The only actions I have attended have been at Mahalaxmi, where A.F.S. Talyarkhan annually conducts the sale of the thoroughbreds. There is a certain class about bidding for a bread-in-purple colt or filly, if I had money I would do so. But I would never bid for the works of Indian comtemporary artistes, the best among whom lend themselves for making panels at Congress centenary meetings and Indira Gandhi airports.
I have been going to the thorough bred auctions for many years, though my only investments there have been in the catalogues.
The auctions are held the Monday after the Derby and admission is free. You do not have to be arty (meaning wear only Italian shoes or no shoes) or a regular customer of the five-stars (BBC could have done a lovely piece on the auction, though it could have done an even better piece on the Zandra Rhodes sari sales) to get an invitation.
The venue is the racecourse's paddock, the most English patch of green in the country. The bidders and viewers sit around it, among them well-known trainers, riders, racing correspondents, tipsters, track-timers. The main bidders are the owners, who already have several horses and have come to increase their stables.
The owners are a special kind, suited, but looking like they always wear suits and not only at a Taj auction or an Oberoi sale, cigar-smoking, easy about money, like the fromer members of the Rotary Club of Bombay - not the present lot. In an earlier time most of them were maharajas, who concentrated on racing, polo and raising cricket teams. Now the sons of these maharajas have become Congress politicians. In-between, some film stars had tried owning horses - Mehmood, Sanjay Khan - but soon realised it was not their game.
But the present owners are like maharajas; not ostentatious about their wealth, not in it to increase their wealth, but sporty. I remember my late friend, Sanjeev Bangera, retorting when I asked him why the Times of India Jains did not own racehorses - "What horses! They won't keep a dog in their house."
But to come back to the auction: AFST stands on his podium in the paddock, cap on head, hammer in hand. "What am I bid for this handsome colt, likely winner of the 1987 2000 Guineas…Gone to Mrs. Zeenia S. Laywer for Rs. 1,50,000."
And to come to yesterday's auction at the Taj, I wonder what made Dilip De buy a painting. Though if he had to buy one, I am glad he bought Laxman Shrestha's.