Last evening, was at an event, held ostensibly to celebrate a somewhat tenuous connection between an icon of luxury and the country at large – a book about an edifice, that at the end of the day, is just another luxury property on the sea-front. Self congratulatory messages poured forth, as speaker after speaker gushed about their ‘favourite’ and ‘fond’ memories of that edifice, with readings of excerpts from a tome that has been expensively mounted.
One of the speakers, in fact, was even described as a baby of that building – whatever that means! It was amusing, to say the least, with one speaker even using the 26/11 tragedy that befell that piece of architecture to garner a standing ovation for himself – if at all someone could be so full of themself, it was he, it was he, it was he!
But that wasn’t the end of the merriment and mirth – what was particularly funny was the attempt to link the edifice with India’s freedom struggle, even as it had played host to the very men and women who once ruled India during the pre-Independence years.
What also bemused me was that a five-star hotel could arrogate itself to being the subject of a self-commissioned coffee-table book weighing a few kilos, hiring scholarly historians to do the job – all because you happen to be over a hundred years on the block! What next? A book on Waldorf Astoria, perhaps, or maybe a full-length feature film produced by a known Hollywood director? I mean, that does pre-date the subject of this post by a good decade, going back into the 19th century and even has a railway platform for its exclusive use.
For all that juxtaposing with the freedom movement – names of M K Gandhi, the Mountbattens, the Nehrus, were freely bandied in the book readings – this was no ‘ordinary’ gathering. The city’s, and indeed the country’s elite, were all that mattered as the swish set twirled and blew air-kisses and some even danced the night away as a rather sad-sounding band – that could well have been the band on the Titanic – played some tunes for the crowd which really wasn’t interested in it, immersed as they were in the free-flowing liquor and canapés.
Now before you reach any conclusion, am no johnny-come-lately socialist – far from it. I am as materialistic and money minded as the next man, and hey, everyone deserves to have money and good food and the good things of life, but then, I don’t make a living out of pretence. Why turn, what was decidedly an unabashed publicity drive into an evening with some vague notion of higher calling, or maybe, as some thought, nation building.
You might just earn more respect if you were honest with your intentions – we wanted to indulge in a bit of self-glorification, and so we paid a bomb to the authors for over 32 years to produce this glossy, which in any case must be so expensive that I didn’t even dare ask the cover price.
And just what is with the seating arrangements at these events – all the celebrity types need to be seated in the front rows, while the lesser mortals are banished to the wilderness of back-benches. Why can’t they just let it be a free seating, and let everyone just sit where the next vacant seat is – or is sitting next to known faces reserved exclusively for other known faces? Last I checked, we were still a democracy – free world and all that jazz!