India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Verve People
September 14, 2005

Glitz And Grace

Text by Shirin Mehta. Photographs by Rustam Vajifdar and Tarun Khiwal

They are not hardcore partygoers. But, Sailaja Tahiliani, Avanti Birla and Simone Singh bring high-octane style to their own ‘at-homes’, which has much to do with personal pizzazz in swank settings. Verve meets three women who certainly know how to celebrate with elegance.

Sailaja Tahiliani

Sailaja Tahiliani, wife of the grand maestro of Indian couture, gets a high five for being a hands on and totally chilled host. Her life’s philosophy extends to her celebration theory: “I plan it all in the best way possible and then I tell myself that nothing can be perfect. Realising that, makes it relaxed.” Sal, (to all her friends) is understated as always, about the warmth and intimacy of her parties, that spill out into the pretty gardens of the Tahiliani Delhi farmhouse. A cocoon of perfect taste and not far from their daily lifestyle (no DJs and party planners here) hubby Tarun is in charge of the lighting and ambience, spinning a web of delight being his forte. Sal, a self-confessed food buff, makes sure there is a good table spread. Tahiliani couture, by the way, is not mandatory but could get you brownie points for great style.

Celebrate what? What don’t we celebrate! Everything from birthdays and baby showers to work-related events. I love Diwali and I always have something planned in my house. Diyas, good friends and good food….

What’s special: We tend to use the same elements over and over again. Candles and flowers go into abundance.

Prime ingredient: It is always the people. Good friends make the mood right

Feeling great: I am very relaxed and usually have the best time myself. And, yes, Tarun has the best time at his dinners too!

Avanti Birla

Laid-back party thrower with the most sumptuous setting, with a choice of exquisitely appointed living areas hung with a stupendous art collection joyously melding the classic with the ultra-modern, Avanti Birla, however, prefers to entertain on the manicured front lawns of the Birla’s ancestral home in Mumbai. Befitting her own easy-going nonchalance, gaddas and throws, bolsters and cushions create a feel of a home-away-from-home. “I try to make it as comfortable as lounging in your own bed,” says the sparky Avanti, who admits that the biggest challenge is to ensure a vegetarian spread that non-vegetarian guests savour. The music is trance while hubby Yash and she, teetotallers both, would rather entrust professionals with the evening’s tipples.

Quote: “Celebration is what life is all about. My childrens’ lives are all about MTV, TV, they are bombarded with these images. Yash and I make celebrating a cultural-spiritual event in their lives.”

Best party experience: The Kumbh Mela, for me, is the best party experience. I have been to every Kumbh Mela since I got married. Everyone should live it at least once in their lives. It is like going back a thousand years.

Pet peeve: Yash and I both hate celebrating our birthdays.

Simone Singh

Television actor and anchor, the understated Simone Singh, has the perfect celebration backdrop in her intimate, white brick walled, teak ceiling clad, multi-layered heritage apartment in South Mumbai. Select guests can cosy up in the den, notorious for its sink-in sofas and so seductive that once ensconced, it becomes really difficult to leave. Climb the wooden steps to the upper lounge for some aromatic, after dinner coffee and a subtle change of scene. Throw in Simone’s inspired finger foods, from marinated olives and mushrooms to mango and red pepper salsa dip, some good wine and filmmaker spouse Fahad’s signature martini, for a truly eclectic evening. “There is a certain snobbery about vodka; this is not an affectation but we prefer gin in our martini,” Fahad confesses. “Unlike the misnomer of shaken and not stirred, we believe it is stirred.” The couple takes its martini ritual (with two olives, speared) seriously.

Quote: “The whole idea of entertaining is to be entertained yourself. It should not become a performance. Your comfort levels, your systems, should all be in place.”

Highlight: Simone’s home cooking, the repertoire depending on her mood. As also her changing image – augmented by tightly gelled bun or flowing, waist-length curls. “I normally take 10 minutes to dress for a party. If I took any longer, I would fall asleep!”

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