Tuesday, April 24 , 2001,
Chandigarh, India

Oh for a perfect party!
Teena Singh
NY hostess can tell you the last-minute anxiety before a party begins. Excitement of socialising with the personal touch intact is something that many good hostesses vouch for We spoke to a few women who are avid party-givers to find out what makes their dos tick.

All by themselves and enjoying it
Aradhika Sekhon
HEN we talk of woman power, we usually picture working women who are young and articulate. They usually have supportive families, understanding husbands and are energetic enough to get things done.




Oh for a perfect party!
Teena Singh

ANY hostess can tell you the last-minute anxiety before a party begins. Excitement of socialising with the personal touch intact is something that many good hostesses vouch for We spoke to a few women who are avid party-givers to find out what makes their dos tick.

Air Marshal M.M. Singh and his young wife Gayatri love to entertain. Theirs is an open house with dozens of friends joining them for meals on an everyday basis. An unpretentious house and style of entertaining makes everyone feel part of the family. Food is always Indian and home made with the exotic touch of Hyderabadi cooking by Gayatri and free-flowing liquor. The meals are rounded up with the Air Marshalís one and only favourite vanilla ice-cream and another added sweet dish with glasses and glasses of cognac to follow for good digestion. Bon-fires and barbecues are everyoneís delight in winters. Gayatri has only added to the ever-hospitable Air Marshalís style of making every guest feel like their best friend

Inderjit Virk or as she is called popularly, Gudda, is the mother of Komilla Sutton, a world famous Vedic astrologer. Her art of hospitality lies in the creation of a beautiful, calm and happy auras in her home. An ethnically done-up, spotless house with dollops of smiles, hugs and kind words for all make her get-together a pleasure. She likes to focus on the right mixture of food and a good table, topping it off with an excellent ethnic sweet, with Scotch on the side. According to her, the art of partying lies more in having a homogeneous crowd, communicating well with each other rather than serving dish after dish of food alone.

Charan belongs to the family of kunwars and rajas and has that dignified mix of tradition and modernity. She has a separate house for parties, which is opened and cleaned up for those special evenings. Done up to reflect an old-world charm, this house throbs to laughter, food and music. Servants are trained to rustle up a meal with the choicest of Indian and Continental dishes. Scotch and Vodka flows freely. The highlight is the beautiful music and Charan with her husband leading all to the dance floor for an evening of merriment. They believe in the party season. There are no summer bashes because of the discomfort.

Simrat Grewal is the daughter-in-law of Sardar Gurnam Singh, the former CM, Punjab. There is a strong English influence amidst all her antique Tanjores. For her, a successful party is the coming together of like-minded people who are familiar with each other. She takes immense care to plan a meal with a difference. Only English or continental or Indian is served at a time. To enhance the quality of eating, the exquisite English china with silver cutlery is a must. A sit-down meal for 20-odd people is arranged with proper sitting arrangement around her huge round dining tables, replete with the best lace covers. Care is taken to avoid the divide between men and women. Old servants of the family are fully trained to cook and serve with elan. Special care is taken to have her sitting areas air-conditioned in summers.

Babboo has to do a lot of entertainment, because of her husband Satbinder who is the Executive Director, Punjab Alkalis. For her, a party has to be a gourmetís delight. She is a great cook and is always experimenting with new recipes, contents and flavours. Innovative eats with drinks and a full table lay out for meals followed with a choice of sweets is her forteí. Each party, for her, means a group of 20-25 five people, free to scatter around and sit all over her flat. Alongwith special food, she and her family give tremendous focus to decorative details on special occasions. Her sisterís 25th wedding anniversary was planned to the minutest details. The colour scheme of the evening was silver and blue, be it the family dresses, balloons, linen, flowers and candles. Even the return gifts were silver foiled cinnam on in silver net pouches. A perfect evening.

Heading the list of all perfectionists is Kanwal Panwar, a widely travelled housewife running a immaculate household replete with rare pieces of art, artifacts and furniture. Her garden is anyoneís dream. For her, a party means, careful listing of guests, menus, servant on duty and chores to be organised. Every detail of colour combinations with flower arrangements, candles and diyas, give her parties an ethereal look. Food is of one kind, be it Chinese or Indian, catered for in a corner of the huge lawn or lots of salads and cold cuts spread on her dining table, for all to help themselves at their convenience, while she and her husband mix around freely with all guests. The atmosphere is always laid-back.

The award for most innovative parties must go to Kirandeep Grewal. She organises wonderful theme party for children. In summers, it is a splash party with lots of water games with water balloons and floating toys. Children came dressed in swimsuits and ducked in huge rubber swimming tank. On one of the birthday partys for her twins, she decorated her house like a jungle and the kids wore animal suits and masks. Yet another party was based on farm animals. Her house was full of huge cut-outs of pigs, chicks and hens and the return gifts were Doy careís animal-shaped soaps. Eats were fun because the cakes in the shape of animals took the cake! All this means having a creative or wild imagination and working out innovative details. Jumping and happily screaming kids would vouch for the success.


All by themselves and enjoying it
Aradhika Sekhon

WHEN we talk of woman power, we usually picture working women who are young and articulate. They usually have supportive families, understanding husbands and are energetic enough to get things done.

In the city there are many such women who are neither young nor energetic, but that doesnít deter them from being independent. They live by themselves, have created their own support systems and are spending their lives content with their lot. They falsify the traditional picture of the single old woman, who unwanted and neglected, was expected to render silent service to the household upon which she was dependent. This class and generation of older ladies is mobile, cultivates various interests, are regular visitors to boutiques, beauty parlours and are often seen at plays, movies and restaurants.

Harsharan Sekhon has been living by herself for the past nine years. Touching 70, she is pretty upbeat about life in general. The only complaint she has is about time-not the excess of it, but the lack of it. "I just donít manage to get time to get things done ó like putting away my winter wardrobe and pulling out my summer clothes. Twice a week I have my cards, then a kitty or two and sometimes, someone has kirtan or a Sukhmani". As far as her support system is concerned, she says: I always have my children to fall back upon and they come rushing to my side whenever I need them". In addition, the neighbourhood she stays in adds to her sense of security and she never ceases congratulating herself on the decision to sell her two-kanal house in favour of a flat which she finds more manageable.

A lot of these ladies are much about town as they drive around regardless, usually in an old Fiat. Whether itís going to a bank or the movies, they handle every situation with elan and forge their own relationships ó be it with their banker or the vegetable vendor or the chemist.

"Mobility generates a lot of confidence as it allows these ladies to do a lot of work by themselves", says Amarjit Cheema (65). "Thankfully one can at least drive oneself around town and visit friends and relatives whenever one wants to", she continues. "Although Chandigarhís road culture has changed a lot, but since Iíve been driving since the beginning, I can take it in my stride. In Chandigarh if you donít drive, you might as well hibernate".

"Living alone for the older generation isnít fun. There are those long evenings of silence and loneliness to be faced", says Indu Maitre, an educationist, currently the Principal of Sri Aurobindo School of Integral Education. "One lives by oneself, not out of choice but out of circumstances and compulsion. Sometimes itís painful and depressing, and the solution is in keeping oneself occupied. I sincerely believe that work is worship. Apart from that, work keeps one away from negative thoughts. The moment one feels depressed because of loneliness, one can divert oneís attention or take refuge in work and give oneself this consolation that there are people, who sometimes have to spend money to be lonely".

Balwant Mann, who has been living by herself for the past six years, agrees that the need for company is the major drawback of living alone. But a circle of friends and relatives are of great help in combating loneliness. "One must develop an active routine for oneself ó thatís the only way out if one doesnít want to acquire depression. My mornings are spent in housework and activities like paying the bills, getting the car serviced, going to the tailor and suchlike. Three to four months in an year, Iím out of Chandigarh. Every alternative year, I visit my son in the USA or my older son, wherever he is posted. I pay regular visits to my brothers and sisters. Travelling keeps me mentally and physically agile".

In the final analysis, agree all the ladies, it is not easy living by oneself, especially when one has been used to lifetime of support from husbands or the men of the family. However a refocusing of lifestyles, an acceptance of what cannot be changed, a willingness to cultivate oneís own interests and routines as also build support groups around oneself, will go a long way. Almost all the ladies shared a grouse about the safety factor. There is a growing sense of insecurity because of increasing crime in the city. In addition, they feel, that the Administration does nothing to lessen these apprehensions. Though they are not looking for any concessions due to their old age, they could do with some security.


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