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Giving back in style

"We raised Rs 11 lakh yesterday with the support of Karan Johar, Pinky Reddy, Poonam Bhagat Shroff, Sanjay Arora, Sidharth Malhotra and Abu," said Sandeep Khosla, about the event he hosted along with Abu Jani at 'Ashray', the home for children affected with AIDS, which featured Bolly stars Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra in Bandra on Saturday.

The 'boys', as their close friends call the popular designer duo, are legendary for their empathy and philanthropic acts.

"About 14 years ago, Abu and I decided that as God has been kind to us and helped us realise our dreams, we wanted to do give back to society. AIDS and HIV was the first choice," says the ebullient Khosla, the more extroverted of the pair. "Our search for the right organisation to support led us to Sara D'mello, who was the head of CCDT, which runs Ashray."

Sandeep Khosla, Sidharth Malhotra, Sara D’mello, Varun Dhawan and Abu Jani
Sandeep Khosla, Sidharth Malhotra, Sara D'mello, Varun Dhawan and Abu Jani

Saturday evening's event was just another in the trajectory of the designers' long commitment to the NGO.

The launch of their book, 'A Celebration of Style', had raised almost R70 lakh through pledge cheques for the same cause a few years ago.

"We want to continue raising money for AIDS-affected children, as they are innocent and abandoned, and with the support of a home and education we can help them have a better life," said Khosla.

Remembering Bhabha
"It was the who's who of Mumbai gathered to pay tribute to Jamshed Bhabha on his birth centenary," said culture maven, the noted Indian dance historian, scholar and critic, Sunil Kothari, whose relentless circling of the cultural globe leaves us dizzy.

Pheroza Godrej, Saryu Doshi and Govind Nihalani at the Bhabha birth centenary tribute.
Pheroza Godrej, Saryu Doshi and Govind Nihalani at the Bhabha birth centenary tribute

"I met so many friends, artists, filmmakers, theatre directors, actors, dancers. And, of course, celebrities," he gushed about the elegant gathering to pay homage to one of Mumbai's noted cultural warriors.

Sunil Kothari
Sunil Kothari

"Vijaya Mehta, Saryu Doshi, Shyam and Meera Benegal, Alyque Padamsee," he reeled off a litany of eminent names, adding, "I'm here for a two-day Manipuri residency in memory of Guru Bipin Singh, and this evening, Aditi Mangaldas and her troupe gave a superb Kathak performance." And then he was off to another city, another cultural extravaganza.

Keeper of Mumbai's cultural soul
It is said that more than its streets and bridges, its parks and buildings, a city is the sum of its people: the men and women who give it its vitality and character.

Shirin Sabavala
Shirin Sabavala

To know New York City, for example, go to its fast-talking deli counter managers, its zany West Village street performers and its grand Upper East Side hostesses; to know Delhi, an evening with a South Block babu or a Lutyens grandee would be a good start.

Similarly, Mumbai's particular flavour resides in its people, and prime amongst them are a handful of legendary women, custodians of its cultural heritage.

Shirin Sabavala is foremost amongst these. A great beauty of her time, the muse and wife of one of the country's most revered artists, the late Jahangir, and a respected spiritualist and yoga teacher, Shirin's accomplishments are as celebrated as her unmistakable Garboesque husky voice and her ramrod straight demeanour. And this weekend, we had the pleasure of meeting the grande dame at a friend's tea party.

One of the earliest devotees of the Bihar School of Yoga, that centre of spiritual sagacity, Shirin spoke of her life as a devotee with passion. "Almost forty years ago, I happened to be looking for a good yoga teacher and some one suggested a Parsi lady teacher," she said, enunciating every vowel in her characteristic style.

"I said, 'Good heavens, I'm not going to learn Yoga from a Parsi! And here I am, forty years later, teaching it myself!" she said, laughing throatily. A city is known by its people. And Mumbai is fortunate to have Shirin Sabavala.

Sushi and more
Saturday evening saw us attend a preview of 'Yuuka', the latest offering by Atul and Gayatri Ruia at the Palladium, where the celebrated Chef Ting Yen of the Oishii Boston demonstrated his culinary flair. "It's a small group of us and we really hope you can make it," the Ruias had said, and given how rare such occasions are becoming, we accepted with alacrity.

Atul and Gayatri Ruia
Atul and Gayatri Ruia

To sit with friends and break bread (or sushi) is a scarce pleasure these days, given the ubiquity of mega events and public jamborees.

And to be sure, we were not disappointed. Not only was the food spectacular (Wasabi has some serious competition now), but also the long meandering conversations on our table, which ranged from psychology to design, from architecture to life's values, were invigorating.

Raghavendra Rathore Neeta Lulla
Raghavendra Rathore and Neeta Lulla

And given the proximity of LFW next door, the presence of leading designers like Neeta Lulla, Raghavendra Rathore and Rohit Bal added to the evening's sparkle.

Another Pratibha in the making?
Word comes in that the snafu around this much-hyped and supposed- to-be landmark luxury tower in mid-Mumbai is really the outcome of a fallout between its two promoters.

The building, whose construction is way behind schedule due to a PIL filed against it, was being constructed in the compound of a defunct mill by the scion of a once-leading textile family. Apartments had been booked by some of the city's wealthiest denizens.

"A well-known builder who had an adjoining plot for which he had promised additional and much-needed FSI had a nasty falling out with its promoter, which led to the builder using his enormous clout with authorities to stall its completion," said a source.

"And given that its promoter has the reputation of being dodgy and recalcitrant in his financial dealings, it looks like the Mumbai skyline is all set to welcome another Pratibha!" Ouch!

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