The legend of Laura

Sep 08, 2017, 06:00 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

She had first come to India during the Second World War and continued to live in Mumbai at the Taj and, later, at the Yacht Club, becoming a city legend for her connoisseurship and her keen sense of style, until her death at the ripe old age of 94

Laura Hamilton and J R D Tata
Laura Hamilton and J R D Tata

She had first come to India during the Second World War and continued to live in Mumbai at the Taj and, later, at the Yacht Club, becoming a city legend for her connoisseurship and her keen sense of style, until her death at the ripe old age of 94.

Old-timers will tell you with awe about the boutique she'd started at the Taj called Malabar in 1962, filled with exquisite objects, such as 19th century glass paintings and Chinese export porcelain and ceramics, many of which she'd pick up from the bylanes of Chor Bazaar.

"Both her apartment at the Yacht Club and her bungalow at Marve beach were not only a testament to her penchant for beautiful things, but also to her sense of meticulousness and attention to detail. Every metal trimming and piece of silver was shiny and polished, the furniture was burnished to a high gloss and every piece of porcelain and glass was placed at the perfect angle for her guests to admire," says art consultant Mallika Advani, who is curating Pundole's upcoming decorative arts sale, which includes pieces from the Hamilton estate along with a superb collection of silver from the descendants of Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, whose name adorns the city's most renowned art school, a selected group of Indian and Tibetan ritual silver from the collection of the late Roshan Sabavala and pieces from the late Farida Hoosenally's estate.

And as always, the thrill of such auctions is often the romance behind the objects. Hamilton, a handsome and glamorous lady by any standards, was said to be a close friend of none other than J R D Tata. The two shared more than their love for beauty and refinement. As stipulated in her will, upon her death, she wanted all her personal effects to be sold at an auction, and the proceeds were to be given to the corpus of the J R D Tata Trust of Bombay House.

The money was to be used for '... scholarships and assistance to deserving young people, in particular to young women requiring financial assistance for higher studies in medicine or in the humanities, and for also giving assistance to small ventures with specified purposes, as may from time to time be approved by the trustees of the J R D Tata Trust,'" says Advani. Such style, what romance!

Good vibes all around
Whereas most people's bucket lists include things like bungee jumping and scaling Mt Everest, ours has attending the annual Trance Dance Ganpati procession, which begins at Mahalaxmi Mandir and winds its way through Haji Ali till Worli.

At the Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine, USA
At the Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine, USA 

Having watched it on the sidelines for too long, this year we caught the bull by the horns and tagged along with our friend, impassioned humanist activist and life coach, Faredoon (Dodo) Bhujwala, a veteran for the past 19 years!

Faredoon (Dodo) Bhujwala
Faredoon (Dodo) Bhujwala

Between dancing madly and spreading monumental amounts of joy and silliness, Bhujwala informed us that he'd just returned from an amazing experience as delegate leader at Seeds of Peace Camp in Maine, USA, to which he'd accompanied 14 youngsters from India to live with 14 youngsters from Pakistan.

"There were kids from various conflict regions - Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Egypt," he says, adding, "It was an intense three weeks of dialogues around conflict and resolutions and activities to build trust and respect for each other," he said.

"We learnt how two opposite sides in conflict have much more in common than we realise, and that having healthy dialogues open up the similarities of basic human needs and values, from which we share our interconnectedness," he added.

As for our experience at this year's trance dance Ganpati, what can we say? To dance under a full moon on one of Mumbai's main thoroughfares to the beat of mesmerising drums, with young people of all faiths, was a rare treat. Or as Bhujwala succinctly remarked, "Fun became."

Close, but no cigar
He may be a connoisseur of fine wine and a cigar aficionado but make no mistake about it, Rajiv Kaul, president, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, is above all a thoughtful husband.

Rajiv Kaul
Rajiv Kaul

The seasoned hotelier, who adorns the cover of a leading food and wine glossy this month, is said to have declined from posing with a prime Cuban between his lips for the sake of his wife Ruchi, who is trying her best to make him give up the habit," says Farzana Contractor, who photographed and interviewed the cover subject.

"He makes for a perfect cover boy. Not the hunk variety but the dignified handsome kind. He has all the elements of a perfect hotelier. But then he has had a great run - starting with the Oberoi Hotels and ending with The Leela, with Taj thrown in for good measure." Indeed.

Kings of click
They are easily the most celebrated photographers in the country, having cornered the prime rib of the heftiest campaign and assignment photography over the decades. And Shantanu Sheorey, Tarun Khiwal, Hardev Singh, Dinesh Khanna, Siddharth Mishra, Mahesh Bhatt, Ashish Chawla, Sudhir Ramachandran and Samar Jodha found themselves serendipitously in the Capital this week (photographers are notoriously peripatetic and fly by night).

(Standing left to right) Shantanu Sheorey, Tarun Khiwal, Hardev Singh, Dinesh Khanna, Siddharth Mishra, Mahesh Bhatt and Ashish Chawla; (sitting left to right) Sudhir Ramachandran and Samar Jodha
(Standing left to right) Shantanu Sheorey, Tarun Khiwal, Hardev Singh, Dinesh Khanna, Siddharth Mishra, Mahesh Bhatt and Ashish Chawla; (sitting left to right) Sudhir Ramachandran and Samar Jodha

"Hardev Singh decided to bring everyone together," said ace shutterbug Jodha. "I arrived from Kathmandu en route to Kabul on a public art project kickoff, Sudhir flew in from Bangalore, Shantanu was in town ready to launch The One School Goa, Delhi campus, (professional photography school programme) and Tarun was back from a heavy-duty fashion assignment."

"We mostly talked shop about how digital had nearly killed the industry but demystified photography so much that every one had discovered their inner photographer," he laughs. And the best part? With so many man-hours collectively put in by these renowned award-winning lensmen on heavy-duty expensive cameras, this portrait of them together was shot on an iPhone!

Holding forth
By and large Ganpati celebrations are the last place one would expect to find some corporate networking. However, this week at one such celebration, we were party to some prime brown nosing by a well-known bizman, about his links to a powerful and wealthy biz clan.

What was intriguing is that the bizman, easily amongst the country's billionaire lists, was overheard boasting not so much about his connections to the clan's patriarch, but about spending all his time trying to impress his fellow industrialist bizman links his daughter had to the patriarch's daughter.

That both these girls were in their school-going teens, (and at an age where they'd most likely be mortified at this kind of mention) did not appear to strike him as odd. "Arrey, she does not make a single move without my daughter," boasted the father in a loud booming voice to the embarrassment of all around him. Tech Tch!

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