Society love fest

>> It was a coming together of so many outstanding Mumbai divas, that its host deserved nothing short of the Padma Bhushan for pulling off the feat. When feisty Shalini Sharma, birthday girl and editor of Hi Blitz that glossy tome to the high-life threw a party on Wednesday night to bring in her big day the guest list looked like a Page 3 bonanza.

Shalini Sharma, Queenie Dodhy, Chayya Momaya, Madhoo Shah, Raveena Tandon, Poonam Dhillon, Ana Singh and Farah Khan Ali

For there, looking svelte and lovely were the likes of Queenie Dhody, Chhaya Momaya, Madhoo Shah, Raveena Tandon, Poonam Dhillon, Ana Singh and Farah Khan Ali, stellar women who keep Mumbai’s glamour quotient buoyant and between themselves sell jewels, promote luxury brands, groom the gauche, enhance parties, host soirees and what’s more, conduct many of these activities at cross purposes and in competition with each other. To gather under one roof and be able to smile for the shutterbugs in a simulation of sorority and sisterhood under these circumstances is no mean achievement. And by all accounts, out of respect for their host and the occasion, no past rivalry marred the occasion as they feasted on Sharma’s outstanding authentic Hyderabad fare and gracious hostessing. But it was back to business the next morning. Commended on being part of the August get together, one of the guests was overheard purring, “Yes, it was such a lovely group, and representing so many different age groups!” Ouch!

Ms Chowdhury is in the house
>> We have been admirers of the redoubtable Renuka Chowdhury, MP and official spokesperson for the Congress, ever since she posed for us on a tractor in an earlier avatar when we edited a Sunday broadsheet. Since then we have watched her go from strength to strength, doing what she does best, decimating opponents on TV talk shows and generally talking up a storm.

Renuka Chowdhury

But nothing prepared us for her stellar speech on Wednesday evening at the IMC’s Woman of the Year award function where she was the chief guest. Standing resolutely in front of a crowd of that August conclave of IMC Ladies, Chowdhury spoke on subjects ranging from wheelchair compliance for cities to her concept of real men, to India’s toilet deficit, to altruism, to organ donations, to unhygienic aircraft and chikungunya! It was an outstanding performance. But truth be told by the time Chowdhury got around to the Women’s Reservation Bill, Congress’ achievements and the forthcoming elections, we kind of lost the plot. Those cowering men on TV didn’t stand a chance we thought!

Banksy Bar
>> Wednesday afternoon we were afforded a sneak peak of AD Singh’s soon-to-be launched SoBo watering hole Local. Situated in Kala Ghoda, in the premises that housed Casa Soul Fry, the tiny space emblazoned with cutting edge industrial design, inspired art work, and black walls promises to be a welcome addition to the city’s much needed after hours party scene.

AD Singh

“There’s no signage outside, the doors are firmly shut and it’s only open to friends and friends of friends,” said AD in his endearing mid-Atlantic meets Cathedral elocution master drawl. “What’s more you need a password to punch in to enter,” he said. The official opening is next Wednesday with a series of run-up preview bashes to get the word out. “Sabby (his wife Sabina) worked closely with the designer to get the correct look and yes, Banksy was our inspiration,” said Singh

Inspiring Afternoon
>> Wednesday afternoon saw us shaking off the last vestiges of our flu and stepping out to attend the IMC Woman of the Year Award presentation at the Trident. In the company of some of Mumbai’s leading women (and a few men) Naseema Hurzuk, president and moving spirit behind ‘Helpers of the Handicapped,’ was given her citation and award. A soft-spoken paraplegic with an astonishing spirit of courage and compassion, Huzruk set up ‘Helpers’ in 1984 for the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.

Naseema Hurzuk (centre) with Jaywantiben Mehta, Renuka Chowdhury and Darshana Doshi

Since then it has provided assistance to over 17,410 persons with disabilities to the tune of Rs 708.19 lakh so far and also created infrastructures such as hostels, schools, rehabilitation and training centres. Born in September 1950 in Sholapur, Hurzuk was an active teenager until she was struck with paraplegia at the age of 16. But with determination and motivation she overcame her personal grief and completed her graduation and set up Helpers. “Maharashtra has 45 lakh physically challenged people,” she said with sadness. “What we are doing is a drop in the ocean. I appeal to this gathering to do whatever it can to alleviate their suffering.” Suffice to say, we were edified by her presence.

The CA Statesman
>> An interesting aside at IMC’s high powered Woman of the Year award function was when winner Naseema Hurzuk used the occasion to make a spirited appeal to advocate a waiving of income tax for the differently abled. “Not only is it virtually impossible for the handicapped to get jobs, but once they do so, the government takes away more than half of what they earn,” she said.

Shailesh Haribhakti

But, perhaps this will be a thing of the past because unbeknownst to her, sitting right up front in the audience was one of India’s leading and most respected tax experts Shailesh Haribhakti (his wife Amita is president of the IMC Woman of the Year awards committee). In the hushed (and recently battered) world of accountancy, Haribhakti stands tall as he effortlessly embodies all the good values of his profession with an urbane rectitude and infinite charm. Listening to the speech, a visibly moved Haribhakti had perhaps worked out a way to take the yeoman appeal forward to the right sources. Of such serendipitous afternoons, history (or at least taxation policies) are made! 

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