The Tata Trusts project, which seeks to provide affordable cancer treatment in every nook and corner of the country, is being personally supervised by Ratan Tata.

Tata Trusts, led by Ratan Tata, has pledged Rs 1,000 crore and other resources to help the central government develop cancer-care facilities in five states, an initiative that promises to drastically improve access to treatment for thousands of patients.

The facilities in Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh will be created afresh or upgraded on the lines of Parel’s Tata Memorial Hospital, which attends to patients from across the country.

The hospital, the country’s top cancer-care centre, provides free or highly subsidised treatment in over 60 per cent of the cases. But the massive workload invariably leads to a long waitlist. Majority of the patients hail from struggling families which cannot afford to stay in an expensive city like Mumbai for a long time. Many quit the treatment midway. The new facilities will help tackle this problem.

According to an official in the central department of atomic energy, whose functioning is overseen directly by the Prime Minister’s Office, Ratan Tata recently shared his desire to open more affordable cancer treatment centres. He also urged Tata Group companies to chip in through their CSR programmes.

The Rs 1,000-crore aid pledged by Tata Trusts will come in the form of internal infrastructure and medical equipment. Their doctors and paramedical staff will be trained by Tata Memorial Hospital.

Tata Trusts has already signed an agreement with the Assam government for upgrading the main cancercare institute in Guwahati and adding capacity (advanced tertiary care facilities chemotherapy, radiation and surgical oncology) in hospitals in other districts. The Rs 540-crore project will be carried out in three phases.

“I am extremely delighted to have met the legendary Ratan Tata and members of the Tata Trusts for what may become a rare philanthropy government collaboration on cancer care and management,” Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted on October 12. Sarma was in Mumbai at the time.

A new hospital will come up in Jaipur, Rajasthan, at the cost of Rs 200 crore. The state government there will bear most of the cost. In Ranchi, Jharkhand, Tata Trusts will be allotted 23.5 acres for a new centre. In Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, the existing Indian Railways cancer institute and research centre will be upgraded. Tata Memorial took over the facility recently. In Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh, the Tirupati Balaji Temple Trust will provide 25 acres for a new facility.

“Once the new or upgraded centres start operations, patients from north India won’t have to come all the way to Mumbai for basic treatment,” said a senior doctor at Tata Memorial.

Mirror could not contact officials of Tata Trusts for comment.

The Parel hospital, which has 700 beds, treats around 67,000 new cancer patients from across the country every year and also attends to 4.5 lakh follow-up cases annually. People from the Middle East and Africa also seek medical attention here.

At a meeting with central government officials last year, experts from Tata Memorial revealed that one third of the patients hailed from north India, and discussed the possibility of opening dedicated cancer centres there to speed up treatment.


First Dastoor Meherjirana Library: The Oxford of Gujarat

The restoration of the holdings of the 145-year-old First Dastoor Meherjirana Library in Navsari is an exercise in reclaiming the illustrious history of Parsis in India

The reading room of the First Dastoor Meherjirana Library in Navsari. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

I never saw such a fine collection in a small town, and it does honour to the generosity of the donors and to the zeal for instruction of the Parsi population at Navsari. This visit will remain one of the best remembrances of my short occasion in the Parsi mofussil.

This inscription, the first entry in the guestbook of Navsari’s 145-year-old First Dastoor Meherjirana Library, scrawled in the lithe, oblique hand of James Darmesteter, a French Orientalist, translator and scholar of Iranian philology and Zoroastrianism, dates back to January 1887. The son of a Jewish bookbinder, Darmesteter was elected chair of Iranian languages at the Collège de France in Paris in 1885. He travelled to India the next year to trace the origins of a few Pashto ballads. His 11-month-long itinerary included excursions to the Punjab, Peshawar and Abbottabad and brief halts in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Navsari. An article he wrote on Bombay’s oldest French library, Le Cercle Littéraire Bibliothèque Dinshaw Petit, located on Forbes Street (today V.B. Gandhi Marg in the Kala Ghoda precinct), published in Les Journal des Débats in November 1891, testifies to his visit to this thrumming commercial centre of colonial India. But what drew Darmesteter to Navsari, a sleepy town in Gujarat surrounded by chikoo plantations, about 250km from Bombay?

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Centre of learning

I first came to Navsari in 2015, looking for a house that had belonged to my paternal great-grandfather. The nationwide construction boom is visible here too as the town steadfastly embraces change—pastel-hued, one-storeyed houses with spacious otlas (porches) are now transforming into modest apartment blocks; grocery shops are making way for ritzy showrooms. When I went back in August this year, I made sure to stroll through the town, taking in the details—dense gulkand ice cream at the Yazdan Cold Drink House, the swathe of green that is Tata Baug, and the striking façade of the library on an arterial street.

It is believed that Parsi migrants settled in Navsari in the 12th century, some 400 years after their arrival on the shores of Sanjan. It is also believed that Navsari has the oldest existing fire temple outside of Iran, the Vadi Dar-e-Meher, consecrated between 1140-60—the exact date is contentious. It is revered as the most important centre of priestly learning in India, especially for those ceremonies that ordain priesthood. Navsari is so important to Parsis as a centre of learning, with the Vadi Dar-e-Meher being a key centre for initiation into priesthood, that in his Gujarati book Tawarikh-e-Navsari(1897), historian and sociologist Sorabji Mancherji Desai compares it to Oxford University.

James Darmesteter’s entry in the visitors’ book dated January 1887. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

James Darmesteter’s entry in the visitors’ book dated January 1887. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The foundation of a library in this town of scholarship and erudition was perhaps only to be expected. The First Dastoor Meherjirana Library was established in 1872 in the town’s Dastoor Vad precinct, and is home to about 630 manuscripts written in Avesta, Gujarati, Pahlavi, Pazand, Persian, Sanskrit and Urdu. “Back then, it functioned as a kitab khana (or the space of a library-workshop; also known as khizana-al-kutub) where human and material resources were accumulated in order to manufacture manuscripts,” says Katy Antia, chairperson of the library’s board of trustees.

Katy Antia, chairperson of the library’s board of trustees (right), with Parinaz Gheewala, administrator. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Katy Antia, chairperson of the library’s board of trustees (right), with Parinaz Gheewala, administrator. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

In 1872, Navsariwala Seth Burjor Bamanji Padam, a wealthy Parsi gentleman, gave Rs225 to construct the library. But soon there were too many books; a larger space was needed. In 1906, Jamshedji Kavasji Dastoor Meherji Rana gifted the building he owned in Tarota Bazaar, and the library still stands here today. An annexe was erected in 1967 after a donation of Rs16,000 by Seth Rustomji Hormusji Kolah. Kolah’s family were the original makers of the fêted brewed cane vinegar (sarko) and fish roe pickle (gharab nu achaar) that Navsari is known for. One of the outlets of the 132-year-old EF Kolah & Sons, in fact, is a stone’s throw from the library. In 2009, using funds from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, a new building adjoining the existing structure was constructed. The library now has a reading room, a conference hall, accommodation for visiting scholars and a laboratory for the conservation of manuscripts. It was the second library in India to house important Zoroastrian manuscripts, founded 15 years after the establishment of the Mulla Feroze Library in Mumbai.

The upper level of the main reading room. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The upper level of the main reading room. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The library’s repository of manuscripts is impressive and wide-ranging—it includes sanads belonging to the Mughals; an Indo-Persian cookbook titled Kitab al Ma’qulat va’l Mashrubat; recipes from Unani medicine in Gujarati; Outlines Of Zend Grammar in Avestan; and copies of the 19th century illustrated and lithographed Shahnameh, a Persian epic by Firdausi first completed in 1010. It is also home to printed publications such as volumes of Parsee Prakash (see box), a record of the obituaries of prominent Parsis; the collected works of Friedrich Max Müller, including Chips From A German Workshop and India: What Can It Teach Us?; and parts of Harmsworth Popular Science, a British fortnightly on science and innovation first published in 1912. There are books on science, philosophy and popular literature, autobiographies and encyclopaedias. The library is often open until midnight, with students using the reading room free of charge. It is a space open to members of all communities.

The Meherjirana Library has attracted scholars from across the world—Australia, France, Germany, Iran, Japan, Spain, the UK and US. “We have hosted 56 scholars in the last six years,” says Antia. A three-day conference in January 2013 saw the library play host to scholars such as author Amitav Ghosh, historian and pedagogue Dinyar Patel and a researcher from the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Anton Zykov, and was an occasion to showcase a selection of the meticulously conserved manuscripts. The library has also been working closely with Prof. Alberto Cantera and his team of researchers at the University of Salamanca, Spain, to digitize important Avestan manuscripts through the Avestan Digital Project (see box).

The story of its name

The name of the library can be traced to one of the manuscripts it holds, the Mahyarnama, a versified Persian biography of Meherji Rana. A boy named Mahyar Vacha, later known as Meherji Rana, was born in Navsari in 1514. Adopted into the lineage of the Bhagaria group of Parsi-Zoroastrian priests of his paternal uncle Vaccha Jesang, Meherji Rana soon won recognition for his devoutness. According to a translation of the Mahyarnama, an excerpt of which appears on the official website of the library, “Meherji Rana was chosen by the Mughal governor at Surat to have an audience with the Emperor Akbar…During his stay at the court from 1578-79 AD, Meherji Rana impressed the emperor so much that according to the Mughal historian ’Abd al-Qadir al-Bada’uni, the Emperor ordered his vizier Abul Fazl to keep a fire burning day and night at the court. Meherji Rana thwarted the sorcery of a Hindu priest named Jagatguru, who had caused a plate to ascend into the sky, appearing like a second sun. Before Meherji Rana left court he was given a land grant by the Emperor, in an area called Ghelkhadi, near Navsari.”

A restored ‘firman’ in the library. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

A restored ‘firman’ in the library. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

firman or sanad (deed) was issued under Akbar’s seal and signed by Abul Fazl. Today, it sits framed in the administrative office of the library. Restored with the support of the New Delhi-based Parzor Foundation, first initiated by UNESCO New Delhi in 1999 for the preservation of Parsi-Zoroastrian heritage, it was on display at the exhibition Threads Of Continuity: Zoroastrian Life And Culture, held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in New Delhi in March last year.

Upon his return to Navsari, Meherji Rana was accepted as the head priest (vada dastur). There began a priestly lineage that continues today: On 25 January 2010, Kaikhushroo Navroze Dastoor was chosen as the 17th Dastoor Meherji Rana, and currently serves as the head priest.

The Atash Behram (fire temple) in Navsari. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The Atash Behram (fire temple) in Navsari. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

A stately structure in cadet blue and white, the library is located a short distance from the Atash Behram (fire temple). A flight of stairs leads to the main reading room, where empty chaises longues dot the periphery. In the afternoon, the space sinks into sepulchral silence, save for the rare cry of a hawker ferrying wood apples and sweet-and-tart carambola (kamrakh) on a pushcart down the street. The air is filled with the musky scent of leather-bound covers. A wrought iron spiral staircase in one corner leads to more cupboards chock-full of books. A member of the staff arranges well-thumbed dailies on a pigeon-hole wall shelf. Students pore over tomes to prepare for entrance examinations, patrons go through newspapers with hawk eyes.

Ervad Rustomji Padsha Antia, one of the oldest residents of Navsari, at his 100-year-old house in Tarota Bazaar. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Ervad Rustomji Padsha Antia, one of the oldest residents of Navsari, at his 100-year-old house in Tarota Bazaar. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Keeping up with the past

In 1923, the library commissioned Ervad Bamanji Nasarwanji Dhabar, a scholar of Zoroastrian studies and Avestan and Pahlavi, to catalogue the collection. They had 469 manuscripts. This was titled “Descriptive Catalogue Of All Manuscripts In The First Dastur Meherji Rana Library”, Navsari, known colloquially as “Dhabar’s Catalogue”. In 2008, a comprehensive catalogue of all the manuscripts received after 1923 was compiled by Firoze Kotwal, a community scholar-priest and adviser to the Unesco-Parzor Foundation project of manuscript conservation, Daniel Sheffield, a postdoctoral fellow and scholar from Princeton University, and Bharti Gandhi, the librarian at the time. They listed the 157 manuscripts that had been acquired over 85 years.

“The collection of manuscripts was built gradually as a result of contributions by various families and individuals from Navsari and elsewhere,’’ says Antia. Several manuscripts were donated by the Meherjirana family itself. The largest was by Dastoor Erachji Sorabji Meherjirana (1826-1900), a descendant of Mahyar and a remarkable scholar who mastered the art of writing Persian manuscripts by hand at a young age. He was appointed librarian at the Mulla Feroze Library in the early 1860s, and simultaneously assigned the task of copying a number of manuscripts in Avestan, Gujarati and Persian. According to Kotwal’s paper, A Treasury Of Zoroastrian Manuscripts: The First Dastoor Meherjirana Library, Navsari (2011), Dastoor Erachji not only made copies for the Mulla Feroze Library but for himself as well. When he donated his collection to the Meherjirana Library, there were more than 75 manuscripts in his own hand. He is also recognized for having compiled the first Pahlavi-Gujarati dictionary in 1869. More recently, the holdings of the library have been further enriched by the acquisition of manuscripts from families living in Mumbai, from Kotwal’s collection, as well as from non-resident Indians.

The exactitude of the “makers” of Zoroastrian manuscripts—the calligrapher, illustrator and binder—was of prime importance at each stage of creation. The same importance can be extended to the role of the conservator. The important manuscripts conserved at the library by the INTACH Conservation Institute, Lucknow, include two illustrated volumes of the Shahnameh, the Sikandar Nameh of the Persian poet Nizami, Jamaspi manuscripts in Gujarati, a Persian vanshavali (genealogical chart), and several firmans.

First undertaken in February 2006, INTACH’s ongoing conservation of rare manuscripts was planned in phases. A temporary climate-controlled laboratory was set up inside the library annexe. Twenty-five phases of curative conservation have since been completed, and 88,417 folios restored. Around 698 objects, including firmans, scrolls (one is 18ft long), vanshavalis, oil paintings and photographs were given a new lease of life.

Mamta Mishra, director of the institute, says: “The main problem was posed by the fugitive inks used and the charred effect of the iron gall ink, which is acidic in nature. The iron gall ink is initially black in colour but on ageing, chars, turns brown, and gets transferred on the rear side of the paper.” The most common causes of wear and tear, according to Mishra, are deposition of dust and dirt on the paper, brittleness due to acidity, warping and abrasion of the folios, and ink stains. Fungus growth and infestation by insects take a toll too. Defective repair using acidic paper too leaves splodges of adhesive on the folios. The pages are very delicate—there is a fearful crackle of paper; it crinkles at the slightest touch.

Yet the greatest challenge comes from the climate, which prompted the microfilming of almost 90,000 pages, a project funded by the Parzor Foundation. Other donors include the FE Dinshaw Trust, the Pirojsha Godrej Foundation and the World Zoroastrian Organisation Trust.

Membership of the library has grown. It currently has about 400 members, 100 of them lifetime members. The fee is modest—Rs240 for an year-long membership, and Rs5,000 for lifetime membership.

Acquiring funds is a recurrent challenge faced by the library, but its operation and upkeep are far from the bureaucratic malaise that plagues similar institutions in the country, owing to the dedication of trustees and staff. “There is endless conservation work to be done and more manuscripts await treatment,” says Mishra. “They are then beneficial to the research scholars who visit the library from time to time.”

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

‘Parsee Prakash’

Born in Bombay in 1849, Bomanji Byramjee Patel collected newspaper cuttings of major events in the Parsi community of Bombay and the world. When he died in 1908, it is believed he left behind about 200 scrapbooks of cuttings. But a few benevolent Parsis had recognized its archival value earlier. They helped Patel establish a periodical that would eventually become a vital source of reference for the general public. It was named ‘Parsee Prakash’, and comprised unabridged obituaries of members of the community; letters drafted by renowned Parsis; government deeds; and even the eloquent writings of itinerant travellers. While the first volume, comprising 11 parts, was published in 1888, the second was put together after his death by his wife. Thereafter, Rustam Barjorji Paymaster, a Mumbai-based scholar and poet, was hired to edit and compile volumes (3-7), published by 1942. Following Paymaster’s death in 1943, efforts were made to renew the periodical, and by 1973, another four volumes were published, recording events until 1962. It is believed that an additional volume (12) served as a comprehensive index to the entire set. Most of the volumes are at present at the Meherjirana Library, the KR Cama Oriental Institute in Mumbai, and the library of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat.

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Conservation of the KhordehAvesta from 1601

he INTACH restoration process salvaged a copy of the Khordeh Avesta, a prized manuscript of the library that is over 400 years old. The team from the department of preservation at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark, led by conservator Hanne Karin Serensen and book-binder Hanna Munch Christensen, received it in two volumes: one comprising 299 folios, and the other, 250 folios. Handwritten in red and black ink, it was partially restored by the late Nicholas Hadgraft in Cambridge, UK. The text arrived in Copenhagen in poor condition—the manuscript was unbound, the pages yellowing and infested. The red ink had corroded in portions, and the paper was prone to foxing, or the appearance of reddish-brown rusty blotches.

The restoration process

■Strips of thin Japanese paper were used to secure the insect-damaged parts

■ The adhesives were chosen to suit a warmer climate. In some places, wheat starch was used to create stronger bonds.

■ The loose pages were rejoined with strips of paper from both sides, the quires gathered and sewn together.

■ The book block was sewn on and woven with cotton-linen tape, and the sewing thread used was a linen yarn from Sweden.

■ The spine was glued with synthetic adhesive Evacon-R.

■ The end bands were made by hand and sewn with linen thread on a thin rope, followed by a piece of tape to further strengthen the structure.

■ Preparation of the leather cover involved paring with a hand-knife, to make the edges thin enough for a gathering which appears as discrete as possible.

■ The box was lined with cotton flannel, the spine covered in the same leather as the cover, and the lid and sides dressed with red-coloured bookbinders’ cloth.

The manuscript is now nestled in a cabinet under the watchful gaze of the librarian. It is available on request, and one is expected to wear a pair of gloves while leafing through its painstakingly restored pages.

Khorshed Deboo


Bombay and Mumbai, as Seen by Sooni Taraporevala’s Sharp Eye

Parsis, children and faces familiar and strange all find a place in the photographer’s black and white world.

Koli fisherwoman, Bombay 1977. Image Copyright ©Sooni Taraporevala, Image Courtesy: Sunaparanta

Koli fisherwoman, Bombay 1977. Image copyright ©Sooni Taraporevala, image courtesy: Sunaparanta

For Sooni Taraporevala – scriptwriter, filmmaker and photographer – Mumbai is more than just home; it is also a muse, a character with a distinct personality and, it must be said, a loved one who pleases and frustrates at the same time. Except that, on her part, she continues to bestow her affections and fondness on it all the time.

In the 1988 film Salaam Bombay, Taraporevala’s script delved into the very sordid underbelly of the city, exploring it through the eyes of children who lost their innocence very swiftly. It was an insider’s journey and brought Taraporevala international attention.

But long before that, Taraporevala was going around Bombay with her camera and shooting its many eccentricities which have almost totally disappeared from view. When did one last see a camel on Marine Drive? A lone Premier Padmini in the background completes the picture of a city long before liberalisation came to the country and brought with it swankier cars and traffic jams.

Children, uninhibited and joyful catch her eye the most, also spots the young balloon seller who is out on his cycle and must sell all of them to earn his daily living. And of course there are the Parsis, in and out of their finery, a subject she has explored in detail in an earlier book on the community.

All these and more are in her latest book, Home in the City: Bombay 1977-Mumbai 2017, which will be released on October 14 to time with an exhibition of her works.

In the words of Salman Rushdie, who has written one of the introductory essays in the book (the other is by Pico Iyer): “I first began to write about this city at approximately the same time that the earliest photographs here were taken. Back then I was thinking of childhood, of my own Bombay childhood and the many childhoods around me, rich and poor, Hindu, Muslim, Parsi and Christian, and so I’m struck by how powerfully, how intimately these images look at children, how the innocence of dance and play is suddenly complicated by the arrival of a very real-looking toy gun, and while the boy at whom the gun is pointed is laughing – perhaps a little too uproariously for comfort – the boy holding the gun doesn’t seem to think it’s funny at all. The children of Bombay-into-Mumbai, ragged, cigarette-smoking, hustling on the street, stare out of these photographs, with too much knowledge in their eyes. Sooni Taraporevala has been showing us these children ever since Salaam Bombay.”

Click Here for some more pics and the full story at TheWire.in

Meet social media maven Jasmine Dotiwala

Jasmine Dotiwala is a British broadcaster, producer, director and columnist.
This is a blast from the past from my bottomless drawer … by way of an introduction
for those who may want to know 
Exec Editor @London_360 TV Radio Digital Broadcaster. 
Former; Head @MTVNews / @MTVBase,@channel4 host, 
Columnist @TheVoiceNews.Global flygirl w/Vision.Glamazon.
Here’s an interview 
And coming up is an article on (hold your breadth) 
Jasmine Dotiwala and her mate Mariah Carey.
Read on and be distracted…. Dara Acidwalla

My mate Mariah Carey: An unknown from Southall and her unlikely friendship with pop’s ultimate diva

The elderly Asian proprietor of a corner shop in the West London suburb of Southall is stacking shelves when events take a surreal turn.

A limousine pulls up and out leaps a bodyguard. From the back seat emerges a glamorous woman in a figure-hugging dress and skyscraper Christian Louboutin heels. She is not from Southall; she inhabits a starrier stratosphere.

Yet she walks into the shop, picks up a wire basket and wafts along the aisles on a cloud of costly fragrance. 

Mariah Carey and Southall's Jasmine Dotiwala

Bosom buddies: Mariah Carey and Southall’s Jasmine Dotiwala – pictured here in the star’s ranch – met 12 years ago

At the check-out, the proprietor, slack-jawed with amazement, puts her shopping in a box. It is a prosaic selection; there are no luxury items for sale in this shop.

Then the woman and the bodyguard carrying the box of groceries get back into the waiting limo and are whisked away as quickly as they came. The mirage fades as suddenly as it appeared, but the shopkeeper will remember the woman for years to come.

His unexpected customer was the American singer Mariah Carey, the most successful female recording artist in history. What was she doing in this unglamorous corner of London? She had come to visit me.

Knowing I was sick and languishing on the sofa at my mother’s house with a searing temperature, she had come straight from filming the Graham Norton TV show with the intention of cheering me up.

I have half-a-dozen close friends and Mariah is among the dearest. I flatter myself that the relationship is reciprocal: Mariah and I share a strong, sisterly friendship. She signs off all her letters to me with the affectionate endearment: ‘Your sis, M.’

Though she is stupendously rich and I am relatively poor, it is a friendship of equals. She visits me in my small home; I am a frequent guest at her various mansions and holiday villas all over the world.

And it was a typically impromptu gesture of friendship that brought her to my mother’s modest two-bedroom house to see me that day.

Actually, at the time I was feeling less than hospitable. Dressed in a grubby old dressing gown and almost delirious with a fever, my hair lank and my face bereft of make-up, I looked like death and felt dreadful.

And I felt acutely uncomfortable that my stupendously wealthy friend had swooped into my childhood home without warning, like some migrating exotic bird.

I’m not remotely ashamed of my origins and I knew my Indian-born mother, Roshan, would not accord Mariah any special treatment – she is not remotely fazed by celebrity – but I did feel awkward.

Couldn’t she have visited on a better day when I was feeling fine and the house was spruce and tidy? 

Mariah and Jasmine

Different worlds: The odd couple in Jasmine’s tiny flat

‘Really, you don’t need to come – Jasmine’s so ill she can’t even get up,’ my mate Monique had implored Mariah when she’d phoned. But, true to form, Mariah had insisted that she would visit. She was on a goodwill mission to lift my spirits.

And she was hooting with laughter as she unpacked the box of goodies she’d chosen for me. There was a bottle of Alize liqueur – favoured by the rap artist P. Diddy – which Icouldn’t drink because I was on antibiotics. Neither could I manage a sip of the plonk she’d chosen.

Her hamper also included a bag of self-raising flour – to help me rise from my sickbed – chocolates and a packet of (ahem) jumbo-sized sanitary towels. All the items were hand-picked to make me chuckle. And, of course, they did.

Mariah is clever at choosing the right gift for the occasion. Even her joke presents are thoughtful. And often – though I beg her not to spend money on me – she is embarrassingly generous. She has given me many lavish gifts while instructing me to spend no more than £25 on her.

How had the paths of our disparate lives crossed? Twelve years ago, when I was a news presenter for the music channel MTV, I was asked to interview Mariah at a villa on her favourite island of Capri.

I knew her by reputation only. An alto with a prodigious five-octave range, she had recorded a string of successful albums – among them Merry Christmas, Daydream and Butterfly – that had earned her vast wealth and huge international celebrity. And her reputation as a grade A diva preceded her.

‘I can’t believe you’re sending me to see her!’ I wailed, as my boss dispatched me. I visualised a morning spent pandering to the inflated ego of a prima donna.

Initial appearances seemed to confirm my fears: Mariah was poolside on a sun-lounger in a red knitted bikini, a cooling drink at her elbow. I took one glimpse at the reclining superstar with her mane of artfully tousled locks and thought: ‘Uh, oh.’

But she defied my expectations. She was sharp, witty and funny. We soon discovered we shared a dry and rather British sense of humour.

Mariah gave me a tour of her hotel bedroom. She showed me her vast collection of hip-hop CDs. Then, at the end of our interview, she pushed me, fully clad, into her swimming pool and jumped in after me, shrieking with laughter. (The theme of my MTV show was that the artists I interviewed would abuse me.)

When I emerged, dripping wet, I realised with dismay that, though I’d brought a full change of clothes, I’d forgotten to pack spare knickers.

Mariah presented me with a pair of her own: beautifully wrapped, flesh-coloured silk. ‘I could sell these for a fortune on eBay,’ I quipped. (Of course, I didn’t.) 

Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey dress as angels on Halloween

Happily married: Mariah and her husband Nick Cannon, the host of America’s Got Talent, dressed as angels for Halloween

‘I’ve really enjoyed meeting you. Give me your number and I’ll call you,’ promised Mariah as I left.

‘Oh yes,’ I thought, with uncharitable sarcasm. ‘Of course you will.’

But to my huge surprise, she did. I was driving home from work a couple of weeks later when a call came through from one of her aides.

‘Are you free to speak to Miss Carey?’ she asked.

‘Sorry, I’m not,’ I replied. ‘I’m driving at the moment. But I’ll be home in ten minutes if she’d like to ring me back.’ I thought I’d better arrange that in case I crashed my car from shock.

She did – and so our unlikely friendship began. In that first meeting, we talked about music and struck up an immediate rapport. If I had to speak for Mariah, I’d say she probably likes the fact I’m opinionated and outspoken. She also calls me ‘festive’, which in her lexicon means I’m always up for a celebration and having fun.

There’s no doubt, too, that she’s an Anglophile. She adores the British accent – whether it be the Queen’s or a Cockney’s – and she does a pretty passable impression of it.

And I think she values the fact I am always honest with her – the people on her payroll may find it harder to speak their minds.

Certainly, I can’t compete with her lifestyle. I live in an unassuming flat near the vibrant, but impoverished area of West London where I was raised. My two bedrooms are so small that if you joined them together they would still fit into one of Mariah’s bathrooms.

So I confess I felt a little self-conscious when, on one of her fleeting, last-minute visits to London, she phoned to ask if she could call by. My embarrassment was compounded by the fact I was entertaining friends for dinner. 

‘Are you in? Can I pop over?’ she asked. I sounded hesitant. Mariah was mock distraught. ‘If you don’t want me, I’ll just go straight to the hotel,’ she laughed.

‘Oh no, come on over. Shall I save some food for you?’ I said. She said not to worry because she’d bring a take-away. And so it was that Mariah breezed into my tiny flat laden with enough food from the exclusive Mayfair restaurant Nobu to feed herself and all my guests.

We ate two dinners that evening, to the accompaniment of much laughter. Then Mariah, whose capacity for hard work is legendary – I have known her to go for 41 hours without rest – dropped into a deep sleep in my sitting room.

She even wrote about it in a song. The first track Betcha Gon Know on her new album, Memoirs Of An perfect Angel, contains the line: ‘I fell asleep on Jasmine’s sofa.’ 

Mariah Carey

‘Emotionally abused’: The star was told she had a ‘bad’ side of her face that should never be photographed

She is great company and the consummate dinner party guest. On other occasion when she dined at my flat with my friends, she stopped off at Tesco en route and arrived laden with carrier bags containing salmon, sea bass and spinach, which she helped me cook.

The only thing our palates differ on is spices – I love food very hot and she doesn’t.

I’ve often been impressed by her eagerness to embrace everyday experiences; the more prosaic, the better.

After performing in a concert in Hackney, East London, she insisted on accompanying me to my favourite bagel shop in nearby Brick Lane.

The area is known for the authenticity of its curry houses, its colourful ethnicity and a distinct aura of edginess and danger at night. I advised Mariah to stay in her limo while I bought the bagels.

‘Child, I’m from New York City. I ain’t scared of nothin’!’ she hammed, sweeping into the shop with me.

We stood in the queue together under unforgiving fluorescent strip lights while the other customers looked on in disbelief.

‘Will you sign this for my daughter?’ demanded a burly local, proffering a creased scrap of paper and a pen. Mariah duly obliged.

Five minutes later, the man returned. ‘Could you do it again? You’ve spelt her name wrong,’ he grumbled. Mariah dutifully supplied a second autograph.

As well as her kindness to her fans, she can be more than generous to her friends. Once, knowing I’d never been to Disneyland, she flew me to Florida as a surprise treat on my birthday while we were en route to her New York home.

Like an excited child wide-eyed with delight, she dragged me round all her favourite rides. ‘You don’t know about the Tower Of Terror? Come on, you have to try it!’ she said.

Obviously, the stories about Mariah being diva-ish persist. But I believe they spring from the fact that for many years she was dominated – brainwashed even – by certain people who had shaped her early career.

She has said she was emotionally abused by her first husband, the record company executive Tommy Mottola, who signed her to his Columbia Records label.

She was told she had a ‘bad’ side of her face that should never be photographed. So, she would forbid anyone to sit on her ‘wrong’ side during interviews. While the Press leapt on this foible as evidence of her overweening vanity, it was simply that she was doing what she had been told.

So, too, with the flunkey pictured toting her handbag. She had been told she should never carry a bag because ‘It doesn’t look right’. It was not that Mariah deemed herself too important to carry her own bag; she was only obeying orders.

On one occasion, we were swimming off her private yacht in the Med. As Mariah climbed on board after our dip, I handed her a towel. A skulking paparazzo captured the moment and the next day a headline proclaimed: Mariah Even Has a Towel Handler!

I laughed at the absurdity of it, but in this way the myth of Diva Mariah is perpetuated.

She is far from blase about her lavish lifestyle. Despite her riches, she still views the world with wonderment. Once, when I was distraught about the break-up of a romance, she insisted I stayed for a few days with her in her apartment in New York. Though her schedule was punishing, she fussed over me like a mother hen.

Mariah embracing a fan who greeted her as she arrived at London's Dorchester Hotel on Wednesday

Gracious: Mariah embracing a fan who greeted her as she arrived at London’s Dorchester Hotel on Wednesday

‘Are you OK? Do you want to go to yoga or will you come to work with me?’ she asked each morning.

Every Christmas she invites me, along with four of her closest girlfriends and their families, to her ranch in Aspen, Colorado.

My parents are Zoroastrians – an ancient Persian religion – and have never celebrated Christmas, so I have no qualms about leaving them during the festive season. And as an only child, I relish the sisterly companionship of Mariah and her family.

She always says that she’s eternally 12 years old, and that’s how I see her. She has a sense of childlike awe about Christmas.

After Santa with a reindeer-drawn sleigh visit, we stay up all night on Christmas Eve wrapping presents.

Mariah makes linguini with clam sauce every year and, in her typically self-mocking manner, asks: ‘Isn’t anyone going to help me?’

She’s introduced me to the joys of rolling in the snow clad only in a bikini and then leaping into a hot tub.

On Christmas Day morning, still in our pyjamas, we spend three hours unwrapping our gifts, then have a nap before emerging in gorgeous red dresses for dinner.

Afterwards, we’ll fly off to her holiday home in the Bahamas. Mariah swims like a mermaid. I’m a timorous swimmer, so she’ll tow me along as a lifeguard would a floundering novice. Protectiveness is one of her qualities.

I know she’d make a wonderful mother and she’s told me she would love to have children. She and her husband Nick Cannon, 30, a comedian, actor and businessman who hosts Simon Cowell’s America’s Got Talent, have been married for a year.

Only once have I felt I could offer Mariah a treat comparable to the ones she routinely lavishes on me. Through my work contacts as a TV producer and director, I was able to take her to meet Richard Branson at his private paradise on the Caribbean island of Necker.

We spent a blissful few days there – on one evening, we lay on a rooftop talking and looking at the stars.

I was thrilled that I had arranged for her to visit such a fabulous place, but I suspect that if you were to ask Mariah, she would say she had every bit as much fun sitting at the dining table in my cramped London flat sharing a laugh over a home-made supper and a cheap bottle of wine.

Kayani Bakery

causing a ‘sugar rush’ since 1955

It’s early in the afternoon, definitely past the unusual office rush-hour, but no one seems to have informed people on East Street. There is serious traffic jam here. Apart from the vehicles, there seems to be a jam of people as well. The parking slots are full, but somehow, that has not discouraged the people swarming in. At first glance, the traffic jam and crowd are difficult to explain.

One might think that the stately single-storey structure — home to the Cantonment’s first Western-style restaurant and ballroom — has attracted all the visitors. Though a pale shadow of its past glory, the building does house a Cantonment Board dispensary, a telecom firm service centre and a restaurant. But none of these three establishments justifies the crowds.

While the dispensary and the service centre do not have too many visitors anyway, the restaurant too is currently closed for renovation purposes.

For an answer, look a little ahead, and perhaps at your wristwatch. The Kayani Bakery is to shut for the afternoon in 20 minutes, and this crowd must rush to get its hands on the biscuits, cakes and other baked goodies before the bakery downs its shutters.

The bakery, started by a Zoroastrian family, opened its doors on this premises in 1955. Since then, business has been roaring. Incidentally, the items on sale — the different of cakes, the very-popular Shrewsbury biscuits, patties, orange-flavoured biscuits and the quintessential khari — have not changed much over the years. The evidence lies in the antiquated menu board on one of the walls. The prices, however, have changed, though the goodies here are not as expensive as some other big-name bakeries in town.

Henry Gomes comes to Pune from Mumbai almost every weekend to meet his parents. And every visit is also marked by a trip to the Kayani Bakery, to stock up on mawa and Madeira cakes, which Gomes takes back with him.
“The mawa cake here gets sold out fast. Hope it is still there,” said Gomes. “This place is part of my childhood memories. I used to come here almost every weekend with my parents. Of course, I now come here every time I visit Pune,” he adds.
And he is just one among the many, many loyal customers the bakery has. Though Kayani Bakery accepts only cash, even last year’s demonetisation did not adversely affect the business. “There was bound to be some effect. But we did not suffer much. Our customers kept coming. Most of them are very old and they all want their mawa cake and khari with tea,” said a shop attendant.

 By the time the bakery was ready to shut for the afternoon, most of the items were already sold out. “Please come back after a couple of hours… when we reopen,” was the polite request of the security guard to some of the disappointed customers who could not make it on time.
They will have to wait a bit longer for their “sugar rush.”
Shiladitya Pandit

Monaz Gandhi Receives “The Harvey Excellence Awards”

Monaz Gandhi Receives “The Harvey Excellence Awards As The Youngest Achiever & The Most Valuable Harvey Indian For Her Invention Of MONTEA – The India’s First Teaching Robot

Monaz Viraf Gandhi With Both Harvey Excellence Trophies For MONTEA

LONDON – 01 October 2017 – Ms. Monaz Viraf Gandhi slams historical special category award ton by bagging two high profile awards namely The Harvey Youngest Achiever 2017-2018 and The Harvey Most Valuable Indian 2017-2018 at The Harvey Excellence Awards hosted on 27 September 2017 at London.

Monaz Viraf Gandhi, A Mumbai based pre-school teacher working at The Learning Curve, Mumbai has created historical innovation named MONTEA who is the India’s first Humanoid Teaching Robot. MONTEA has claimed worldwide recognition in the field of education through the promotions and campaigns organized by SXRC – USA all over the world in different schools and colleges and other testing laboratories. Due to the overwhelming performance of MONTEA worldwide, SXRC Board Members had proposed the name of newly invented and demonstrated MONTEA to The Harvey Awards Council, London, UK with its performance reports, demonstration videos and other necessary documents.

27 September 2017, The Harvey Excellence Awards hosted at London witnessed live demonstration of the last minute entry of MONTEA demonstrated by Dr. Shivani Rawat, Chief Technical Assistant,

SXRC Bengaluru. The hair raising test scenarios stunned the audience where in MONTEA replied to technical questions of each subject asked by the audience to the point and very rapidly along with it MONTEA also showed his dance skills, karate skills, cricket skills, badminton skills and many other hair raising skills. After the demonstration, The Harvey Excellence Awards Council announced The Youngest Achiever 2017-2018 Award and The Most Valuable Harvey Indian 2017-2018 Award under the special awards category for Ms. Monaz Gandhi who is the creator of MONTEA.

Harvey Youngest Achiever Award

Most Valuable Harvey Indian Award

Dr. Shivani Rawat received the award on behalf of Ms. Monaz Gandhi at London said, “I thank all the dignitaries present here, The Harvey Excellence Award Members, SXRC Members and all who have directly or indirectly helped in the creation of MONTEA on behalf of Ms. Monaz Gandhi whose innovation you all just witnessed on this big stage and I can feel the wow in each one of your eyes which has left you fixed on the chairs. Congratulations Ms. Monaz Viraf Gandhi for your great achievement at these Harvey Awards and we wish you all the success in your life with MONTEA. This is your first step out of the cradle and we wish you create footsteps for the younger generation to come in this field and carve a new digital age for the future.”


Dr. Harvey Weber, The Chairman and Co-Founder of “The Harvey Excellence Council” said, “We have no words for what we saw before 30 minutes with the display of MONTEA. I can just say, that Ms. Monaz V Gandhi deserves to be the youngest achiever and for decades to come, she will be remembered as the creator of the First Indian Teaching Robot that will be a new companion for the kids who have desires to learn. Just as we have laptops, tablets, mobiles at present where students watch videos and learn, after a few years, students will buy a portable MONTEA to teach them the concepts of theories and practical usage and make learning real fun for the students and kids. Congratulations Ms. Monaz! We are proud that we witnessed your creation on this great stage and we wish you a successful career ahead with MONTEA and other projects in your lineup.”.


SystemX Research Centre is the world’s Digital Innovation Centre which researches on transforming medical systems with software defined machines and solutions that include high end and precise quantum computing and artificial intelligence making them connected, responsive and predictive. SystemX shares this innovative knowledge with medical industry giants enabling them to form high quality medical instrumentation which works for the benefit of the patients.



Ms. Zenia Khan Akhtar

SystemX Research Centre – PR Department

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