April 03, 2020
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William Dalrymple's Hollywood dreams may remain just that, but is he angling for a Bollywood role?

illustration by Jayachandran For the first (and last?) time, the most intimidating door sign in Delhi (‘Do not ring the bell unless you are expected’) was ignored as the literati and paparazzi squeezed into Khushwant Singh’s living room for the launch of Surjit Kaur’s Amongst the Sikhs—Reaching for the Stars (Roli Books). Manmohan Singh did the honours, and K.P.S. Gill was among the 70-odd guests. That wasn’t all: the book is scheduled for an even more glittering launch in the US where Bill Clinton has agreed to do the honours. All thanks to the Sikhs Kaur has profiled in her book who include Yogi Bhajan (he of the white Sikh disciples and the health food line like Yogi Tea, Sunshine Spa and Wha Guru Chew) and Sant Singh Chatwal, ‘the Tsar of Indian Restaurants Abroad’, who is Clinton’s best friend from India.

illustration by Jayachandran Clinton may not have graced William Dalrymple’s book launch in Los Angeles, but the author of White Mughals was more than happy with the guest who turned up at the LA County Museum of Art. It was Aamir Khan in a hip-hop outfit, in baggy jeans, cap on his head. Dalrymple’s Hollywood dream remains just that. Shekhar Kapur took him to lunch seven times; nothing came out of courting Hollywood script star Sabrina Dhawan either. But with Aamir in the audience, Dalrymple delivered a slide-lecture that seemed straight out of Bollywood. And according to an eyewitness: "His own delivery made one think he might be angling for a role."

illustration by Jayachandran Some publishers have a curious sense of humour. To register their protest at the burnt books in Baghdad, the Roli editors sweated it out to produce a quickie. The result: a Dubya joke book, with a ‘foreplay’ by Suhel Seth and a postscript by the editors. A sample: "A tragic fire on Monday destroyed the personal library of George W. Bush. Both of his books have been lost. Presidential spokesperson Ari Fleischer said the President was devastated as he hadn’t finished colouring the second one."

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