'This is what genteel Mumbai must have been like at the very tip of its pinnacle. Apartments as spacious as cruise liners, that recalled the sumptuous luxury of the city's early architectural era, filled with canvasses painted by Indian Masters (in their good period), uniformed bearers pad-padding across deep Persians, bearing silver salvers, offering of bite-sized vegetarian treats as the city's establishment lost itself in the exquisite strains of a world class sitarist...'
Ustad Nishat Khan and Minal Bajaj with the Langaas of Rajasthan
We caught ourselves composing the aforementioned sentence as we sat on Minal and Niraj Bajaj's terrace on Sunday evening, partaking of an extraordinary moment in the city's cornucopia of delights – a jugalbandi between the dashing Ustad Nishat Khan and a claque of wild-throated Langaas from Rajasthan.
“Let's spend an enchanting and charming evening over chaat and more to bring in Holi with Rajasthani Folk and Sitar by Ustad Nishat Khan,” the hosts had said. Minal and Niraj are at the forefront of Mumbai's social and business community, indeed their ancestors were early industrial pioneers who like others of their ilk, like the Tatas and Birlas, founded the Indian industry.
Niraj's ancestor Jamnalal Bajaj had been a close associate of Gandhi, almost considered his son. The family is a throwback to an earlier era when industrialists saw themselves as the patrons of high art and culture. They had promised a 'unique synthesis, a collaboration invoking the desert songs and rare nostalgic and earthy classical music's celebrative compositions' and indeed, it had turned out that way.
And as we spotted the likes of Nandita Das with husband Subodh Maskara and son Vihaan, Javed and Shabnam Ahmad, Uday and Pallavi Kotak, Shailesh and Amita Haribhakti, Sanjay Jha, Anuradha Parikh, Anand Jain and Geetu Hinduja amongst many others, enjoying the rapturous music, even as the fairy lights twinkled on a Champa tree and a strong breeze teased the silken duppattas and carefully blow-dried hair of the pretty ladies present, we found ourselves composing the sentence, 'This is what genteel Mumbai must have been like..'
A three-tiered cake of a celebration
Sunday evening witnessed a joyful celebration at the impressive Piramal House at Worli, when Dilip Piramal, chairman of India's leading luggage industry VIP, threw open the doors of his sprawling residence to host a party for his wife's birthday.
Khalid Ansari and wife Zeyna with Dilip and Shalini Piramal
Dilip, the second of three brothers who occupies three floors of the 10-storey residence, lives on the sixth, seventh and eighth floors. Ajay Piramal, his younger brother, who has featured in the first fifty of India's Rich List, lives in the same building occupying another three floors, as does the family of their late eldest brother Ashok.
Niranjan and Kamal Hiranandani
By any standards, it is an iconic pile and the fact that Dilip and Shalini are able to infuse their parties with warmth, good cheer and fun is a testimony to their combined charm. We spotted the likes of Ajay and Swati Piramal, Cyrus Poonawalla, Niranjan and Kamal Hiranandani, Hemendra Kothari, Sanjay Pugalia and Khalid Ansari amongst the ebb and flow in the vivacious rooms.
“It went on till 2 am. We sang a duet 'Deewana hua baadal' from Kashmir ki Kali and then Dilip sang a solo for me 'Jeevan se bhari teri aankhen' from the film Safar,” said Shalini, adding, “actually the celebrations were held over three days, with different caterers each night.”
The Siddhus of Upper Juhu indeed
“'The Siddhus of Upper Juhu' (ahem, which happens to be Andheri) is about a Panju-Parsi couple, Bubbles and Behroze Siddhu, who cope with a decaying Mumbai with hilarious consequences,” says Rahul DaCunha about his latest offering from Rage, that boutique of delicious self-parody opening next week.
“At one point, when a BMC drill and bulldozer simultaneously start work at 2 am, husband turns to wife and says, 'Why don't the BMC ever work in the day? Someone in Mantralaya has hired a Chinese torturer!'” informed DaCunha. To be honest, we thought the joke was sweet, but a tad dated; there would surely more likely have been a reference to China-made vibrators in a contemporary Siddhu household, we thought.
Be that as it may, we are hugely looking forward to DaCunhas offering, for its pithy references, sly digs and awkward chuckles in a hall full of an audience that not only recognised itself but could laugh at itself too.
The Siddhus of Upper Juhu. Bring it!
The dinner party
There were 10 people at the dinner. Ten very powerful people, from the innermost circle; men from way back, who'd shared decades of power between themselves; men of wealth and consequence who'd be expected to be at a table like this when the two Alpha males of the Indian political firmament dined.
The two were meeting after various sweeps of fortune, various old enmities and a pretty fractious recent electoral run up. The table contained some very important people who even so regardless of their pelf felt a twinge of excitement and privilege to be present. Much depended on the evening. How would it go?
But very soon, it became evident to the guests, that bonhomie had been co-opted as the agenda of the occasion. So there was warmth and jocularity, and not too tiny a jab at mirth at the expense of a few others who were not present could never be present, in fact at such a gathering. Bonhomie, jocularity, mirth and making new friends. Such were the days; so were the ways.