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The quest is on, mall & Mamata’s

Mamata Banerjee struck all the right notes at the inauguration of Calcutta’s first luxury mall on Monday evening, almost as if she were playing by the book of notations that pianist Richard Clayderman gifted her midway through his performance.

The chief minister, who has hardly put a foot wrong since the trophy investor meet in Mumbai that followed her panchayat poll victory, looked at ease in the luxe surroundings of Quest, the mall off Park Circus developed by the RP-Sanjiv Goenka group.

If Mamata’s presence was understated, her words were carefully chosen. In the 40 minutes that she spent at Quest, the one thing that stood out was her newfound zeal to connect with industry.

“Sanjiv Goenka has gifted an international standard mall to the people of Calcutta and Bengal…. I am proud of the city,” Mamata said.

She had walked in through the revolving door at 6.50pm, too busy looking at her cell phone to notice Burberry and Gucci to her left and right, set to open weeks later. But the fountain and the Rain of Petals installation overhead did catch her eye and keep her riveted for more than a few seconds.

Host Sanjiv showed Mamata around the ground floor, pointing out spaces that would house brands that the city hasn’t seen before (see graphic).

The chief minister then took the stage. She described Quest as “a small gift to Calcutta, a sharadiya anjali (festival offering)”. And just in case someone deemed the word “small” a misnomer for a Rs 375-crore mall, she added: “But small is beautiful.”

Then, the personal touch — referring to Rama Prasad Goenka, the founder of the RPG Group and the host’s father. “I am thinking of R.P. Goenka. I went to see him when he was very ill… I am remembering him today,” she said.

She had embraced the late industrialist’s wife Sushila Devi, making a rare public appearance, moments before taking the mike.

The Calcuttan outside the mall was not to be forgotten either. “We have a South City. Traffic management is a big problem there. In this place too, many people will come and go. There is a need for proper planning. I request Sanjiv Goenka to sit down with the police commissioner of Calcutta and do that,” she said.

For many of the guests, the sight of the sparkling, marbled interiors on entering the 420,000sq ft mall had come as a surprise. Just four days ago, construction was still underway at Quest — the bamboo scaffolding hadn’t been fully removed, workers were running around completing tasks at each of the six levels and the flooring was covered in protective sheets.

“That was quick!” exclaimed one of the 100 high-profile guests, from Karan Paul to Kiran Uttam Ghosh.

Sanjiv introduced chief guest Mamata as a “lady with vision, dedication, commitment and passion”. He said: “She is a lady we all look up to, who is an inspiration for all of us. Thank you, madam, for being with us.”

He sought the support of Calcuttans to make Quest not just a landmark but a showcase for what the city was capable of. “Quest is our first entry into the mall segment,” he said, “We look to your support, your blessings, to make this mall work…. Please enjoy, please indulge.”

Speeches over, it was time for Clayderman and his piano to take over. The French pianist apologised for his “terrible” English and shook a tattooed fist twice before his fingers hit the keys of the piano. The audience swayed to his tunes, including the Titanic Symphony, based on the soundtrack of the Leonardo Di Caprio-Kate Winslet film.

As the Titanic played, Usha Uthup was spotted clapping her hands lightly while in walked Sourav Ganguly, nodding to Didi before taking a seat beside Harsh Neotia.

Mamata left after around 20 minutes but the music flowed and the celebrations continued.

“I feel good. When you do something and people appreciate it, you feel good,” host Sanjiv told Metro.