Diary of a Weekend Puneite: Sparklers of the Year

It’s already started. The magic of Diwali with its bonhomie, gastronomic delights, laughter and cards. Which is why this week’s column is about who I would like have to grace a Diwali soiree if I had one… The secret to any party, as any good hostess will tell you — besides food, drinks and cards– is the mix of guests one has at a table. The reason to put these raconteurs together is because of the heady mix that their tales and conversation will create. This list is not an all-encompassing one or not endowed with power togs or big awards or Birkin bags, but one that will simply sparkle this Diwali! 

Pic: Fotocorp
Pic: Fotocorp

Meera Kalmadi: Two decades ago I interviewed the then MP Suresh Kalmadi for Society magazine. Since then, I have been fascinated by the sanguine calm and beautiful smile of Meera, his better half. The smile holds and her face gives nothing away… despite the chaos behind the scenes, even on Election Day! And who better than her articulate eyes to share the changing fortunes of this city and its political landscape as she holds her regal self in some of the most elegant cotton sarees.

15oct_sagar-chordiaSagar Chordia: The younger one of the successful siblings, Sagar’s zest to bring cutting edge design to Pune cannot be questioned. While many wonder if Philippe Starck, Bulgari and someone called Trump are on his speed dial, it’s his grounded approach and ambitious streak that have him have a winning hand in housing and hospitality. A bird’s eye view picture from his chopper of the traffic jammed curve negotiating expressway went viral to convince me that he is at the top of the game – Literally!

15oct_natasha-poonawallaNatasha Poonawala:  She is Pune’s most noteworthy export to the world of glamour, globally. No news that is. So ditching the flattering adjectives for her and focusing on her deft adeptness to balance from being a hands-on mother and backing her hubby Adar’s commendable Clean-up Pune initiative. A few batches junior from St Mary’s, Natasha’s been seen swapping India stories with former Victoria Secrets’ supermodel Karolina Kurokava, exchanging childhood memories with King Khan’s wife at Château de la Chèvre d’Or in sunny Eze, to discussing philanthropy pursuits with Prince William on her lavish stud farm or even advising my husband to chase his London School of Economics dreams – her alma mater!  Having heard her rip many a star with her closest friends Kareena  Kappor and Mailaka Arora over a long girlie lunch… this one I promise you, is a juicy addition to the table.

15oct_rajiv-bajajRajiv Bajaj: Well-bred and wise, he belongs to boys club of next gen leaders from Pune who don’t take their famous last names for granted. He works hard to take the iconic ‘Hamara Bajaj’ to the next level. His affinity for engineering goes back to his COEP days. He still enjoys trekking around the city on a free weekend or has often been spotted driving his bikes around the lanes of Koregaon Park, when he is not hosting industry captains or his favourite cricketers at his home. It would be interesting to get chatting with him about his perseverance towards homeopathy or comparing notes on his brand theory in tandem with his observations on yogic postures. May be that proves why the managing director of Baja Auto’s twitter handle is motorcycleyogi

15oct_sabina-sanghaviSabina Sanghvi : She wrote the rules of Pune social circuit, shattered media paradigms and created power lists. But it is Sabina’s innate ability to be at many places at one time defies all laws of time management. Almost omnipresent! Have grown up watching her connect with a 16-year-old to a 60-year – with equal ease, fascinates me. And her prowess on the bridge table at the Poona Club is not a secret. But not many know about her love for art – Yes, I never fail to marvel the only Husain original in the world that hangs in her home with two signatures!

15oct_satish-mehtaSatish Mehta: His is a story that legends are made of. And yet humble to the core as he hits many a Forbes business list. Family-run pharmacy store to now a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical business, he prides in his strong value system and his IIM degree without batting an eye lid. Masala chai, Gujarati snacks and corporate lessons are what an evening with him would entail. And what would make for a engrossing story is how he strategised his runway wedding with his-now-wife Bhavna!

15oct_arti-kirloskarArti Kirloskar: Nobody wears linen better than her. Perhaps it’s the earthy artist in her that liberates capitalistic paradigms. A culture patron and the voice of city’s heritage scene, Arti has been one of the driving force behind INTACH’s successful social enterprise project with the Tambat craftsmen in Pune that has launched the ‘Coppre’ range – Making us take Made in Pune tag seriously. But this gorgeous grandmother is a fast learner – from social media platforms to brush strokes on canvas — and her ability to balance her left with right is a skill that would be well worth learning from.

15oct_trishla-taleraTrishla Talera: Youth is powerful and this bright spark knows it. As a Creative Director of TIFA Working Studios along with her brother, Trishla has created a unique platform for the art scene in India – for education and exploration. From hanging with Subodh Gupta as he put together his installation at Kochi Bienelle to enjoying her salads in Mumbai, the Marwari entrepreneur power is putting her learning’s as an alumnus of famed SCAD to some good use.

Photo credit: Neville Sukhia
Photo credit: Neville Sukhia

Sohrab Nicholson: He must be in his late twenties. But given they are already comparing him with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Jame Blake and referencing Crosby, Stills and Nash, we are sure he’s already wise and talented beyond his years.  He started playing the piano through his schooling in Pune and now the singer-song writer based out of Mumbai is creating a sound that I can’t get out of my head.  Watch this official video and you will know just why he’s got to be on this table.

15oct_pandit-sanjeev-abhyankarSanjeev Abhyankar: His dulcet tones are recognisable almost anywhere – even on a scratch on YouTube. An exponent of the Mewati Gharana, this student of Pandit Jasraj is the golden boy with the golden voice that has wooed us in every format – from devotional to classical music to even singing for the small and big screen. Questions I am dying to ask him include what those 10 years of living and learning with Pandit Jasraj were like and where does he see himself going next, after so many awards including the National Award! You?

15oct_rajeev-kherRajeev Kher:  Awards and powerful seminars aside, the reason to pick Rajeev Kher is for his sheer ability to work with red tape in all that he does. Rated amongst the Top 50 social enterprises in India, his latest innovation at 3S India which is at the forefront of all efforts in sanitation is the Ti – a luxurious bus made for women from a scrapped bus. And given Swachch Bharat is the phrase on everyone’s lips – including NaMo—this would be a conversation for the records.

15oct_kunal-agarwalKunal Agarwal: We’ve all been telling Kunal to get his Facebook posts into a comic book! After all, it’s an art to sound so henpecked on a public platform, label his posts as ‘Sue-Vichaar’ after his lovely wife Sunanina and make the entire city laugh! Sample his latest one: “So much is wrong with our education system, in reality a simple Math test shall prove the same: If your wife has Rs 50 and you have Rs 50, how much does your wife have? The answer in the real world is Rs 100……end of lesson…..!!!.” Avid footballer and leading his dad’s legacy forward on cooling logistics and solar solutions, I am sure he will keep us entertained on the table… with his wife’s permission, of course!

15oct_darioDario Dezio: Charming, like most true blue Italians, he gets a bonus for cooking like a dream. Lauded by the Italian government for his culinary pursuits, with several awards and anecdotes, there is never a dull moment with Dario. He started his romance with Pune as an Iyengar yoga enthusiast making it his home as a top chef for over two decades. He continues to spoil gourmands all over the country with his his grandmother’s authentic recipes straight from Sicily – especially that Tiramisu! And what many don’t know is that he spends his free time painting –the canvases at his flagship Pune restaurant stand proof of that.

15oct_chetan-wakalkar-for-pune-365Chetan Wakalkar: Today, being in the space of education is sexy! But 15 years ago, it seemed non-glamorous and thankless. Wakalkar’s critics wouldn’t have given him a rope that would have lasted so long! But today the two siblings have made Indira a household name in and out of the city and — one in which they have taken on the big daddies of education right here at home and have finally shut every critic with all their accolades. From a middle school to being in every arena of education –it would be gripping to get him to recount his stories of struggles and tough calls!

15oct_mehul-trivediMehul Trivedi: Devastatingly handsome. And yet simple and shy. Taken me years to realise that there is a regular hard working guy behind designer threads and jet set holidays. A lawyer by degree and industrialist by profession, who lives life by his own rules, Mehul’s impeccable manners and meaningful conversations never fail to make an impact. Especially when he is speaking about Hindustani classical music and fitness over his favourite Mariage Frères tea as he still tops my list of one of the well-dressed men in the country!

15oct_kavita-amarnaniKavita Amarnani: There is a reason her anthem is Eye of the Tiger. At 50, to toss an established hospitality career of three decades for single woman to jump the entrepreneurial bandwagon needs will of steel and love for food  (her favourite though is homemade pani puri). She has them, both. Game changer in every way, her company Kwizine has been the toast of many celebrations and soirees catering to the who’s who of the country.  That’s when she is not having her own Diwali shindigs that have card tables that ring in the dawn with poker chips. And after all, it’s always good to have the best cook on the right side of your table!


Nidhi Taparia

Nidhi Taparia

Nidhi Taparia wears many hats -- digital expert, entrepreneur, writer and coffee junkie -- with ease. A weekend Puneite, Nidhi left the city 16 years ago to fall in love with Mumbai – but Pune still is her first crush. The views expressed here are personal. Diary of a Weekend Puneite appears every Saturday.
Nidhi Taparia