MotherÂ's daughters

Fruity feast Family ties

By HIMIKA CHAUDHURI, SANGITA S. GUHA ROY AND SOMA BANERJEE
  • Published 8.05.04
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What has Mother’s Day got to do with the dreaded C-word?

e the connection may not seem clear to most, when a bunch of Calcutta’s most accomplished women got together, the conversation veered from motherhood (and daughterhood) to dealing with cancer and its harrowing aftermath, in an interesting, emotionally-charged panel discussion.

The occasion was the launch of a photographic journal by Sonal Ambani called Mothers and Daughters on Friday at the Oxford Bookstore. Organised by the Park Street shop in association with Prerak, a support group for cancer patients, the turnout — two days ahead of Mother’s Day — included swimmer-model-actor-politician-mother Nafisa Ali and Shamlu Dudeja, speaking of how fighting the incurable disease has made them stronger human beings and has taught them to smile through difficult times for the sake of their children.

The dismay — and the brave front — is what Nafisa recalls most vividly. “When the doctor said he saw signs of lung cancer in me, I was shattered. I still remember going into the bathroom and crying silently, thinking what would happen to my children if I passed away and coming out the next moment and smiling widely at them,” shared Nafisa.

The Congress candidate, gorgeous in a cream sari with salt and pepper hair flowing — “I’ve let my hair down today,” she laughed — managed to take out only a few minutes on the hectic penultimate day of election campaigning.

“My mother has terrific energy levels and it brushes on to us. But she is like any other mom, except that she’s slightly more busy,” smiled daughters Pia and Armana. The girls, who have come down from their Delhi home to be with Nafisa, feel that being able to spend time with mom makes each day as special as Mother’s Day.

Shamlu and her daughter Mallika had a tough time controlling their emotions as they shared memories of a difficult journey well travelled. “A daughter has the toughest shoulders when you need one to cry on,” said Shamlu.

This was seconded by theatre personality Dolly Basu for whom getting back to the stage was possible only because her eldest daughter forced her to. “That was the loveliest moment of my life, and I still think had she not stood by me then and mothered me, theatre would not have happened to me again.” Today, working on the same stage with younger daughter Doel is like sharing the stage with a friend. “My mother is a great person to work with and a real cool director,” chipped in a proud Doel. Rati Chand Vajpeyi, a doctor, and daughter Richa were the others on the panel while Nandita Pal Choudhuri, chairperson, India Foundation for the Arts, moderated the event.

“But I don’t think our mothers need to have cancer for us to understand their worth. I think that realisation should come way in advance,” summed up first lady Anjanaben Shah, who also launched the book. “Being a grandmom feels even better than being a mom: the dividends are way more attractive,” she smiled.

Fruity feast

Yeh dil mango more” sums up the mood of the season as well as that of tabla player Bikram Ghosh who was busy slurping over mango recipes at 6 Ballygunge Place on Friday. Designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh, just back from her shine and shimmer experience in the Capital at Fashion Week, was taken by “complete surprise” by the mango fest at the “Calcutta cuisine” speciality restaurant.

“I’ve been travelling so much that I wasn’t even aware that mango season is here,” said the lean designer, digging happily into her Aam Moong Dal Salad. “I’m a mango addict,” she grinned. Her robust companion was more appreciative of the entire spread. “I love their concept of flavouring a multi-course meal with a single fruit, which you normally taste only in desserts. This makes the whole thing not very aam (read common in Hindi)!” chirped Bikram. He should’ve been an adman, suggested one of his co-diners. “Well, I am a pundit!” laughed the tabla exponent.

The fest, on from May 14 to 24, promises many more such addas as foodies cool off with Aam Porar Shorbot and a raw mango salad platter to be followed by rice, Tok Dal, Aamer Ambol, Aam Begun, Doi Aam Potol, Aar Machh Aam aar Shorshe Diye, Kacha Aam Bhindi Ilish, Chingri Machh Posto, Tok Jhal Aam Pudina Mangsho, Aam Gurer Morabba and Aamer Chutney capped with Aam Khir, fresh mango with vanilla ice cream and Aam Sandesh. The delicious Aamer Kulfi stands out because of its presentation — which regulars with street kulfiwalas will be familiar with. Whole mango, peels et al, stuffed with kulfi, frozen and served sliced.

Doi Aam Potol and Tok Jhal Aam Pudina Mangsho are innovations chef Sushanto Sengupta has come up with. While the former is the traditional Doi Potol with a distinct mango flavour, the latter is more experimental.

“We’ve added a paste of mango, pudina and green chillies to the dish, which is normally used as a chutney on its own,” explains Sushanto.

The dishes that click will be part of the regular menu for the remainder of the mango season.

Family ties

More on mothers and daughters. To the design team behind M&S, Megha and Saroj Dalmia, synergy comes naturally. Maybe that is why complete synergy in clothing and accessories is their fashion mantra.

Their boutique, set up last October, works to create different looks, complete with bags, footwear and jewellery.

“The idea is to make sure that customers walk in, choose an outfit, matching footwear and bags and try out some of the silver jewellery to complete the look they want,” said the young Megha.

The collection is divided into casuals, semi-formals and formals and includes saris, salwar-suits, kurtis, fusion garments and men’s wear. The soaring temperatures have ensured that the cotton range of salwar-kurtas and pant suits is wider than the rest. Dupion, linens matka cotton, khadi and jute make up this range. Khari prints, mirrorwork, mukesh and crushed textures create a great party look.

For a more formal effect, suits in georgette and crepe come with kundan work, georgette applique and square sequins. While the stone work is colourful, an overdose of beads, pearls and sequins is apparent in some of the drapes.

Skirts come in layers and in mermaid cuts. Brocade, patchwork and applique both on the front and the back adorn the skirts. Silk brocade-bordered skirts could almost work as straight-cut lehngas.

The designers have also ventured into men’s wear, with a range of self-embroidered, pintucked shirts and kurtis. “We have used the crushed and crinkled look to great effect in our line, which we have just launched,” adds Megha.

Established mojris and flat footwear in colours ranging from moss green and brown to gold and sky blue, sourced from Bhuj, Delhi and smaller towns of Uttar Pradesh can be teamed with most outfits on display.

While M&S also supplies clothes to stores in Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, the emphasis is on giving city buyers new designs each season, emphasises Megha.