Flight of fancy Columns

What’s needling you?

Clockwise from top left: The spread at Bastian, Sequel, and the columnist with her friends  

“Guys, not a soul here,” wailed the message on one of my WhatsApp group chats as I was en route to the new Sequel restaurant in Bandra Kurla. “Isn’t that good?” I quickly typed back, adding, “Safe during Covid.” “Not when I’m decked up! I wore my Gucci shoes!” came the reply. Sigh.

With Covid-19 cases in Mumbai climbing day by day, dining out is so risky. Going anywhere is fraught with tension. People want to go out, but are weary of seeing crowds. Empty is bad, but full is worse.

I love Sequel, which, with its plethora of vegan, organic fare, is amongst the city’s most healthy dining addresses. It clearly has a fan following since Vanika Choudhary, the owner, now has three outposts. The latest edition, which opened at the end of last year, and to which I was headed, has been designed by celebrity architect Ashiesh Shah. I had suggested it not only because it was new but because everyone in our group was on some sort of Ayurveda diet, thanks to Dr Uppoor, the Goa-based doctor who is advising multiple friends. (Sometimes I feel like I belong to a wellness cult.)

Upon arriving, I found that my friends had been exaggerating — the place was hardly empty. There were occupied tables and one person at the bar. “They came after we arrived,” explained Gucci Glamazoid, seemingly placated. “And we ordered drinks!”

But it’s definitely a buzz kill when you step out to eat only to find municipal authorities turn up to do surprise Covid checks, which is what happened when I went to Bastian, another recently-opened restaurant. The inspectors came to ensure there was only 50% occupancy and that the tables were spaced apart. But they did all this while making the establishment turn off the music. Odd because no scientific study indicates that the virus spreads through music.

Beeple’s ‘Everydays - The First 5000 Days’, which sold for $69 million at Christie’s

Beeple’s ‘Everydays - The First 5000 Days’, which sold for $69 million at Christie’s  

When it comes to the pandemic, there is no logic. Which is why the world is topsy turvy. Even as much of the world suffers economically comes news that two obscure Singapore-based Tamilians, with no prior history of art collecting, have bought digital art for $69 million! In this instance, most of us can relate to Warren Buffet, who famously said he didn’t invest in technology companies because he couldn’t understand what they did. That analogy applies to NFTs aka Non-Fungible Tokens. A few nights ago, I sat opposite a physics prodigy who tried to explain it all to me, including bitcoins and blockchain. My head hurt at the end of it, and no, it had nothing to do with the wine. Forget auction houses like Christie’s selling crypto-art. Even fast food chains like Taco Bell sold NFTs for $1 to celebrate the return of a potato dish (Business Insider reports that they are being resold for $3,000). Call me old fashioned but I would much rather track indulgences like jewellery or IT bags that may be equally fungible but are at least tangible.

Right now, the ultimate luxury is the vaccine. Not since Botox has a needle generated so much excitement. Given that our roll out has been painfully slow, and Indians are hard wired to jump queues, impatient rich desis of a certain age, and who have residencies and paperwork to prove it, have been hopping over to Dubai, London (prior to the shortage), and even the US to get the jab. People are obviously hush hush about it — come to think of it, isn’t that just like getting Botox? Everyone does it but no one admits it.

The foibles of the rich was best summed up by something hilarious forwarded to me by my pal Binita Putcha. She sent advertising whiz Freddy Birdy’s post: “The ultimate Insta cliché would be to get a picture of yourself eating avocado on banana bread getting vaccinated in Business Class with the Maldives below you.” Covid-19 may rob us of our sense of smell and taste, but it can’t steal our laughs.

This fortnightly column tracks the indulgent pursuits of the one-percenters.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 7:52:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/whats-needling-you/article34169193.ece

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