Vanity thy name is Nikki Bedi. I’ve just been for one of my biannual visits to my ‘derm’ Dr Nick Lowe. The Times recently called him Dr Botox. I’ve been his patient for 13 years; the first seven in Santa Monica, where my skin had begun to resemble a chamois leather. Years of sun worship in India and overactive facial muscles had left me prematurely lined. Rather than spend money on expensive promises in pots, or facials, I treat myself to Botox. This visit, however, Dr Lowe felt I didn’t really need much of the injectable elixir of youth. It’s this restraint I admire. You won’t see his patients with their eyebrows halfway up their frozen foreheads. As a result of all these years of judiciously administered Botox, my face is now more like a moistened chamois. I wish there were Botox gift certificates. Gentlemen do consider this the next time you are buying gifts for your wives, girlfriends or mistresses. Avoid the predictable lingerie or jewellery route. Buy Botox! It’s a high-quality gift for women. Not all cosmetic procedures make good presents though. Men who buy women boob jobs are déclassé. That’s a low-quality option and it’s not really for your woman at all, it’s for your mentertainment and you know it.
Midweek, I blew into Cannes for a night, to be Mistress of Ceremonies at the Sony World Photography Awards. I have a deep appreciation for photography. I was even a photographic goods smuggler as a child. My Indian grandfather was a passionate large-format photographer and had dark rooms in both his homes. It was very difficult to get things like Agfa paper, developing solution and even film in India back then, and the duty one had to pay was extortionate, so my siblings and I would have our suitcases stuffed with this contraband to carry into Bombay. I was therefore delighted and honoured to be among such incredible and extraordinary photographers at the awards — Nan Goldin, Tom Stoddart, Rankin, and Martin Parr to name but a few, and I cried at the podium when Phil Stern was given a standing ovation. He was attached to an oxygen tank and helped on to the stage by his two sons. He warned us all not to smoke.
Everyone’s a photographer today, thanks to mobile phones. At a recent Kaiser Chiefs gig I couldn’t figure out why people were choosing to film all the action rather than actually experiencing it; when I looked down from a balcony the crowd was an undulating sci-fi sea of rectangular screen lights. What’s the point of going to see live music if you view it through a little screen? But I defy anyone to see Gogol Bordello and put a phone to his or her face for very long. The gypsy punk collective whip their crowd into such pogo frenzy you have no choice but to be present and involved. I interviewed their lead ‘singer’ and guitarist Eugene Hütz on Tuesday, before their Birmingham night. Rangy, and wearing various shades of purple, mega-moustachioed Hütz initially came across as irascible and slightly hostile. He has unique views on most things and relishes challenging people’s beliefs and attitudes. I find him fascinating. Evidently so does Madonna. She cast him as the lead in her first feature film and they electrified the stage when they collaborated at Live Earth. We argued about whether people listen to the words of songs. He insists they don’t, saying it’s only a tone we ever really respond to. The show was exhilarating; music, sweat and attitude combined with circus and theatre. Nothing contrived.
One of the things I love about my daily show on the BBC’s Asian Network is the extraordinarily diverse people I get to meet and interview. This week I went from Hütz to Patrick French in the space of 24 hours. Patrick has a book to peddle, the excellent biography of Sir V.S. Naipaul. We also discussed his love for India. He wrote about me in the late Nineties, in his book Liberty or Death: India’s Journey to Independence and Division. I had a prime-time talk-show called Nikki Tonight on Star TV and managed to get both Rupert Murdoch and myself non-bailable arrest warrants. It’s a long story but, briefly, a guest on my show called Gandhi a ‘bastard bania’ and Gandhiji’s great-grandson took it very badly and launched a case against us all and there was no more Nikki Tonight. So much for India being a secular democracy. A point raised and explored rather well by Patrick.
I have been talking about taking data sabbaticals for a while now, switching off my phone and not going near my computer. I took one briefly this week. My phone fell into my mopping bucket and sank. My life’s data was submerged, possibly irretrievably. Why, oh why, hadn’t I backed it all up? I remembered hearing that putting a wet phone into dry rice overnight can fix the situation. The rice is supposed to draw out all the moisture. It was worth a try so I put mine into a bag of basmati and prayed for desiccation. I then spent the night vacillating between the idea of how liberating it was to be phone-free, how the enforced social pruning might actually be a good thing, and then sheer panic at the thought of being incommunicado and losing a world of contacts and some sentimental photos.
The rice rescue worked! At the end of all my long interviews I always ask my guest a few Pivot questions and, to ‘Asianise’ slightly, I ask people to choose between rice or roti. No contest for me now.