later on May 1 – with his newly-born grandson (who lives in the Big Apple with his parents), joined by other members of his family who’d flown down for the occasion. And true to his no-nonsense style, the Blues-loving, blue jean-wearing (well, he does pair them with cravats) alumnus of Harvard, eschewed the run of the mill, fine dining high-living establishments for some good-old comfort food at NYC’s iconic Saravanaas Bhavan, the famous south Indian restaurant which is an icon to the city’s NRI community. “I guess the Desi in me just couldn’t be overcome,” he shared. “Had my birthday dinner at my old haunt, New York’s Saravanaa[s] Bhavan. And on top of the staple idlis, tried out cuisine from Kerala,” said Mahindra, who is said to have played a role in opening a branch of Delhi’s much-celebrated restaurant Indian Accent in Manhattan. Incidentally, his newly-inked vote finger has been drawing much curiosity. “Most people sympathetically ask me how I injured my finger. I answer, ‘All is well; it just had a ‘brush’ with democracy’.” he shared later.

The Return Of The Shek

In a way, it is the ultimate homecoming. Sources say that after its celebrated restoration by award-winning architect Abha Narain Lambah, Mumbai’s Knesset Eliyahoo synagogue at Kala Ghoda will soon house an eatery dedicated to Jewish cuisine, helmed by none other than Moshe Shek, one of the city’s most prominent Indian Jews. The reclusive Shek, founder of one of Mumbai’s most popular chains of restaurants and cafés, which specialises in Mediterranean fare had been a household name almost two decades ago. Along with restaurateur contemporaries like AD Singh and Rahul Akerkar, he had spear-headed Mumbai’s standalone restaurant boom in the late 1990s and was one of the first to earn the title of ‘celebrity chef’, helming successful enterprises like Athena, (India’s first resto-lounge which opened in 1999) and Colaba’s Cafe Basilico in 2001. But apart from a short-lived emergence a couple of years ago, when he conducted food-cooking workshops in Alibaug, the chef has eschewed the spotlight and been low-profile ever since: he sold 90% of his company and word on the block is he’s been deliberately MIA. But with this soon-to-open venture housed at the newly-restored synagogue – situated as it is in the heart of SoBo’s burgeoning café, restaurant and art centre with Trishna, Khyber and Kala Ghoda Cafe as its neighbours, this may just be the return of Moshe Shek to Mumbai’s restaurant landscape. “It’s still too early [to say much],” said Narain Lambah, when we enquired about the imminent café, adding, “I can just say that I am looking forward to it opening like any other lover of Jewish culture and cuisine.”

Come, Make Us Laugh

India is in for not one, but two of its most famous international stand-up comedians’ visiting in the coming months. Not only is Aziz Ansari arguably the world’s most recognisable comedian of Indian descent, slated to perform his live stand-up comedy tour later this month with two shows each in Mumbai and Delhi, but his equally-famous North American peer, the Indo-Canadian comedian Russell Peters, named as one of the ‘50 Best Comics of All Time’ by Rolling Stone magazine, is scheduled to debut his latest act in India with a three-city tour of Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru a few days after.

“The response for Ansari’s Mumbai shows is overwhelming. Seats were priced between ₹1,200 to ₹5,000 for both shows at NCPA, and every seat has been sold out,” informs a source. Maybe, with all the noise and fury of elections, all Indians really want to do is be reminded of the funny side of life.

India In Venice

As to be expected, there is considerable excitement in India’s art community with its return to the Venice Biennale, after an eight-year hiatus and a couple of false starts in between. With ‘150 years of Gandhi’ as its theme, the India Pavilion, a joint collaboration between the Ministry of Culture, CII, the NGMA and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art will feature works by Bengal School artist Nandalal Bose and contemporary artists. Slated to open next weekend, not only will the Kochi Biennale announce the name of its curator for 2020 this Thursday, but the next day will see the launch of a comprehensive monographie publication on Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat, whose work ‘Covering Letter’ is part of the India pavilion. “Covering Letter is a piece of historical correspondence, a brief letter written by MK Gandhi to Adolf Hitler in 1939 urging him to reconsider his violent means beamed onto a curtain of traversable dry-fog,”said Kallat from New York, before catching a flight to Venice. “Much like my three public notice works, it reflects on an utterance from history that might be re-purposed to re-think the present. There is a sense of perplexity in the way that Gandhi words his address; as the principal proponent of peace from a historical moment, he greets Hitler, one of the most violent individuals of that era, as a friend. Like many of Gandhi’s gestures and his life experiments, this piece of correspondence seems like an open letter destined to travel beyond its delivery date and intended recipient – a letter written to anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

First Published:
May 06, 2019 00:07 IST

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