Money, money, money / Always sunny / In the rich man’s world. ABBA.
Here is a simple question. Would you pay a tad over Rs.52 lakhs or even Rs. 2 crores (not that it matters), as some sources will have it, for a lady’s handbag? You would if you happen to be an Ambani and you wish to lavish your soon-to-be daughter-in-law with a gift fit for the occasion. The occasion being the inauguration of the state-of-the-art Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) which recently opened in Mumbai at an eye-popping gala function, at which Fashion was the primary theme. As we all know, the Ambanis do not do things by halves. It was the full Monty, the whole nine yards and yes, they threw the kitchen sink as well for good measure, at this inaugural do. Nothing left to chance. Celebrities? You could hardly throw a stone without conking one. Sadhus and Sadhgurus, Bollywood and Cricket, Industrialists and Politicians – they were all there, predictably agog. ‘Staggering,’ gushed Deepika Padukone. ‘Staggering,’ echoed her husband Ranveer. ‘Staggering,’ cried Saif Ali Khan and Kareena in unison. Without a script to aid them, these Bollywood stars were constricted in their vocabulary. Shah Rukh Khan’s mouth was bursting with some expensive paan, so what he blurted out while trying to control the red spittle, was unintelligible. Sachin Tendulkar piped up with an original, ‘Spectacular,’ repeating it twice. The godman Sadhguru was more circumspect. He merely stroked his flowing white beard and chanted, ‘Om.’ In a sense, it was a double-engine (if I am not trampling on copyright) affair – the inauguration of the cultural centre and, presumably, the announcement of the forthcoming nuptials of the younger of the Ambani scions. As I did not receive a gilt-edged invitation for the function, my information is necessarily dependant on the scraps of news I picked up from media sources, not renowned for their accuracy.
However, if one were to go by what one read in the newspapers, online publications and society channels, all the excitement at the function was apparently caused by this little handbag, that could almost pass for a wallet, that was being quite ostentatiously displayed by Radhika Merchant, the young lady who would soon be welcomed into the bosom of the Ambani household as a fully paid-up member of the family. Stands to reason. After all, it was not just any old, understated little handbag picked up from Crawford Market. This was no meretricious gewgaw. This, hold your breath, was a Hermès Kelly Morphose miniature bag that grabbed all the headlines and limelight. A sure-fire head turner. Incidentally, dear reader, do not conclude, simply because I casually threw in a name like Kelly Morphose, that I am some kind of authority on the subject of luxury handbags. To be upfront with you, I had never heard of Kelly Morphose before. I did once consult with a niche, Indian luxury jewellery brand and am familiar with the reverence with which French luxury brands like Hermès and Louis Vuitton are held the world over. Beyond that, my knowledge on the subject is a closed book.
Expensive accoutrements come naturally to the Ambani family. The younger of Mukesh Ambani’s sons Anant, the bridegroom-to-be, even sports a Patek Philippe wristwatch costing over Rs.18 crores, the most expensive in the world! The point I am striving to make is that this Hermès handbag worth Rs.52 lakhs (or Rs. 2 crores) need not raise too many eyebrows in the midst of such exalted finery. It is pretty much par for the course. Nevertheless, to put the record straight, the mini handbag, we are reliably informed by the nobs, is in actual fact a piece of frightfully expensive jewellery. The bag itself is quite incidental and probably surplus to requirements. Radhika might just about manage to fit in a platinum credit card into that precious receptacle. To quote from the news item, ‘the iconic bag can be deconstructed and transformed, so you can use it as an ornament for the neck, wrist and fingers, instead of just slinging it across the body. The one that Radhika Merchant chose is the Hermès Kelly Sac Bijou Chaine in sterling silver.’ I guess it would sound even more impressive if you could pronounce that in the time-honoured French patois, which is as though you are on the verge of sneezing but the ‘ah-choo’ just refuses to arrive. We have all experienced that feeling, though not because we were attempting to pronounce that Sac Bijou whatever.
So much for the Ambanis, their handbags and watches. I can already hear murmurs from certain quarters about the wisdom or otherwise of ostentatious and lavish spending. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, let me state straight out that it is no concern of mine how many lakhs or crores anyone splurges on their personal clothing, jewellery, cars, watches or even, palatial residences. If you have the stuff in sackfuls, and you have worked hard for it, or merely inherited it, it is not for others to raise eyebrows. It is all very well to say trite things like, do you know how many poor families can be fed and for how long with Rs.52 lakhs (or Rs.2 crores), leave alone Rs.18 crores? If you are well-heeled and have earned the right to be a billionaire many times over, the best one can do is to ask you how you did it. So let us refrain from all this inverted snobbery stuff and look down on the rich and famous, while secretly wishing you were in their Gucci shoes. I would merely, as a mute and staggered bystander, wish the young couple well in their wedded bliss and may their tribe increase. That is the way they did it in the old days, which should hold good even now.
When all is said and done, I am reminded of how that great British thespian, Richard Burton honoured his wife, Hollywood queen Elizabeth Taylor at their wedding. It was quite amusing really. Liz Taylor was taking no chances. She went out shopping with her celebrity beau, calmly picked out a Bulgari necklace featuring a 32 carat Burmese sapphire pendant, and a Krupp diamond. The bill came to a modest $305,000 in 1968. Adjusting for inflation for today’s prices, you can do the sums. Burton swallowed twice, complained of stomach cramps, but footed the bill. Love is, etc. And lest we forget, Richard Burton played Marc Antony to Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra, in the eponymously named blockbuster film, Cleopatra, involving many a romp in luxury ships on the river Nile. These things tend to take their toll. In keeping with the finest Hollywood traditions, Taylor and Burton decided to part company after about 10 years, and surprisingly, got married again a few years later. Whether the second attempt involved another visit to Bulgari or Cartier is not clearly recorded. The fact that Liz Taylor was married to eight different men during her turbulent life, tells us that she did extremely well on the jewellery front. On the other hand, Burton was no slouch either. He tied the knot five times, which meant he drew the short straw, having to buy expensive trinkets each time his woman cooed, ‘I will.’ No wonder he took to drink, big time.
Happily, the Ambanis, coming as they do, from a far more traditional, conservative background, are bound to ensure that no reckless conduct will be tolerated. They will spend freely when the occasion demands, but they will be keeping a keen eye on the bank balance, which, at last count, was not easily countable. As for all those glamour watchers going ga-ga over Radhika Merchant’s precious accessories including the necklace, ring, pendant or bangle, masquerading as a micro-mini handbag, eat your hearts out. And if you are nursing ambitions of putting up iconic art spaces and inviting the high and mighty for the gala, while swanning around in a Cartier, Tiffany or Harry Winston solitaire, go and drill some oil wells and hope like mad something black and gooey gushes out.
Moral of the story – if you want to make plenty of money, you have got to get your hands dirty.
Chuckled my way through Bling It On this morning. Feels like you enjoyed writing it. Alas, what’s the difference between swinging a Hermes bag or flashing a restaurant bill on social media? 😊
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HA, HA, Sachi. Well said. About the hotel bills, I mean.
Good to know of this gig through those Wodehousean lenses of yours!
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