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A Sapna come true

>> Last year when we had met Minal Bajaj at the TedX conference where she had spoken about her dream project ‘Hamaara Sapna’. “It will be an NGO located in Tardeo aimed at empowering the women from South Mumbai slums via the use of Khadi by giving them training and the means to become skilled tailors,” she’d said.

“These women are extremely bright and have great potential, but no one has invested in affording them a leg up, making them independent or investing in their personal growth.” Minal hails from the Bajaj family renowned for its social and philanthropic initiatives — so, of course, the NGO has been planned holistically and with much expertise.

Women sew and tailor clothes at Hamaara Sapna
Women sew and tailor clothes at Hamaara Sapna, an NGO run by Minal Bajaj. The NGO also offers the women yoga sessions. pics/bipin kokate

“We don’t stop at teaching a skill, we aim to provide a well-rounded education to our beneficiaries, and later place them in internships, paired with employment partners with the aim of ultimately becoming means self-reliant entrepreneurs aided with micro-financing,” she said when we met her on Monday night.

Hamaara Sapna has chosen tailoring as the income-earning skilled trade because unlike parlor or kitchen work, Minal says tailoring can be done from the home, at any hour, in between tending to other tasks, making it a very convenient means of earning extra income for a woman who is also tasked with running a household.

Besides these extra classes in spoken English, basic math, yoga and interpersonal skills are also taught. Most interesting is the “Broadening Horizons” program where a guest lecture is held every fortnight. This week for instance Dr Dilip Nadkarni, orthopaedic surgeon, author, musician and motivational speaker spoke on ‘Chalo Tension Ko Maarein Goli’. We like!

So many shortlists
>> Seldom has there been so much good spirit and cheer regarding the announcement of an author making it to the Man Booker Short List as has been seen when poet/ musician/ novelist Jeet Thayil’s name appeared on the prestigious roll.

Jeet Thayil and Naresh Fernandes
Jeet Thayil and Naresh Fernandes

But then Thayil has always been someone whose popularity cuts across all the factionalism and griping that the lit world is notorious for. And it is a measure of his likeability that even as his name makes it to the most prestigious literary circles, Jeet is shepherding the book award instituted in the memory of his late wife the publisher Shakti Bhatt who tragically died young. Interestingly, the shortlist for that prize includes two books that we have read and liked. Sudha Shah’s The King in Exile: The fall of the Royal Family of Burma and Naresh Fernandes’ Taj Mahal Foxtrot. So many fine writers on so many short lists! And such rich harvest for readers!

Wine, Food and Song
>> Malini Akerkar hosted a small dinner on Wednesday night to kick off Indigo’s new menu. Seated around the table were a close-knit group of her friends, such as Sanjay Menon, Anish and Vineeta Trivedi, Dr Farhad Taraporewala and Divya Mohta.

Rahul who started the evening with a drink with the group then went on to the kitchen to create his special magic. We have been regulars at the Indigo for many years, being as it is one of our favourite Mumbai eateries. But even classics have to be tweaked every now and then and no one knows this better than Malini. She gave us a tour of the new, improved restaurant. “Upstairs the ‘black room’ has been painted burgundy,” she said. “We will be doing small tapas meals and serving wine on tap there. And every wall downstairs has been personally painted by me,” said the lady who had given Mumbai its first taste of boho-chic when she launched the restaurant. We had the carpaccio, the sea bass and the panacotta, and tried some of Farhad’s lobster bisque and rack of lamb too. Our verdict? Excellent! Now if you could only arrange the first class singing that accompanied our meal by assorted diners!

When Chennai came to Mumbai
>> We ran into Chennai’s cultural czar Ranvir Shah on Monday night when he was in the city presenting Parks New Festival – a festival showcasing new and emerging work in the field of dance, music and theatre, which he has curated from 2007.

Ranvir Shah
Ranvir Shah

“This year, the festival will be hosted in six cities – Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai – making it the only national contemporary arts festival in India,” the enigmatic and multi-talented impresario said. “For this year’s festival, we are hosting, performances by Akram Khan, who choreographed a solo dance and a group dance with 80 dancers for the opening of the Olympics in July and is considered amongst the top contemporary dancers in the world, stand-up comedian, D’Lo and Shankar Tucker, clarinetist and composer from the US in collaboration with Indian musicians.” Ranvir holds a Masters Degree in Political Science and has over two decades of experience in the domestic and international markets in garment exports, straddling the worlds of art and industry with ease. And when he’s not creating synergies between the two, he spends time with his activist educator wife Nandi, three children and four dogs in Chennai!

Milling around in Mumbai
>> Le Mill that stylish South Mumbai retail space for ‘fresh flowers fashion and furnishings’ whose opening we had attended has introduced a wonderful new concept in shopping; personalised shopping at home called ‘milling around the house’ for their new fashion, homeward and gifting lines.

Dahlia Mehrotra, friend of many years invited us yesterday to her daughter’s home at Marine Drive where few friends were being afforded the ‘milling experience’. “It’s a one-to-one private shopping experience, do try and come,” said Dahlia, but unfortunately another commitment made it impossible to take up the invitation.

Le Mill, the new store in South Mumbai
Le Mill, the new store in South Mumbai offering high-end fashion and furnishings

However, in a city where getting from point A to B requires nerves of steel and the grit of a voyager, we have no doubt that door-to-door shopping of high-end ware will be a huge success. Now the ladies who lunch can buy their baubles and bags at home while sipping a glass of bubbly. As for the lunch? Meals on Wheels of course!  

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