Villie and Brigadier Furdoon Mehta
Of starched linen and strawberry tortes
Villie Mehta's airy drawing room at Warden Road is testimony to an older, more genteel Mumbai. For it is here that the feisty octogenarian wife of the swashbuckling Brigadier Furdoon Mehta, and mother of UTV's bright spark Zarina Mehta, has taught four generations of Mumbai's elite women, how to be ladies.
It began when the young and glamorous Villie had returned to India with her husband and two children after a stint in Washington, where he'd served as a high-ranking attache in India's diplomatic mission in the Seventies. Her circle had clamoured for her recipes of drool worthy meringues, and tortes, and quiches. "My students came in batches of 16/20, three times a week. I taught them not only how to cook but also how to keep a kitchen spotlessly clean (scrub it twice a day), lay an elegant table (only cloth no paper napkins) etc." she says.
She credits her prowess in the culinary arts to her family, especially her father's sister who had schooled her on the finer things of life as a young girl, growing up in pre-partition Karachi. "I was born lucky that way. I was very fond of food and everybody at home cooked," she said, when we'd dropped in for an excellent cup of coffee (rolled in on a trolley laden with fine china, starched linen, and the most delicious strawberry torte in the world).
Through her culinary prowess, Mehta's renown spread far and wide, and her students have ranged from erstwhile Tata Chairman Cyrus Mistry's mother, the lovely Patsy, to many a young hostess of today. Throughout our meeting, Mehta had patiently fielded a series of calls from a panic stricken young lady called Simmone, who was obviously having a melt down over her meringue ("Don't panic dear, just put it in the refrigerator to cool"). And though she gave up teaching a few years ago, she is still upto baking cakes or quiches for a small circle of loyal clients like Mana and Suniel Shetty, and Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla). "I run a very organised kitchen and I can bake up to five cakes a day," she winks.
Of course, even Villie Mehta's exceptional culinary knowledge, could not turn ducks into swans. On the eve of our marriage we recall that we too had enrolled in her class, but for all her kind and patient tutoring, had emerged as unschooled in the kitchen as ever. Which only goes to prove that there's always an exception to every rule!
Babita and Rima Jain
It's a family that rallies around in times of celebration or crisis. Even as photographs of a happy gathering of the Kapoors celebrating bahu Babita's seventieth birthday did the rounds yesterday, we could not help thinking when not too long ago, we had chanced upon more or less the same scene of mutual support and camaraderie when a loved one had taken ill. "Thanks to the blessings of our Gods and the upbringing of our parents, our family is always there for each other in happiness or pain," said Raj Kapoor's younger daughter Rima Jain about this phenomenon. "Touchwood! We are one big fat happy family," she said.
Sita the warrior
"My next book, Sita - Warrior of Mithila (the second book of the Ram Chandra Series), is the tale of Lady Sita in her warrior avatar. It's the tale of an adopted child, who rises to be a warrior prime minister, and then a Goddess. Considering the theme, for all the events related to the book, I have invited strong women achievers to share the stage with me. I had announced its release with Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani," says best-selling author Amish Tripathi, who has roped in actress Raveena Tandon to be part of his cover launch event early next month.
"I thought Raveena was the perfect person to invite for the cover release, as I have been a fan of her work since my college days," says the man whose combined book sales have been in the region of approximately R100 crore. "The fact that she likes my books is an added bonus!"
Tripathi had texted us these perfectly articulated few lines in less than five minutes flat from Delhi airport before he'd boarded a flight, proving that if there's anything more formidable than a best-selling author, it's a best-selling author from IIM, who's been a successful banker, and knows how to make things work.
Hair raising story
He's always been known for his hot-headed arrogance, and his habit for looking through those he does not consider important enough to his scheme of things. But who would think this celebrated producer-director, one half of Bollywood's most powerful couples, with a string of hits to his credit, would also be discussed for his vanity?
Known to wear a trendy baseball hat at all times, Bollywood's answer to Steven Spielberg has according to insiders recently got himself the cruise liner of hair transplants. Not any transplant mind you, but only the very best for this leading enfant terrible. "His hair job is excellent because it's been cleverly made to look absolutely natural by even retaining his familiar receding hairline so as to not attract notice," says a source.
The result? The hat has been retired as it's not needed to hide the bald patch any more. But the irony is that in spite of his care in replacing his mop discreetly, more attention has been aroused to his baldness now than ever before.