>> He is one of India’s most dynamic editors and certainly its most visible. And even though Indian Express’ Editor in-Chief Shekhar Gupta’s impeccable track record for accuracy has somewhat been under attack after his paper put the C-word on its front page (though going by Gen V K Sharma’s subsequent post-retirement activism perhaps Gupta wasn’t so off the mark) Gupta is still one of India’s most respected journalists. We have seen him being accosted at public places by strangers who want to shake his hand, seek his insights (ah that perennial question that no Delhi editor can escape “What’s happening in Delhi?”) we have been in the audience as rapturous crowds applaud his lectures, and we have observed how leaders of state and captains of industry afford him their confidences. Which is why we knew that Shekhar Gupta’s Diwali party at his home would be a standout affair in ‘saadi Dilli’s’ social calendar.
But even by those standards we were gobsmacked by the attendance — at one point it looked like the entire cabinet was in attendance! We spotted Kamal Nath, Anand Sharma, Manish Tewari in the crowd along with top former editors Inder Malhotra and Nihal Singh, newspaper publisher HT’s Shobhana Bhartia accompanied by her billionaire husband Shyam (whose company Jubilant has won every corporate business award recently), legal experts Manek and Ryan Karanjawala with their beautiful daughter, renowned economist Surjit Singh Bhalla, the sparkling Sadia Dehlvi who has embarked on a Sufi project and many many more of the Capital’s worthies.
And on our way out we run into author and literature’s foremost impresario Namita Gokhale whose daughter is married to Kapil Sibal’s lawyer-son Amit (educated at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard!) and our own former husband, the swashbuckling political commentator, food writer and man about town Vir Sanghvi with writer-columnist Seema Goswami. We want to stay back and observe some of India’s most powerful and famous people put aside their titles and responsibilities and celebrate Diwali — but other parties and hosts call. So we leave Shekhar’s and miss Chidambaram, Shashi Tharoor, Arun Jaitley and Salman Khurshid!
At home — not alone!
>> The next evening, a tiny window between Tuesday and Thursday’s big-ticket Diwali night we choose to have an impromptu dinner at our own Delhi Khan market pied a terre. ‘Come and raise a glass of bubbly and some festive cheer’ we tell whomever we can reach on Wednesday morning. Given its last minute nature and Delhi’s relentless and over booked social calendar, the turnout is heart warming.
The magnificent Bim Bissell, Delhi’s most celebrated hostess is our first guest. Bim for years served as the US embassy‘s finest social ambassador — guiding the likes of the Kennedys, Galbraiths and Moynihans as they negotiated their way through India, following this up with a similar initiative at the World Bank. She is not only Delhi’s most admired woman but also its wisest. Her presence at our home is a benediction. The swashbuckling Shekhar Gupta not only finds time to drop by (after hosting the mother of all Diwali dos the night before) but also we learn has also put in a full day at the office! Other friends come in bringing good cheer bonhomie sparkling conversations and laughter: marketing guru Suhel Seth, Mala and Jugnu Singh, Delhi’s first couple of letters and aristocracy, the statuesque interior decorator Sunita Kohli, responsible for decorating some of the country’s most important buildings like the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Prime Minster’s official residence, the very stylish graphic designer Vicky Sahni and many, many more lovely old and wonderful friends.
And miles to go...
>> It’s been two days of hectic socialising in Delhi’s festive season, and it’s just starting: tonight dinner at Suhel’s for some visiting UK intellectuals, later in the week seminars and lectures and still later the round of Christmas and New Year festivities. But we are getting ahead of ourselves — first to make it to tonight’s hi-jinks. Mumbai’s title of ‘City that never sleeps’ has serious competition!
The bright and the beautiful
>> But this is more than made up for as our next stop was Anita and Vikram Lal’s annual Diwali bash, hosted jointly along with their three children (so, we are assured of a representation across generations and communities.) The Lals are a preternaturally enlightened family. Vikram not only heads Eicher, one of India’s blue chip companies but is also actively involved in non-profit education and healthcare sector; wife Anita, the daughter of a Harvard professor has launched what is easily the country’s most elegant lifestyle brand Good Earth, and her children have inherited their parent’s style, class and elan.
Naturally their home is packed to the brim with some of the city’s most intersecting people. We run into Kapil Sibal, TN and Sevanthy Ninan, columnist Sunil Sethi, the Cambridge educated architect Romi Khosla with his writer, academician wife, our aunt Kalpana, Mani Shankar and Suneeta Aiyar (who have to leave early to go home and baby sit their youngest grandchild!) Barkha Dutt back in town after a stint in New York, Dior’s exquisite Kalyani Chawla, and many more vibrant, interesting, beautiful people. The music is exquisite, the century old home strung up with fresh flowers and fairy lights looks splendid and the women in their tasteful Diwali silks and jewels make for a breath taking sight. But above all, at the Lals it’s the conversations that sparkle: erudite, informed and witty, this is one home where the best and brightest thrive!