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Charm personified Jerome Bonnafont Photo:
Charm personified Jerome Bonnafont Photo:

The Ambassador talks about Indian designers, wine and culture

The City of Nawabs played host to Jerome Bonnafont, Ambassador of France in India, over the last few days. The suave gentleman took time out to have a tete-a-tete with MetroPlus.

Gung-ho about the tremendous presence of Indian designers in France, he says indulgently, “Ritu Beri is a member of the Indo-French Forum. Ritu Kumar has just been conferred the Ordre Des Arts et Des Lettres award for her outstanding work. Manish Arora was a huge success at the recently held Paris Fashion Week.”

He goes on to reveal, “I was one of Rohit Bal’s first customers in the 80s during my earlier posting in India. There are photos of me dressed in sherwani-churidar designed by him. But, those are not on show. And, I certainly don’t wear saris.”

His wife must have worn one? The quick-witted envoy, who is unmarried, says, “I don’t have a wife, though I keep gifting saris and shawls to my girlfriends all the time.”

The envoy, who started his diplomatic career with an India posting in 1986, can well qualify as an Indophile. His knowledge about all things Indian is remarkable.

“India has a very distinct character, which helps it absorb change while retaining its identity. It is the power of Indian culture,” he holds forth.

Enthusiastic about Indian wines, he says, “Wine is not only agriculture but also a culture. I am glad wine culture is gaining ground in India. The quality of Indian wines is getting. I regularly drink Indian wine, though I am yet to visit a vineyard here.”

Retired Air Chief Marshal Idris Latif, also a former Indian ambassador to France, comes in, carrying a clipping from the day’s The Hindu for the envoy, which talks about a replica of the masjid in Mecca being built atop a temple of Lord Rama in Vishakhapatnam.

Armed with his own arsenal of anecdotes, he recounts a recent visit to Pondicherry. Escorted by the French representative, a Muslim, he first visited a few mosques.

“I was then taken to a Hindu shrine where my escort did puja. We were both, a Muslim and a Christian, blessed by the priest.”

Witty and chivalrous with an easy charm. That’s the French Ambassador.

KOMAL VIJAY SINGH

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