Sailana and Saliyana (And It’s Not About Either)

I came across both these words serendipitously on a Sunday morning, two-three weeks ago, and they sounded so cool and catchy together that I couldn’t but help use them as the title of this piece.
Sailana used to be a princely state that Mr. Vir Sanghvi wrote about a couple of Sundays back. The context was the documentation of the cuisine of the old princely states and Mr. Sanghvi described a book that the Maharaja of Sailana had written to capture for posterity the recipes from his kitchen. But this is not about Sailana…it is about Mr. Vir Sanghvi.
Among the various hats he dons, perhaps the most interesting, as far as I am concerned, is the food column that he writes called “Rude Food”. Week after week, in this Sunday column, he churns out more than 1200 words on some culinary issue or the other; waxing eloquent about Heinz ketchup or describing the history and geography of the various dals of our country, or bemoaning the lack of non-maida breads in our restaurants, or telling us where the best Hyderabadi biryani is available or introducing us to the concept of dunking Bourbon chocolate biscuits in coffee (I like an idiot tried them with black coffee, instead of milky coffee, the first time). Each Sunday, this is the one column I look forward to, apart from the one by Mr. Swaminathan Anklesaria Iyer.
Mr. Sanghvi’s depth of knowledge when it comes to food is amazing and any one who claims to be a foodie in this country should read his column religiously. I only hope Mr. Sanghvi puts all his pieces together in a book at some point in time.
Saliyana on the other hand refers to the combination of Mr. Salim, a choreographer and Ms. Yana Gupta, an item girl dancer, who together are participants in the reality dance show “Jhalak Dikhla Jaa” on television. While JDJ is one of the few tolerable reality shows on air, this year it is Ms. Madhuri Dixit’s presence as a judge that has made all the difference.
While I don’t know her personally, she belongs to the same mid-40s, convent-educated, sandwich generation that I am part of and I have friends and colleagues who know her and are related to her. And because she has been part of our generation’s growth story, her dances and roles are embedded in our psyche. And like many of the women of my generation, when she found her biologic clock ticking, she left everything to settle down to a married life some distance away.
Sporadically, she comes back to India to the adulation she left behind while almost at her peak (which is one of the reasons she is still fondly remembered). And perhaps it is only because of her infectious smile that this season’s JDJ has gone from being a just-about-average program to one worth watching in bits and pieces.
It is amusing to watch not only the dancers and choreographers on the show, but even the guests and co-judges groveling in front of her, falling on her or their own feet. Ms. Rani Mukherjee did a ridiculous “sashtang” namaskar that was particularly embarrassing. But despite the sycophancy and the fan-boy and fan-girl adulation, it is true that as a dancer (her acting prowess is still debatable), Madhuri has been one of the best.
Mr. Sanghvi and Ms. Dixit are as different as chalk and cheese. One writes a fantastic food column and the other dances and acts. And both have made and still make a difference.

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