The party secrets.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
On a recent evening, The Delhi Walla went to the launch of Avirook Sen’s new non-fiction book, Aarushi: Anatomy of a Murder, at the India International Center. It turned out to be the scandal of the season. Manu Joseph, a journalist and novelist, was presiding over a panel talk about the book when it all happened.
Mr Sen was wearing orange shoes. Ellen Barry, the South Asia bureau chief for The New York Times, was seated beside him on the stage in a red shirt (see the top photograph). After only a few minutes into the conversation, Mr Sen turned to Ms Barry and began to denounce her for the damning review she had written of his book on the news website The Wire. He had a serious problem with one of her lines (“Just because the prosecution was flawed doesn’t mean they didn’t do it”); he also scolded her for misspelling a character’s name in her review. Mr Sen then went on to utter some unflattering words about the Times woman, holding up her review to the audience as an example of present-day’s poor journalism.
Nobody was expecting such an assault. Ms Barry, a Pulitzer Prize winner, looked dazed. Mr Jospeh, a columnist for Ms Barry’s newspaper, was completely rattled.
Finally, Ms Barry turned to the audience and, looking extremely agitated, exclaimed, “Is this a panel about my review?”
The public clapped; it was not clear if the applause was for Ms Barry or for Mr Sen.
The conversation then continued in the new normal.
Mr Sen’s incorrigible manners took away all the attention from the beautiful people. On that evening, Meenal Baghel, the Bombay-based editor for the Mumbai Mirror, made a rare appearance in the capital. She looked stunning in her green top. Chiki Sarkar, who is rumored to be starting a new publishing house, dazzled in a black gown. Meru Gokhale of Penguin Random House had arrived with her husband, author Patrick French. He looked extremely grim. Early this year, Mr French was appointed as Nobel Prize-winning writer Doris Lessing’s biographer by the literary executors of her estate.
There was also the lovely (retired Chief Justice) Leila Seth, who goes to every talk-of-the-town book launch. She was seated beside her daughter, Aradhana, a renowned artist. The handsome Kai Friese, who was the founding editor of the now-defunct Delhi City Limits magazine, was seen standing beside writer Mitali Saran—she looked dashing in her salt-and-pepper hair.
Other notables spotted: the stylishly attired TV presenter Sunil Sethi, the reclusive journalist Sheila Reddy who is said to be working on a book on Pakistan’s founder Muhammed Ali Jinnah, and her daughter, author Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan, who entered separately with a male friend of foreign extraction.
The Delhi Walla feels that next time Ms Barry should think thrice before going to attend the launch of a book that she has already trashed.
Party with a difference
1. (from left: Manu Joseph, Tanveer Mir, Avirook Sen, Ellen Barry)
2. (Meenal Baghel, left, with Chiki Sarkar)
3. (Aradhana Seth)
4. (Kai Friese with Mitali Saran)
4a. (Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan)
5. (Patrick French)
6. (Ellen Barry, left, with Meru Gokhale)
7. (Meenal Baghel)