Friday, April 10, 2009

Nita Ambani - Uncut !!

Guys, This is what I had to say about Nita Ambani for the 2nd Anniversary Issue of Hello!!

Some of it got edited ( space constraints.... or???). I had a lot of fun writing the piece. I'm sure you'll enjoy reading it as well. Nita leaves for South Africa tomorrow. She will be away for 45 days. When she called to say 'bye', she joked she'll become a local by the time she returns. If her team makes it to the semi finals, I promised I'd go and cheer. Good luck, guys !

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Nita Ambani : “ I don’t think I’m on any pedestal…”

She is often referred to as the ‘Empress of India.” Perhaps Vicerine is a more apt title. At a recent dinner party hosted by a diplomat with a terrace apartment overlooking the $ one billion, 67 floors ‘home’ of the richest Indians on earth, awestruck guests couldn’t get those agape jaws to close as they stared at the high rise in the heart of Mumbai’s super snob neighbourhood of Carmichael Road. The host commented sardonically that he had just returned from Simla after a stay at the former Viceroy of India’s grand summer residence - ‘Wildflower Lodge’ – where he’d unearthed an interesting factoid. The Viceroy had 600 people on his personal staff. And so does the new Ambani residence, he chuckled, alluding to Mukesh as the neo- Viceroy of 21st century India. All true?? I asked Nita about her dream home… she had an interesting response to that and other questions. But first, the prelude…
Blame it on traffic snarls caused by high security measures required along the Chilean President’s route. Nita was stuck at the Taj Mahal Palace and Hotel, and was likely to be a few minutes late for our appointment .What did she do?? Phone and apologise? Make excuses? Nope. She decided to dump the car … and walk! That too,down one of the busiest areas of Mumbai – Colaba Causeway. Sure,she was accompanied by a retinue of very nervous security personnel ,but Nita being a stickler for punctuality, ignored their advice and resolutely marched on, stopping to admire beads and baubles being sold by pheriwallas (pavement hawkers) on those dusty footpaths. She herself was wearing a 6- carat diamond pendant, a 5- carat ring, and 4-carats on each earlobe (call them her ‘casual, power lunch ‘jools’). I asked whether people had stared . “ Yes. Some people did recognize me… but I think they were looking at my dress,” she laughed, a trifle out of breath after half- running the short distance. Nita was clad in Chanel. Meet the New Nita – corporate lady. She definitely doesn’t want to discuss her legendary diamonds. Nor does she want to talk about her controversial residence. That’s crazy. A little like a top model refusing to discuss fashion shows. Nita explains, “ I cringe when the subject of money comes up. I feel like diving under the table.” That must make her a competitive diver by now. Like it or not, people are obsessed with the Ambani wealth. Everybody wants to know how much they really, really possess. And how they spend it. F. Scott Fitzgerald had famously said, “ The rich are different – they have more money.” Sorry, Nita. There’s no getting away from that topic - a billionaire’s life is not easy!! So… how difficult is it being Nita Ambani? “ It used to bother me, when I first got involved with Mukesh’s projects and people in Jamnagar would talk behind my back… wait for me to leave, hoping I wouldn’t come back and ask too many questions. It hurt to be treated like a rich man’s wife.Same thing happened when I started my school. People only talked about the 27-crore building. They didn’t expect me to succeed. You see, I take my work very seriously.” Right now that involves asserting herself as the owner of Mumbai Indians, the IPL cricket team her husband acquired last year. “ We lost four matches in a row. The team was so discouraged. Then I went to Kolkata – we won there against Shah Rukh’s team… and then won six more matches after that. I’m confident we’ll do better this time.” She is far more visible this season and can be seen handling the tricky imbroglio created by the BCCI’s decision to shift the matches out of India, with her customary calm.
Nita is known to be ambitious and focused. A complete No. 1 personality ( her birthday falls on 1st November). She describes herself emphatically as ‘decisive’. Driven maybe a more apt word. Others see her as a natural born leader. Ruthless when required. She’s fastidious enough to forgo sleep ( bedtime is between 1 30am and 2 30am), and gets up at 6 30 am, to hit the road running after supervising all the various dabbas and diets( Mukesh’s, her own, her kids’).She arrives at her school at 8 10am, so that the schoolkids can’t say, “ But ma’am , you are late yourself!” Her kids are also her eyes and ears and she values their ‘fearless and frank feedback.” Used to cat- napping in the car, she says, it is the only ‘me time’ she gets. “ I wait to have dinner with Mukesh, no matter how late he comes home. We often eat after midnight.” And what do billionaires sup on?? I love my two gheeless theplas, Mukesh prefers bajra rotlas, lasoon chutney, daal, onion sabzi.” Sounds more like a Gujarati farmers’ hearty fare. Nita smiles, “ We aren’t foodies. Our Sunday treat is a South Indian breakfast of idlis and dosas. Even when we are in New York, Mukesh goes to his favourite rassam joint.” And no, their personal chef ( or a Gujju maharaj) does not accompany them, not even on their aircraft, which Nita insists was not a birthday gift! “It is a Reliance jet, we all use. Mukesh takes it for meetings in America, turns around and flies right back when done. Others in the company use it too.” So… if the plane was not her birthday gift, what was? “ Mukesh is very, very romantic… unlike me. He cannot keep surprises a secret, but this year he did. He pretended he had forgotten my birthday. I sulked and said, “ You are really taking me for granted these days. He said ‘ I’ve been so busy. Let’s go to the Taj… I have to meet some government people there.When we walked in to the Bell Tower suite, there were all my friends! And a band!” Aaah friends…. Who are these special friends?? Nita thinks hard and names one - Meeta Doshi, a dentist in America. They speak twice or thrice a week, and have known each other since their school days. That’s it?? Nita thinks some more and adds, “ Well Ananya.. Anu…” I guess she is referring to Ananya Goenka and Anuradha Mahindra. Ditto for Mukesh, who prefers to hang out with school buddies more than corporate czars. His idea of chill out time with Nita is long drives, late at night, to Worli Sea Face and back. Drives made special by the choice of music in the car stereo – cd’s hand picked by Mukesh and loaded by Hari, his man Friday, who knows which track to play for madam. On the way back, there’ s a short ice cream halt at Natural, their ice cream joint of choice.
Nita candidly admits she doesn’t cook these days. To the question, “ Do you know the current price of bhindis and kaddus?” She shoots back that with Reliance Fresh in the basket, she’d better know. But she does go to the kitchen first thing in the morning, and says with pride, “ I run my own home. I know exactly how much Rasikbhai Bhaajiwalla charges for everything.” God help Rasikbhai the day he overcharges Nita by even five bucks per kilo of anything. Rasikbhai is the veggie vendor in Cuffe Parade. Pricey, but reliable. Nita’s youngest son, Anant, only trusts Rasikbhai’s organic, non-toxic veggies to feed his own pet cows and goats. The bill comes to 35,000 a month, but Mukesh does not mind, since he sees it as Anna’s good karma... an investment.Hard to believe, but the Ambanis are cost -consciousbillionaires, with Nita asserting that they refused to stay in the Presidential Suite of the Four Season’s Hotel in New York, because they found the $5,000 dollars per night tariff too high!! “ Mukesh and I just looked at each other and said, “ an Executive Suite will do fine.” Similarly, she says when some girlfriends tried to ‘chadhaav her into buying a croc bag ( I’m guessing it’s the Birkin) for $45,000, she nixed it. Also, she proudly declares, when she planned her mother-in-law Kokilaben’s recent 75th birthday bash, she sat with Manish Malhotra and Abu-Sandeep, going over all the costings with a tooth comb before okaying the budget for the fashion show. Old habits die hard, she shrugged - “ Those initial cravings have gone. I have no appetite left for spending crazy amounts these days. You shop to feel good. But I don’t feel good wasting money.” In fact, so thrifty is Mukesh, that he continues to wear Vimal pants. His black bush coats (standarised evening wear!), are still stitched by Kachin’s ( who has been his local tailor since the age of 17). He continues to head to Macy’s, a proletariat department store in downtown Manhatten,believe it or not, to buy his favourite, 5-pocket Docker’s. Nita explains, “ You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be well- dressed. You have to look and feel fresh. I’m only particular about my nails and hate chipped polish. Otherwise, I put myself together in fifteen minutes.” With a little help from Alpa and Pratibha, who are her faithful handlers. Mukesh travels light, with just one suitcase for his clothes ( bag packed by Hari, the handler) and two more filled with books. Nita avoids answering which credit card she carries or what her card limit is. Demurely, she states, “ Why do I need a card? Like any wife, my husband pays for everything when we are traveling.” Mmmmmm.Perfect husband. And when Nita is in Mumbai, one phone call is all it takes to refresh her wardrobe “ Flecka ( the efficient major domo at Abu-Sandeep’s store) keeps things out for me. They know my taste. I pick it up from the store myself… but I can’t sleep till the full payment is made … that’s how I was brought up.”
There was just one craving left in Nita’s life…. and now even that craving has been taken care of. “ As a young dancer, I used to wear a fake ‘mangmala’ and dream of owning a real one someday. I just found a beautiful, antique one with lotuses, and am so thrilled.” She refused to divulge the price, though. Fakes and Nita? Why not?? “ Recently, my friends threw a party and presented long strands of plastic pearls to guests, just for fun. When I wore them other women came upto me to gush how exquisite the pearls were and asked me where I’d got them from. Those pearls cost just fifteen rupees!” However, money is no laughing matter to Nita. She is touchy about the rumours surrounding their new home. “ I don’t know why people are making such a big thing out of it. The figures being thrown around in the media are exaggerated – they are nowhere close to the truth.” So, what is the truth? “ Right now we occupy two floors in ‘Seawind’. The new house will give us four floors on top. That’s all.” What about the remaining 60 odd floors?? “ “Actually, the building has been constructed like an oil rig…” One hell of an oil rig, I’d say . We leave it at that.
Nita, who grew up in suburban Mumbai, recalls those early days without a trace of embarrassment. Once their marriage was pucca, Mukesh wanted ‘Murli Uncle’ (Deora) to see Nita. She remembers, “ I took a train from my home in Prabhat Colony, got down at Churchgate station, jumped into a cab and reached Murli Uncle’s office. At heart I’m still the same middle class girl. I don’t think I’m on any pedestal.” Well…not to worry… Eva Peron felt exactly the same way.Nita remains very close to her mother, who wanted her to become a chartered account, so that Nita could ‘earn a living’ when she grew up. If Nita has a single regret, it is that she could not study in America, being a good student. “ I wanted to pursue a career in dance, but my mother wanted me to appear for my CA entrance exam. I told her, “You wait and see…I’ll dance all my life.” The biggest compliment Nita has ever received came from her dance Guruji, who recently told her daughter Isha, “ Your mother at 45 dances like a 27-year- old. She is my most sincere and regular pupil.” Isha’s opinion matters tremendously to Nita. Isha was a precious baby, and Nita’s eyes cloud over when she recalls details of her difficult pregnancy and the birth of the twins (Isha and her brother Aakash) in America. “ Imagine being told at 25, after years of being married, that I could never have biological children! I was shattered. But today, when I look back I can really say that my three children are a true testimony that miracles do happen. I am a devout Krishna bhakt. Mukesh and I pray together every single day.” Nita does not tolerate sycophants, she says, adding firmly, “ I don’t get taken in by anyone or anything.” She’s tough and very much her own woman, aware of her position, but smart enough to play it down as and when required. She says she gets high on life and relishes every moment, often breaking off in the middle of a meeting to stare at gaily decorated fishing boats visible from the large picture windows of her own office, which has a simple ‘Nita Ambani’ (no designation), on the door. It is the size of a luxury flat… but then it is N.A’s office! Since life itself gives her a kick, she refuses to touch alcohol (Mukesh is a teetotaler, too), though she serves Chateau Margaux, thanks to N.K. Uncle ( Singh).
Nita Ambani is peaking. You can see it in her body language. Through her words. And via the incredible transformation in her appearance. She has lost weight, and sensibly discarded most of her old ‘Gujjuben’ wardrobe that made her look like an auntyji from an Ekta Kapoor saas –bahu serial. Mukesh loves the reinvented Nita ( he loves ANY Nita, let’s face it!). She is sure of her role and confident of playing it to perfection. As a heavy duty power lady, Nita is all set to assume fresh responsibilities on all levels. Please note: ALL. About the infamous rift in the family, she says carefully and cautiously, “ I believe in destiny. Some things can be in your control… some things you leave to fate. On a human level, you wish for a perfect world. I have taught myself to take each day as it comes.” Bravo.What saw the couple through those terrible times?? Phat comes Nita’s answer , “ Each other.” What else can one say but ‘Rab ne Bana di jodi.....

31 comments:

Amit Khandelia said...

Sorry Shobha !!

Thumbs down to Nita.

She might be making her billion dollar home but was is she doing for poor people..Nothing..

I prefer Sudha Murthy to Nita Ambani..

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

It seems someone wants to talk & talk thousands of words if not billion but...

introspection said...

No comments. Too boring. Who cares about Nita Ambani ?

kala said...

Interesting but predictable. A fairytale. A modern day cinderella story. But I am more worried about the Taliban in Pakistan which may nuke India any time. I am more concerned about the next news bulletin. Reality bites.

kala said...

Maybe we ordinary people have become very cynical and things which make you drop your jaw (like Nita walking. God has given her 2 good legs) simply does not impress us that much. We have loads of politicians who have become feudal lords(too many to name), too many people who have used unfair means to become super rich (Satyam) and the CBI which give clean certificates at the appropriate time(Tytler) and brazen leaders(Advani) who make a mockery of law and order. We lost our sense of wonderment and innocence long back.

Sidhusaaheb said...

Health is wealth, methinks...

muthu said...

Interesting..... So she does and manages so many things does she.... Man thats a wonder.... but my mom and every other Indian married women do these things.... Like keeping track of everything thats brought into the house, managing a small business to supplement the economy of the family, being there for everyone when the times are hard, giving witty answers to people who mean trouble and hey my mom even manages to see 3 soaps a day and has better political knowledge (God only knows how she manages that) than me and my father and I think Ms.De you would do all these above things in the blink of eye and even more.


And my mom is an absolutely interesting lady. So I wonder what makes Mrs.Ambani more apt for interview than my mom. hmhm.... gotcha .... the bare truth. She is rich.

So I really find no sense of "wow" in her classy attitude and interviews with rich people, actor, actress usually tend to be bland because these people unavoidably talk about themselves but thats what celeb talk is all about right....

Yup, anyways i will always root for anyone (including Mrs.Ambani of course)if she can answer the question - whats the probability of upa arriving victorious this election? better than my mom.

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Great Hello piece written in traditional Hello style! Perfectly written for a pictoral celeb driven magazine. It fulfills all the Hello requirements of "enquiring minds need to know" details... what nail polish she wears and where she gets her "tarkari" from and who she knows to call at which design house. Most people (the world over) who read Hello only want to see the pictures and read these very simple details. Truly this is all the readers of this magazine want to know because of its format, where it is sold and the fact that it takes a very short period to look at it from cover to cover... perfect pictoral reading for an airport layover in uncomfortable bucket seats or on a bus/train commute home after a long day at work, or even waiting for the dentist to call you into his office for a root canal.

When I read Hello, I am not looking to understand Nita Ambani's views on the current economic crisis or her views on politics. I am sure she has very valid and bright views like every one of us and so I shall look for them in an article that the uber talented and respected Shobhaa will also perhaps write for a more analytical periodical. Meanwhile I will enjoy these fluffy details about Nita Ambani in Hello, in my dentist's waiting room.

Now atleast I know the name of the person who really gets things done at Abu-Sandeep's fashion house, should I be lucky enough to afford anything there!

I would love to see pictures of the finished oil rig. Will she invite Hello there or is Architectural Digest more her style? Either way, I will be looking at the decor and space planning with a critical design and costing eye :)

sayrem said...

Humbug. ha !

zobin said...

Why do you get so defensive about the media? Even if half of the facts about Indian English Media's connections are false, why is it that the media is extremely sentimental about that moron in BJP called Varun Gandhi but is silent on the perjury committed by Rahul Gandhi a.k.a "Raul Vinci" who holds an Italian passport and is touted to be India's future.. ahem ahem PM?

Oh you want references, don't you? Why don't you start with these-

http://bit.ly/3BEbv5

http://bit.ly/CM5j5

Nitin said...

Its interesting to read about this lady who comes from a middle class family with middle class values, but spends 35,000 a month feeding organic vegetables to her son's pets while probably down the street there are starving humans eating dirt off the street... hmmm... I would have liked to hear what she and or her son might be doing for the underpriv and extreme poor of Mumbai.

My 8 year old just raised $100 from cans and bottles she went around collecting neighbors and friends and then getting a nickel (5 cents) per item, which she then donated to charity at a local children's hospital.

My 6 year old is collecting pennies and quarters to donate to Greg Mortenson's organization called Pennies for Piece www.penniesforpeace.org.

In 2006 on my birthday we walked down one of the slum areas near Dadar Station and handed out bananas and water bottles to the kids living on the streets. Every year they collect their nearly new clothes they grow out of, and I take them to an orphanage in Pune and Mumbai....

I hope Mrs. Ambani is instilling those kinds of values in her children as well..I would imagine given her own middle class values, her kids are certainly not spoilt rich brats. But Indians in general need to stop taking poverty for granted and look the other way... Rather throwing money at the feet of gods and temples and feed those overgrown bellies of the pujaris, why not collect and give it to someone who may need it more....uplift the slums, and you will uplift India. This act of giving is what makes America mahan!

ugich konitari said...

I suppose everything Ambani has to be Mega or super Mega. But i am a bit surprised that their childrens pets are mega too. 35,000 a month for Organic veggies ? With all the resources at their command, the Ambani's could have farmed these themselves somewhere, and given jobs to several folks in rural areas, teaching their son something in the process.

I cant applaud folks whose only worry is how to spend money.

obssesor said...

I disagree with amit. Why the hell should she do anything for anyone?
I really liked the way the piece was written.crisp and convincing!

Gajendra said...

oooofff...thats quite a hefty account of the lady ambani's life estyle :)

narendra shenoy said...

Enjoyed this post too! Heck, you are addictive!

fazal said...

why i smell that you are been paid by Nita ambanii that portray her that she is too much down to earth and knwos the price of bhindii even .............!

f##k b###h married to a billionare,,,,,,and sucking his money !

parth said...

i dont think anyone has right to comment in anyones lifestyle. iF one is rich let them enjoy it.I at just wanna ask if u r that rich u wont mind all that stuff
and i am frm a normal middle class family man so just face their destiny and u urs

Amit Sheth said...

I stumbled upon this article when trying to find out about the lady who will make the new "world class" Reliance University happen! (http://bit.ly/Reliance-University)
Success of such a university would be very important for India where we don't even have one university in top 300 in the world (http://knoesis.org/library/resource.php?id=00337). In 2009 I gave an hour long talk to a big time politician (http://knoesis.org/library/resource.php?id=00489) about importance of PhDs and production of hi-ed/research-based innovators to India- starting with the example of two near PhDs who build a company (Google) with valuation (100Billion) that is about one tenth of India's annual GDP ($1.1T)-- this "progressive" politician wondered aloud, "we can "buy" the academics to build such universities (like Stanford) if we wanted to"--which showed his understanding of how world class universities are built. Let's see if this business lady can bring the world class academic and research expertise (and avoid the pitfalls discuss in this article: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/5420933.cms)... that is how Ambanis can make much larger mark on India.

meenakshi said...

oooh...so boring....haha...shoba dee doing such cheap works..nita ambanis mouth piece..rubbish fake story...does this bloody richies help remove poverty...non sence...crap..shoba stop writing such shit...

Bright Sunny Morning said...

Ms De

I stumbled upon this article while searching for some very abstract fact. Thanks to your PR skill/news hopping skills(ahh did i miss ur writing skills,well then it was meant to be missed)I know you .
The article was so boring that i could not even finish it,which is rare cus i even find reading about commercials interesting.
I know your bread and butter is directly correlated with the suck up job that you do ,but don't over do it. Nita Ambani in herself is no big shot sans her husband id.. and she hasn't accomplished anything which she can be proud of (except one:Obviously marrying an Ugly Rich Man,I agree.) hahahha...So at this point of time i am not sure ,if the article is a result of awe you have for her or jealousy .Between,you too could have done that for you are reasonably good looking.

surbhi said...

i came across ths one while trying to find out more abt lady ambani coz we had been given a project in cllege whr i had to give a DETAILED PRESENTATION on her on highFIness!! nw i m actully planing to chng my topic..
these richies dont really hv to thnk much expect fr how to spend thr money.. it could be spending 35k every month for ur son's pets' food!!! well we don't spend tht much on a family of 6!!
proud of u mrs. ambani

Rajashree said...

some ppl missed the point completely. It is not a crime to be rich..it is a virtue to stay grounded nonetheless. ANd why would India's poverty be her buisness? Once..I gave a 5 rupee bill to a 10 year old acting very hungry at Bandra stn and was shocked to see the boy go get himself a bidi! Lets not mix issues ....celebrate success!

thakuresingh said...

"Once their marriage was pucca, Mukesh wanted ‘Murli Uncle’ (Deora) to see Nita."

Guess what?? Murli Uncle is now Union minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas. ha ha ha... what an coincidence..

eve said...

Guys, guys, guys!!!!

Leave the poor lady alone. The Ambanis have not robbed anyone. They have what they have through their hard work. So what if they are different to you or me. We are all products of our own circumstances. If she uses her legs to walk it will make news for she was not meant to be like you or me. And who says they should do something for the needy. They do enough charity and in big ways too. So please live and let live. So all you critics just take a chill pill and leave her alone.

eve

Dinesh PC said...

Apparently, Nita Ambani's PR company, Vaishnavi Communications run by Nira Radia does not think too highly of Shobha De. This interview of Nita Ambani also did not go down well with the family.

Hear the conversation here:
http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?269067

Dinesh PC said...

Ms De, can you let us know what exactly was printed in Society from this blog post that got Ms Ambani riled up about it?

Dinesh PC said...

Ms Shobhaa De,

According to a conversation between Nira Radia and Srini (or Neucomm) this interview shouldnt have been posted on this blog because this is not your proprietary information and it is actually Hello magazine's information. You were just deputed to conduct the interview on Hello magazine's behalf.

Do u have any views on this?

You can hear the tape here:
http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?269296

navneet said...

If Ambanis have Dhoklas theklas and idlis Bajra roti and Lassun chutney and oinion sabzi for their food basket i have calculated Rs 3000 per month of grocery is enough for them and that includes kokilaben and amban's son also.I too have to spend that much amount on my grocery.plus a crore for other charges like dhobi bills and drivers and cooks salary That stll leaves a billion dollar per month to spend for the poors of Mumbai living in hell like condition in Bandra Mahim Sion Ghatkopar If ambanis were half as sanskari as the Tatas or Donald trum or Bill gates they could have used half a billion peryear to build 20000 Porta cabins for the Shantydwellers of Mahim Ghatkoparthat Dharavi and that will still leave Mukesh with as much money toby A Yatch or a Plane every year for Nita is nita listning She is a Teacher i hope she teaches mukesh a bit about caring for the poor.
SAHAYMEENA

Lajja said...

The world is not a competition of rich people. And Rich people have not taken a 'theka' of taking care of the poor. They work hard to make their own money. Anyways charity is private business. There is more dignity in giving but not showing off about it.
All you people who think you have the right to decide how Ambani's or anyone should spend their money; let us see what you do when you have as much money for yourself!!

raman said...

As most of the readers pointed out what extra-ordinary things Nita do. if she is akin to a middle-class housewife than what is the purpose behind amassing huge wealth (which is a known fact that it can not be made in pious ways). Ms De would hate to go deep into the things for the fear of loosing her present day life-style and comforts and also space in TOI, that just hates to see reality, leave alone highlighting it.
I still remember a letter written by a Delhi-based single woman, college or a university teacher, who regret aping De's life style to be a modern woman and end up living a single life after sleeping with several men.
Anyways, kudos to riches, as people of India are in deep slumber.

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