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February 07, 2017

Take A Peek At Swati and Digvijay Sinh Kathiwada’s Mumbai Home

Text by Simone Louis. Photographs by The House Of Pixels

A tasteful mix of opulence and relaxed panache, the royal couple’s home is an art lover’s haven

The atmosphere is buzzing with an indescribable energy as a dapper man darts around Kathiwada House. He is on his phone, excitedly discussing a cricket match currently in session at Wankhede Stadium. I’m privileged today, considering that thearistocrat gave up attending the event to welcome me into his home along with his ever-gracious wife. I’m expecting a very formal interaction with the stately duo, but as Swati Kathiwada walks out in a refreshing ensemble of perfectly faded jeans and a summery blue top and chuckles, “Digs, come on, we can check in on that later,” I instantly loosen up. Digvijay Sinh Kathiwada immediately focusses his attention on us, cracking jokes and beaming at his wife, as we quickly photograph the two in their element. When his ex-stylist spouse suggests he change his colourful socks, he exclaims, “But that’s my thing!” before bringing out a host of even quirkier pairs. One can’t  help but be enamoured by their chemistry.

Nestled within bounteous greenery in a quiet corner of Worli, the home strikes a balance between formal and casual, with a collection of traditional and modern furniture lending the free-flowing space a comfy vibe. What makes  an impression, though, are the walls — almost none of them are without some form of artwork. “Although I’ve developed my own taste over the years, I’ve been heavily influenced     by my mother,” Digvijay tells me. The graduate of urban planning  and  civil  engineering  from  USC,  Los  Angeles, joined Osian’s Connoisseurs of Art and spent eight years in the art market. Alongside, he developed plans for his hometown in Kathiwada, Madhya Pradesh, and was involved in the restoration of Kathiwada Raaj Mahal with his mother Sangita Sinh Kathiwada. “She made art happen in our lives, and a lot of what you see here is her doing. I do lean towards contemporary styles these days, but I’m a big fan of modern Indian creations. Now, I’ve started to treat and appreciate sports memorabilia as art.”

More than just a wonderfully in-sync couple, the two are also business partners. As founders of KAS (Kathiwada Arts and Sports), they have curated their own brand of auctioneering — starting with unique sporting memorabilia — in hopes  to  create  awareness  and  expand  the  sports  market in India. “Compared to the Indian art scene when it was just picking up, today it’s an extremely valuable part of the luxury industry. The whole premise of KAS was our desire to do that for sports and to bridge the two worlds,” they tell me. Digvijay explains that, abroad, there is a bigger culture of visiting museums, exhibitions and auctions, as well as that of revering people and historic events in the worlds of athletics, music and performing arts as well. “The only way to do that here is to first create an ecosystem for it, by raising the value of the objects involved. That will in turn give way to a more enhanced appreciation for the legacies of the sportspeople and of the sports themselves.”

As we walk around admiring the natural light that flows in through their massive wood and glass doors, which lead out to a delightful courtyard, I notice that the home itself doesn’t have anything that alludes to the passion that the partners just spoke about. “I don’t want to see any of it in my living space!” Swati exclaims. “I was an athlete when I was younger but I never had any interest in this until I met this fanatical man. In fact, we got married just before a cricket World Cup and he actually conned me into going for the finals while we were on our honeymoon!” As adorably comical as that sounds, it’s also ironic considering that she’s now employing her fashion experience to spearhead another venture called Custom Cricket Company. It all started when she designed the kit for her husband’s club cricket team before they went on tour, and the compliments started pouring in. Now, she designs and oversees the creation of bespoke apparel, protective gear, and even bats and balls that the company is quickly becoming famous for. “So you understand why I want my home to be sports-free, right?” she laughs.

The merriment and leg-pulling between them continues as I marvel at their inviting library, which I learn is just 10 per cent the size of the one back in Kathiwada. Antique chairs catch my eye, as do silver artefacts and majestic old family photographs and heirlooms. Moving across the open-plan ground floor from one painting to another, stopping only to admire Swati’s charming ‘quiet corner’ by a floor-to-ceiling window, I feel like I’m   in a vintage store-cum-design warehouse. Just as our   time comes to an end, though, I learn of one of their favourite pieces — an N. S. Bendre painting that hangs in the bedroom. Digvijay explains that “Bendre saab” and  his  grandfather  were  good  friends,  and  the  artist  used to come over to their home to paint. He muses about    the fact that we now have ‘residencies’, but back then, that’s just how artists operated. They would go outside their regular spaces and create. “There’s  a picture of me as a kid, sitting with absolutely no idea about the significance of what was happening, watching him at work. He created about a dozen paintings which were gifted to family members, but we managed to keep my grandfather’s favourite, which is a temple scene. I’ll never get tired of looking at it.” I notice as I leave after warm goodbyes that my mood has been considerably lifted. It’s not every home that leaves you feeling stimulated and revitalised, but the Kathiwadas’ enthusiasm for their work, creative interests and each other is undoubtedly infectious.

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