Remembering India's Indira Gandhi

May 15, 2017, 06:04 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi
Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi

Remembering India's Indira
Much has been made of President Pranab Mukherjee's speech about former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the occasion of the release of Anand Sharma's book, Indira's India, at Teen Murti this weekend. Amidst a gathering of heavy weights like Vice President M H Ansari, former PM Dr Manmohan Singh, former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, and Congress VP Rahul Gandhi, Mukherjee, who had been a trusted colleague of the Iron Lady for decades, had narrated how his beloved leader had continued to fight against insurmountable odds, even after her massive defeat in 1977, managing to triumph over them and wrest power back in 1980.

The fact that Rahul Gandhi was observed to be listening attentively and nodding to himself, is being seen as significant by those who find themselves in the unenviable position of yearning for what now looks like the Good Old Days, when compared to the rank parochialism and regression of recent times. However, what struck us more were Sonia Gandhi's heartfelt words about her iconic mother-in-law. Unable to attend herself due to illness, the Congress president's speech about Indira Gandhi, the woman, mother-in-law, mother and grandmother, was read out by Rahul. In it she narrated how Indira had kindly welcomed the 'nervous and shy new bride' into her home, and patiently understood her difficulties. "She had no time for snobbishness, ostentation or pomposity, and was quick to detect hypocrisy and insincerity," recalled Sonia, confirming what we have always known, that true power and grace never does.

As for those who rue the times we are in, longing for happier, more inclusive and graceful days, what can we say, except point to the swinging of the cosmic pendulum of political narratives and the inevitable changes that occur with its shifting? We do not always get the leaders and times we want or think we deserve. But that ought not to stop us from acknowledging and admiring human qualities of greatness and grace that we once had.

Smriti Irani on the sets of Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi
Smriti Irani on the sets of Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi

The whole nine yards
She might have draped herself in the heaviest and most garish of silks and satins, when she played the nation's favourite daughter-in-law in a previous avatar during her Balaji tryst, but that has not stopped Union Minster for Textiles, Smriti Irani, from appreciating a good thing when she sees it. This weekend saw Irani take to Twitter to praise Mumbai-based designer Anavila Misra, best known for introducing the modern Indian woman to the distinctive aesthetic of her exquisite hand woven linen saris.

"Your contribution towards economic upliftment of weavers is a story that must be told," she'd tweeted.

Anavila Misra
Anavila Misra

Incidentally, the NIFT trained Misra, the daughter of a scientist father and a mother who was a teacher and an artist, when asked for her take on the heavy silks and satins of the Balaji school of sartorial sensibility, was polite. "She was an icon much before she joined politics because of her acting," she said of the textile minister. "Today, sporting handlooms saris from different parts of the country, she's started a movement . Even television, a medium that gets so many eyeballs, has been making a shift towards conscious fashion. Sonali Bendre has worn some of our beautiful hand-woven saris, influencing the choices of women across India," she said.

Read my shoes
We had written about high-flying Delhi industrialist Sanjay Kapur's recent marriage in New York to fashionista Priya Sachdev recently, and his choice of witty and original footwear at his wedding. The former husband of actress Karisma Kapoor had chosen to wear an pair of personalised loafers that spelt out the words 'I Do' for his special occasion.

Now, word comes in, that not even a month later, Kapur has been spotted in Delhi, donning another bespoke pair of shoes, this time saying 'screw you'. And no, there's no need for the grapevine to read anything in to this new message: Kapur was spotted wearing these along with his wife and all seems well in paradise!

Rajeev and Nadia Samdani, Suhel Seth,  Dr Amin Jaffer, Kiran Nadar and friends at the Venice Biennale
Rajeev and Nadia Samdani, Suhel Seth, Dr Amin Jaffer, Kiran Nadar and friends at the Venice Biennale

Indians in Venice
After its long overdue debut in 2011 at the 54th Venice Biennale, it appears that India has lapsed into silence once again, a shame for a country which boasts of such a wealth of talent.

However, even if the absence of an Indian pavilion was felt, there was no lack of those from India or thereabouts who marked their presence at this prestigious international art event. Kochi Biennale founder Bose Krishnamachari was there, as were Delhi-based art patron Kiran Nadar and international gadder about-er Suhel Seth, London-based Dr Amin Jaffer, chief curator of The Al Thani Collection, along with Bangladeshi industrialist Rajeeb Samdani and wife Nadia, the founders of the Samdani Art Foundation, which produces the Dhaka Art Summit.

Incidentally, when asked why on earth India could not get its act together to showcase its artists at the Venice Biennale, when far smaller countries like Albania, Angola and Tunisia have a regular presence, one art insider said, "What can one do when the ministry of culture does not speak to the National Gallery of Modern Art, and they both are at war with the Lalit Kala Akademi? Between all these bureaucratic battles art is a lost cause!"

Adel and Sana Sajjan
Adel and Sana Sajjan

The party doesn't stop
Adel and Sana Sajjan, the newly wed couple from Dubai, who made international news when they hosted the first big fat Indian destination wedding on a cruise, sailing from Barcelona to Savona with 1,000 guests including Bollywood stars Sushmita Sen and Juhi Chawla, on board, and a full blown baraat while they docked in Cannes, appear to be still in party mode. Now, almost two months later, we are informed that the celebrations haven't ceased and over the weekend, the couple dressed in matching outfits took to the stage and danced to the delight of their family and friends to the soundtrack of Don at the Versace hotel in Dubai!

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