By Nishiraj A. Baruah
Ok people, this ain’t for every Tom, Dick and Hary or Jill, Jane and Jerry. It’s for connoisseurs who love (and can afford) high luxury. Mind you, not just any luxury, it’s luxury of the royalty.
I am just another Tom, who would perhaps think twice about buying these art, craft and couture, but one has to do one’s job as a journo, and that’s how I landed at New Delhi’s Mecca of design and luxury, DLF Emporio in Vasant Kunj, to take a ‘by invitation only’ sneak peek at the stalls set up as part of Royal Fables, a heritage exposition that presents the rich, cultural imprint of Imperial India.
The venue itself was impressive: Amid the Gucci and Prada and Ferragamo shop windows, the stalls at the exhibition area held their heads high with their ornate offerings: From their royal households, from their palace studios, the gen-next royalty presented heritage inspired art, crafts, fashion and jewellery of the blue-blooded erstwhile royals.
There are gold and silver weaves from Mansa, Gujarat; the recreation of the hombre dyed chiffon sari immortalised by HH Maharani Galati Devi of Raipur; phulkari from Patiala; the ceremonial gaddi-masnat from Avadh, among other stuff. The royal art section presents contemporary remakes of miniature art, tribal art, Islamic calligraphy, wildlife paintings, all produced within Palace Studios under the direct patronage of the royals themselves. The miniature art of Kangra, Kishangarh and Jaipur; Oleographs from the Ravi Varma collection of Laxmi Vilas Palace; the Gond art from Jhabua; wildlife photography by scions of leading royal families add to the collection.
Of course, the royals were there too: Princess Diya Kumari of Jaipur, looking elegant in a grey saree, was the chief guest for the occasion. Reticent by nature (we have been told, she talks little) I left her with her private circle. But ended up seating next to another royal blood, Abha Dalmia (in an yellow chiffon saree) while watching the fashion show called the Golden Peacock. There were too many wearing chiffons, but why the Rajasthani royals has a fixation with the semi transparent fabric. “Chiffon was an imported product during British era and it was regarded as something new and novel and that’s why the royals started wearing chiffon sarees. And because it drapes well and is comfortable, the new gen also turns out to be loyal followers,” she said.
Meandering around the stall with a glass of Chivas, we stopped at Studio Kisangarh, the striking pillow covers arresting our attention. Run by Padmanav Jadeja Vaishnavi and Princess Vaishnavi Kumari of Kishangarh, she said she has just returned to promote her brand, having been away thanks to her brand new baby. And oh, you are most welcome to visit this interesting town where her parents run a palace hotel right on a lake and meant only for an exclusive breed of travellers.
I couldn’t recognise her, but later I got to know that there was also my former colleague from Indian Express who morphed from a lifestyle journalist into Her Highness Maharani Radhika Raje Gaekwad of Baroda. I have known her as a fresher with unique dancing abilities (like dancing on a table) and her talent in caricature and mimicry that had us all in office double up in laughter.
Moving on, we bumped into the young and eligible bachelor Paarth Malhotra from Malhotra Oil Company whose family had just launched a perfume brand called Mocemsa. They were there with too a stall. But at about Rs 2,000 a bottle it isn’t quite high luxury to fit in this exhibition. So why are they participating? “We are into luxury but affordable luxury. I could have priced our products higher, but I want everyone to enjoy our perfumes,” he said, generously dolling out Dunhils to whoever was running out of fags.
The pinot noirs and chardonnays further sparkled the evening that had men turning up in Jodhpurs and intricately embroidered Pathani suits and women in, chiffon of course, and ornate stoles. In the middle of it all, we chatted with the stall owners of Caha that is selling fine selection of whole tea from Darjeeling. So are they planters from Darjeeling? No, the two pretty sisters (one of them is called Priyanka Anand) are actually from Nagaland where her father runs their business. Yes, they speak Nagamese too.
We also met Shantanu Saikia looking dapper in all white linens (going well with his salt and pepper hair). Shantanu, who? Well, this former Financial Express journo who now runs a fertiliser site for the trade is better known as the husband of late Sabina Sehgal Saikia, the legendary Delhi Times Editor who was killed at the Mumbai Taj hotel terror attack. After ages, I also spotted an ageless Bina Ramani who looked exactly like what she looked a decade ago when I saw her last.
I also bumped into Simon Clays, Publishing Director of Exposure Media Marketing that brings out magazines like Asia Spa, Better Homes and Gardens and Sports Illustrated, who let his wife explore the stalls while he preferred to nurse his drink. “I think you will look good in one of these kurtas,” I suggested pointing to a collection for men in a stall by the brand Mehrab. “Oh, I already have something similar,” said the German.
An initiative of Anshu Khanna, the much loved PR pro known for her smile and the luxury brands she represents, Khanna was all around to welcome us all for the Season Nine of Royal Fables that is on only for the weekend with 25 leading palace studios from across the nation.
There was a fashion show too modelled not by professional models but by scions of royal families such as Rani Vinita Singh Patiala, Princess Riya Kumari of Patialia, Princess Mriganka Singh of Jammu & Kashmir, Kumar Saheb Padmanabh Singh of Gondol, and Nawab Kazim Ali.
It’s all about evolved living, as royal cuisine and costumes sparkled to the background score by a group of Rajasthani folk singers and accompanied by Kamakshi Khanna, the crooner daughter of Anshu Khanna. Looking radiant with a maang tikka, I couldn’t but notice that it was gone from her forehead in the later part of the evening. Oh, it was borrowed from a stall owner, she smiled.
Meanwhile, good times continued late into the night with guests in no mood of leaving. As Anshu said, “The fable has only just begun”
Event: Royal Fables-Season 9; Date: October 6 & 7, 2017
Venue: The Pavilion; DLF Emporio, Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi
Timing: 11 am to 8 pm