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Lutyens, Louboutin and levity

The columnist (far right) with her friends at Soho House | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Gayatri Rangachari Shah 26 February 2021 13:08 IST
Updated: 26 February 2021 13:08 IST

Social distancing notwithstanding, there’s room for art exhibitions, parties and movie time

Continuing my India travels, I finally made it to Delhi to see my parents — after a year. While there, I was circumspect about stepping out, but did manage to meet a few people outdoors. I always have major real estate envy when I come to the capital. Its sprawling homes, with their large lawns and terraces, make even the swankiest Mumbai homes look cramped.

Delhi wouldn’t be Delhi without its over-the-top indulgences. As I dug into a hot aloo-tikki on a cool evening in the massive garden of a beautiful Lutyens bungalow, my girlfriend leaned in to tell me about a mutual acquaintance. “I saw him recently and he went on about a dinner party where fabulous wines costing ₹3 lakh were served,” she sniffed. “Three lakhs!” I repeated. My friend continued, “So irritating. Why didn’t he tell me about it? There are hardly any events to wear nice clothes to. I would also have gone.” “But you don’t even drink,” I countered. She flashed me a smile and shrugged.

I managed to meet my art gallerist pal Roshini Vadehra at her recently-renovated office terrace. Over tea and peanut butter cookies, she told me about On Site, a collaborative art show by four galleries at Delhi’s Bikaner House, including Vadehra, Nature Morte, Chemould Prescott Road and Experimenter. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the show, nor the Covid-19 protocol friendly fêtes being planned, including a dinner hosted by art patron-socialite, Shalini Passi.

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Back in Mumbai, there’s talk of a second Covid wave. Given the uncertainty, I was glad I had hosted a small dinner party at home in early February. To liven things up, I had turned to Mona Ahuja, who creates fabulous table settings out of things she finds in people’s homes. In my case, that had meant placing a few of my coffee table books alongside candles, crystal and silver. I would never have thought to put these contrasting elements together, but Mona clearly has a gift.

Coffee table books alongside candles, crystal and silver in Mona Ahuja’s table setting | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Another thing I was glad I did — because who knows when one can do so again — was to venture out to watch a movie. Not in any old movie theatre, but the cosy and glamorous one at the members-only Soho House, which I hadn’t visited in a year. My friend Anjali Gaekwar, who runs the fancy shoe brand Christian Louboutin in India, had invited me to a screening of a documentary on the designer. Alongside displays of the new fall collection and glasses of Champagne, I met Jim Sarbh, the Made in Heaven web series actor. He regaled us with a crazy lockdown story involving adopting a stray cat, whom he lost and then serendipitously found again. Later I sat socially-distanced in the small cinema and learned about Louboutin — did you know that he ran away from home as a teenager and spent a year in India? Afterwards, I went upstairs to dine outdoors, while a DJ played some tunes. For that magical hour and a half, it seemed as though the pandemic didn’t exist.

Speaking of coming to India, it looks like February is the new December for NRIs. Because of travel restrictions, I have two friends visiting Mumbai at this very moment — one from Europe and the other from the US. It is wonderful to see old friends after ages, and it is also fun when they bring the world to your doorstep. My friend Jory Syed, a former Fendi executive and former PR head for Ermenegildo Zegna in the Americas, had carried some goodies for me by Jaline, a new resort label founded by New York-based Jacqueline Lopez. The designer works with artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico, to make handwoven kaftans, wraps and dresses. The clothes are perfect for the beach vacation I hope to soon take. Now let’s just hope Covid doesn’t play spoilsport.

This fortnightly column tracks the indulgent pursuits of the one-percenters.

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