I have a strange love-hate relationship with the French. Most times, I love them. But somehow, I can't trust them. No special reason. Just an irrational feeling. Like their sudden rediscovery of India. Of course, the connection goes back centuries, and the French liked our 'ambi' motif so much, they promptly renamed it 'paisley' and made it their own. Saroj, my lovely shawl lady from Gujarat, showed me an antique Paisley shawl from France. I told her it was Indian in origin. She knew. And said sweetly, " But we have shared it with the world." I liked her perspective. So generous and honest. Here is a woman whose vast knowledge of pichwais, for example , would impress a serious collector. But looking at her close-to-bedraggled appearance, who'd guess it? She is a complete professional. I respect her mind and expertise.She is also a canny businesswoman..... but in a tough business. Her margins are low. To acquire those exquisite pieces, she has to rough it out and travel extensively from village to village. But she loves what she does. It is a passion. We share that sentiment (and many other), in common.
The same night, I went to a soiree at the French Consul General's beautiful home on the edge of the bay. Francois has movie star looks. His Japanese wife, Mayumi, is porcelain perfect. The two of them are rapidly rising up the social ladder in Mumbai, with their grace and charm. The soiree was primarily for the city's power ladies - eighty of them. Scarey!! Mumbai's attractive Sheriff, and the principal of H.R. College, Dr. Indu Shahani ,and moi, were to share our experiences at the Global Women's Forum , Deauville, with these invitees. One look at them and I decided to keep it short, and keep it simple. They were far more interested in guzzling the decent French wine, nibbling on shrimp...and net -working, than in listening to speeches.It was a good decision on my part ( and Indu's ) to wrap it up in under fifteen minutes. One could almost see the relief on the faces of the women , who promptly went back for refills at the bar. I rushed home for my daily fix of daal chavaal with the family.
The French have their ways. Right now, they want India to buy heavy water from them.Why do you think Sarkozy made it as chief guest to the Republic Day parade early this year?Well, the French are known for their courtship rituals, and right now, India is being wooed big time by them. I am fine with it. I like good strategists. So long as we all know the deal, ki phark penda? C'est la vie. Chin Chin!!