One Billion Rising

When opportunity presents itself how cynically is it grasped? With what alacrity or cynical cunning is it seized? These observations help us form opinions of individuals and come to conclusions about their character. We had always been admirers of Eve Ensler, the American playwright, performer and activist who wrote the path breaking play The Vagina Monologues in 1996, which impacted and enhanced the feminist narrative the world over.

Jane Fonda, Eve Ensler, Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal and Marisa Tomei
Jane Fonda, Eve Ensler, Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal and Marisa Tomei

We had learnt of the play through the feisty theatre impresario Mahabanoo Mody Kotwal, its Indian champion and producer in 2003, and we were not only the first people to write about its Indian production but also present when Eve Ensler and Jane Fonda were present at its enactment at the NCPA.

A few months ago, when Mahabanoo and her son Kaizad who has blossomed into a formidable organiser and activist told me that they were preparing for Ensler’s visit to India and a very special production of the Vagina Monologues with top Bollywood stars in the presence of the celebrated playwright naturally, we were thrilled. It was to be the official launch of One Billion Rising, a worldwide initiative by feminists and concerned individuals to demand an end to violence against women.

After all, both the Kotwals had been working tirelessly for the cause for many years with quiet and resolute determination. Remember this was way before the horrific Delhi gang rape incident. An independent and autonomous vision of a cause that had not gained such media attention or national interests.

The Kotwals at that time were burning the midnight oil trying to get people to lend their support and strength to the cause. And believe me it was not easy. It would have been the easiest thing for them to co-opt the awful tragedy to garnering attention to their efforts. But what’s easy could also be what’s opportunistic. Would they succumb to the temptation even if it were for the noblest cause? We thought not.

Emblematic of their sincerity and dedication was their refusal to in any way hitch their event on the bier of that poor girl. Not many might have noticed the grace that is required. Some did. We were one of them. Last evening, at the Canvas restaurant at the Palladium there was a big high voltage event to launch the One Billion Rising movement by Eve Ensler with special guests like Chitrangada Singh, Manasi Scott, Poorna Jagannathan, Usha Uthup, Suchitra Pillai and the playwright herself. Mahabanoo and Kaizad’s heartfelt dedication to women’s rights and empowerment must have gotten off to a great start. And that it was achieved by choosing not to in any way be predicated on anything but its own velocity makes me admire the Kotwals even more.

Sweet success
This evening a slice of some of Mumbai’s most powerful queen bees will gather at the IMC headquarters in Churchgate, Mumbai when the 20th IMC Ladies’ Wing Jankidevi Bajaj Puraskar 2012 will be presented for rural entrepreneurship to Josephine Selvaraj. Janaki Devi Bajaj, the wife of leading entrepreneur Jamnalal Bajaj, was a freedom fighter and activist.

Josephine Selvaraj
Josephine Selvaraj

This year’s winner Josephine Selvaraj is the lady responsible for making bee farming an employment and income generating activity for rural enhancement. Founded with an income of Rs 8,000, the Vibis Natural Bee Farm in Madurai produces 24 types of honey products and around nine types of honey. Moreover, she has improved the lives of almost 300 women by helping them set up honeybee farms and has given free training service to around 20,000 people. Not Mumbai’s entire buzz is self-serving we are happy to note!

Fashion tome
More than a decade ago, around the time when we were getting ready to leave Delhi we had received a request from Suneet Varma, the charming up and coming fashion designer for a meeting to discuss a book project. We recall going to a well-appointed Delhi drawing room where we met said designer in the company of the subject of my fan worship: the gentle, shy and talented photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta whose brilliant career was cut short by his tragic and untimely death a few months ago.

Suneet Varma

We do not recall much of that meeting or what became of that book project and more or less lost touch with the duo, but, of course, they went on to even greater heights and we kept in touch with their activities through the media. So, it was with great delight that I found the threads to that event finally looping into a neat little knot when the designer contacted us over the weekend from Delhi. “As you know I’ve been working on my book for the past several years,” he said. “It started off over a decade ago with Prabuddha and though he went on to do other books I just didn’t think I had a body of work to publish at that time.

But finally after 25 years in the business I feel I have something to say,” he said. “And so it’s finally ready!” It’s a 290-page coffee table size picture book with text written by Nishat Fatima and a foreword by Martand Singh Kapurthala.” He exults, “I wanted to do a book that was industry relevant so there are 25 single page interviews with several industry experts like young colleagues such as Namrata Joshipura and Anil Chopra and Prabuddha himself and models Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman, and Tamara Moss, along with other fellow designers, retailers and stylists too,” said the fashion designer and it will be launched at the end of the month at the French Embassy in Delhi.

Nachiket Barve

Wedding bells!
The cute as a button and highly regarded designer Nachiket Barve, son of Amitabh Bachchan’s personal physician Dr Jayant Barve, gastroenterologist at Lilavati, married Surabhi. The guests, besides top names from the medical fraternity, also included some of filmdom’s best and brightest like the Bachchans and Muzzafar Ali. We wish the designer much joy. 

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