Dinner with the Prince

Published: 11 November, 2013 07:28 IST | Malavika Sangghvi |

Dinner on Saturday night with Prince Charles, (where else but Mumbai's 'Regal Room') with a hundred or so of India's power aristocracy

>> Dinner on Saturday night with Prince Charles, (where else but Mumbai’s ‘Regal Room’) with a hundred or so of India’s power aristocracy. On entering an adjoining room, serving as a catchment area for guests to mingle and drink, we meet industrialists, bankers, media mavens, philanthropists and activists like Adi Godrej, Ajay Piramal, Anand Mahindra, Vivek Nair, Arnab Goswami, Suhel Seth, Hemendra Kothari, Sam Pitroda, Bittu Sahgal, Neeraj Bajaj, amongst others.

Prince Charles poses with Harish Salve, Mukesh Ambani, Manoj Badali, Sonny Takhar, Suhel Seth, Salman Mahdi and S Ramadorai. Pic/Getty Images

Soon we are joined by the Prince and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who mingle and chat easily with the guests. We, too, receive our two minutes of intense royal PC when we get our turn under the royal gaze.

Having just heard Tina Brown at THINK, we find ourselves discussing the dismal state of print media in the world. “Good God, surely not in India too,” says the famous voice. “Yes, here too,” we reply.

We remind the Prince that this is the third time we are meeting him: at the Raj Bhavan in the early eighties, as his guest in Scotland in the nineties and now.

“But we don’t expect you to remember,” we say to the man who is said to have mastered the fine art of small talk and of making people feel they are the most interesting on the planet in their five minutes in his company. The Prince plays along. “Ah, but that was such a long time ago, wasn’t it?” he says drolly.

The evening is about the Indian advisory council of the British Asia Trust, an arm of The Prince’s Charities, and to announce its distinguished members: Chairman Mukesh Ambani and members S Ramadorai, Harish Salve, Naina Lal Kidwai, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Suhel Seth.

He’s a natural
>> Seated with Arnab Goswami and Suhel Seth at the Prince’s dinner, both men with legendary gifts of the gab, it’s a joke-a-minute riot.

Breaking with the tradition of the good and great, when he is called up to speak, Seth who likes nothing more than a verbal swipe or two, ends his speech wishing the Prince a Happy Birthday (he turns 65 on Thursday).

Suhel Seth

“That’s no age to retire,” says Seth to the British heir, cheekily adding, “As you will see in our own country and the people who are running it.”

When he descends from stage, the Prince singles him out for special praise and a handsqueeze. “You are the naughtiest speaker I have heard,” says the man, who spent his own college years performing with many of Britain’s most celebrated comedic talent.

“How does Suhel do it?” we ask Goswami. We have both observed that he’s been totally relaxed throughout dinner and has gone up with no speech in hand. “He’s a natural,”says Goswami.

The young Mother Teresa
>> Mumbai’s very own Anaita Daruvala was a student studying advertising here, when she ran into Swiss actress-producer Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz on a scouting trip to India for a feature film she planned on the young Mother Teresa. The two women hit it off and Anaita became a member of Jacqueline’s production team, after obtaining a master’s degree in international business in France. So, Anaita now moves between Switzerland and India, assisting Jacqueline with pre-production for the film.

Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz with (right) Anaita Daruvala

The producers hope to enlist the support of former Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, who wrote an acclaimed biography of Mother Teresa. What has it been like working on the film? “Inspiring,” says Anaita. “Very hard work,” says Jacqueline. “And it will be even harder once we start shooting in India.”

An Alagh thing to say
>> And at the dinner we get a chance to chat with Sunil Alagh, the former MD of Britannia India, and banker Nimesh Kampani who are discussing Goldman Sachs’ recent Modi optimism. “Your candidate,” we tease Alagh, who’s been an early Modi toady.

Sunil Alagh

“I was his supporter, even before it became fashionable,” says Alagh, whose evangelical ardour we have so far escaped. Then, he gets more candid. “What to do?” he says, “I like the Congress, but not its leadership. And the BJP leadership — but not the party.”

Which all things considered is an Alagh thing to say.

Seducing the Muse
>> Unlike most other industrialists’ wives, she has an identity, stature and persona all of her own, which is why it is always a pleasure to meet the soft-spoken and gentle Anuradha Mahindra, publisher, writer and quiet observer of the world around us.

Anuradha Mahindra

“When is your book going to finally see the light of day?” we ask our fellow wordsmith about her magnum opus. “When yours is,” she shoots right back. So, we plan an urgent meet to confer and conspire on how to seduce the collective Muse.

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