Go-to fest for women empowerment

Is India the rape capital of the world? Are Indian working mothers subjected to harsher conditions than their counterparts abroad? How much reportage on gender crimes is too much?

Over a light parmesan and asparagus mousse, a palm of hearts and artichoke salad, red snapper and chicken teriyaki, and flutes of Chandon rose, a dozen or so women and three lucky men, debated these and other issues at a lunch in honour of iconic media maven Tina Brown, who was in town yesterday to talk up her forthcoming Women In The World Summit.

Tina Brown with Indian Express’ Anant Goenka
Tina Brown with Indian Express' Anant Goenka

Increasingly being known as the planet's go-to fest for women empowerment and blessed by the likes of Meryl Streep and Hillary Clinton, to be held this November in Delhi, the WITW summit has as its Indian co-hosts, a formidable lineup of Nita Ambani, Shabana Azmi, Barkha Dutt and Freida Pinto, amongst others.

Gayatri Rangachari Shah, Brown and Mallika Kapur
Gayatri Rangachari Shah, Brown and Mallika Kapur

"We underestimate the power of networking," said Brown, her famous blue eyes (said to be of the same shade as Princess Diana's, the subject of her excellent biography The Diana Chronicles in 2007) sweeping all in their gaze. "But there are women who know nobody, who have no one to turn to and the WITW summit is eventually for them.

Hillary Clinton and Meryl Streep (right). Pics/Getty Images
Hillary Clinton and Meryl Streep (right). Pics/Getty Images

Yes, we may have some one like Helen Mirren talk about a glamorous subject and that is what people think they come for, but they leave with stories of other women who have batted such incredible forces," she said, before extending an invitation to the gathering to come to Delhi in November.

And with award-winning director (Saving Face) Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, CNN's Mallika Kapur and NYT contributing journalist Gayatri Rangachari Shah aiding and abetting, it appears to be a summit whose time has come.

Wall-to-wall celebs
Last evening witnessed the engagement of Pawan Munjal's daughter Vasudha to Wharton-educated Pankaj Dinodia at a Delhi farmhouse.

Pawan Munjal
Pawan Munjal

And given the prominence of the Munjals on the Capital's social corporate and political scene, a guest from the event called in to say there were 'around 3,000 guests with wall-to-wall ministers, Bollywood and sports stars, and corporate biggies in attendance.' As for Vasudha, Munjal's eldest child, he described her as "outstandingly soft spoken, simple and elegant unlike some other rich Delhi brats."

Revolving door of decorators
The decorations at the recently held engagement celebrations of Sangita and Sajjan Jindal's son at the Taj have elicited much praise. But they were not easy to come by. "First a top foreign designer was engaged and though his ideas were appreciated, his quotation for a hefty fee was not," said an insider.

Sajjan Jindal and Sangita Jindal
Sajjan Jindal and Sangita Jindal

"Then, Vandana Mohan, the Delhi-based wedding planner was called in but she didn't last long either, and a foreign team was engaged, only to meet with the same fate. Finally, the job was given to Tanaz Wadia who has done many such events in the past," said the source. "But we were all askance at the revolving door of event planners," he said. "Wonder what's going to happen for the actual wedding!"

How Nariman Point was lost
We love nothing better than a good Mumbai story, one of how the city was created out of sea and land, and ambition and greed. And as these things go, the story of the creation Nariman Point, told by the late Charles Correa is a riveting one.

Charles Correa and Rajni Patel
Charles Correa and Rajni Patel

Written a few months before he died, for the forthcoming book commemorating the birth centenary of barrister and Congress leader Rajni Patel, Correa takes us back to the heady days of the early seventies, when powerful government lobbies were intent on reclaiming land at Nariman Point in order to sell to builders for huge financial gains.

Expectedly, there was considerable public opposition against this environmentally hazardous trend, and at the forefront of this was the 'Save Bombay Committee,' comprising idealistic young citizens who requested Correa to draw up a plan, by which land already reclaimed could be used to create public amenities.

True to his vision, Correa drew one up, in which he included all the things that gave a city its soul: public parks and walkways, a boating pool, a restaurant plaza, etc. According to him, the only politician who embraced the idea against all odds was Rajni Patel, who somehow managed to get the CM Vasant Rao Naik to stop the reclamation and commit to a public plaza.

But it wasn't so easy. Giving in to powerful agendas, the CM soon went back on his word and restarted the reclamation. "This is when Rajni Patel went to the press and forced the CM to retract his statement and reaffirm the state government's commitment," writes Correa of an act of heroism he never forgot.

Of course, that was not the end of the story. Against all Patel's efforts, the politico-builder lobby prevailed and a vast township of ugly, soulless office blocks to house office rats arose and was called Nariman Point. And Mumbai never got the bustling, beautiful waterfront plaza that Correa and Patel had championed. See why we love stories about how Mumbai was made (and unmade)?

Show and tell
Friends of this flashy Dubai-based couple are reported to be getting anxious over the social media activities of the pair. Whereas in the past they were accustomed to seeing these unstoppable bon vivants post pictures of themselves together with their latest sports cars, villas and sundry other toys, recently the absence of pictures of the two in the same frame have been enough to give rise to queries.

"The amount of photographs he's been posting of himself at holiday spots without her, have been increasing," said an anxious society diva, her eyebrows raised despite her Botox. "But what's got everyone talking was the latest photograph which he posted of himself with his arm around a young Mumbai starlet!

The body language spoke of something far more than a casual friendship," she said. And sure enough, when she WhatsApped us the evidence, we could see what she referred to. A picture, after all, is worth a thousand words.

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