Celebrating a mother and a matriarch

Jan 30, 2014, 06:06 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Her 75th birthday celebrations in 2009 had been a much-watched affair as it had brought her two famous warring siblings together after long, in an atmosphere of fun, food and laughter

>> Her 75th birthday celebrations in 2009 had been a much-watched affair as it had brought her two famous warring siblings together after long, in an atmosphere of fun, food and laughter.


And this year as Kokilaben Ambani, the graceful matriarch of India’s leading business family brings in her 80th birthday next month, word comes in that her doting son Anil is planning a party on February 15 at Sea Wind to celebrate.

Tina and Anil Ambani

Leading chefs from all over the country including Indian Accent’s Manish Mehrotra have been have been engaged to come up with their most delicious menus as the Ambanis gear up for the mother of all parties.

And around the 23rd, the family is preparing to travel to seek blessings from the family deity the 14th-century idol of Shrinathji, in Nathdwara near Udaipur where there will be another celebration.

Grace under pressure
>> So what was Valerie Trierweiler really like? Seated beside her at Chhaya Momaya’s carefully curated lunch that brought together some of the city’s power women like Rashmi Thackeray, Zia Mody, Pheroza Godrej, Kareena Kapoor and Dr Firuza Parikh amongst others, we have a vantage point to observe France’s former first lady whose recent break up with the president has captured media headlines the world over.

The words that comes to mind are ‘grace under pressure.’

Valerie Trierweiler, Kareena Kapoor and Chhaya Momaya

Because, even before she makes her late entry to the venue, the whispers amongst Mumbai’s power elite are an empathetic, “Bechari — why is she putting herself through more stress by doing this?’

But once she glides in, ink blue power suit, mandatory red lipstick, elegant black pumps, the offstage concern transforms into admiration.

Seated along with Trierweiler, Kareena Kapoor, hostess Momaya and Anuradha Shukla of Bag TV and wife of the influential Congress politician, the talk at our table is about the afternoon’s agenda the ‘Fight Hunger Foundation’; the former first lady has just been on a well-documented tour of Mumbai’s economically backward areas. She narrates what she felt when she picked up an undernourished slum child that morning. “He was so light, so fragile, just skin and bones, it broke my heart.”

Up close her attractive face is strained and we notice a slight tremor in her hands.

French President Francois Hollande

Deftly, we shift the subject to the tricky one of gender relations and the mistreatment of women. “Never before” we say warming to one of our favourite subjects, “Have we observed such a wide chasm between the genders; never has the gender war been so apparent and urgent.” We notice how Valerie warms to the subject as Kareena wonders if this is a syndrome particular to developing nations and low education levels. “I was extremely shocked by Nirbhaya’s case and was glad to promote the launch of a recent woman’s safety app called Vith U,” says the actress.

And that’s when Trierweiler says, “Even in the most advanced countries women are treated badly. It’s a backlash against their empowerment and emergence as a force. A reaction by men to their new found strength,” her words are simple but poignant.

Perhaps Trierweiler is alluding to her own position?

Before we leave, we ask her if she’s thinking of writing a book about her life.

“May be I will,” smiles France’s former first lady. What a story that will make. A French president slipping out of his official residence on a scooter to meet a famous actress even as his live-in partner and first lady sleeps at home!
It’s the stuff of best-selling novels!

Food for thought and palate
>> Dinner on Tuesday night at Shabana and Javed’s well appointed pad in Juhu. “We look forward to having you join us to meet PEN International President John Ralston Saul,” the internationally renowned actress and our erstwhile Juhu neighbour had said in her text.

Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi

Evenings at the Akhtar-Azmis are always fun. Even as the rest of Mumbai has embraced new trends in hosting and entertaining (in our opinion to their great detriment) the couple have stuck to the age old golden formula: a cozy informal atmosphere, a few-like minded guests, stunning home cooked food and great conversations!

Prasoon Joshi

This time too it is the same: with guests like Neera and Shyam Benegal, Amit Khanna, MS Sathyu, Prasoon Joshi, Anil Dharker, Canadian Consul General Richard Bale and Pen International dignitary Haroon Siddiqui and its acclaimed
author essayist Saul the talk naturally is about writers, writing and politics!

“Pen is looking to expand and strengthen its activities in India beyond organising poetry readings and the like,” says Saul.

John Ralston Saul

Nice. Perhaps, they could start by examining why so many of India’s leading editors have lost their jobs recently. Couldn’t be because they went against their publisher’s political /business agendas could it?
Just saying.

The great melting pot
>> And one more item from that bastion of Byzantine corridor — whispers, Mumbai’s leading hotel.
This one’s about the very high profile and upwardly mobile star chef. Word is that his contract comes up for reviewing soon and the legion of colleagues he’s rubbed the wrong way with his arrogance and pomposity, is wondering if he’ll be given the extension he’s seeking.

“ Probably will,” said a despondent front office manager, who’s borne the brunt of the chef’s gigantic ego. “Because his relentless social networking assures the hotel high revenues in banquets.”

Passport to misdemeanours?
>> Talking about powerful women and their mistreatment, how can we fail to mention that some of the most beautiful and powerful amongst in the city are completely obviously to the antics of their spouses when they go abroad?

This well-heeled and handsome industrialist has been spotted with his arm around some dubious female company in all the word’s hot spots. “He doesn’t even blush when he runs into other Indians who know him,” says our source.

“Perhaps because he doesn’t care if his wife gets to know after all she’s so happy being regarded as a pillar of society and a major art patron.” Tch Tch.

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