About five of my coworkers, including my roommate Kevin, have started swimming in the mornings at a public pool in Dadar. I’ve purchased a swimming cap (bright pink) and a tasteful swimsuit (the pool scene is rather conservative here so I was told to get a swimsuit with a skirt – it looks like a tennis dress). Now I just need to work on actually waking up to swim (Ceci, I have no idea how you did this everyday for four years).
Kevin has been chummin’ it up in the locker room with some of the older Indian men, one of whom invited Kevin to coffee last week and proceeded to share some rather personal details about his life. Katie and I have been teasing Kevin about this as the encounter seemed a little odd and almost flirtatious but now he and Sanjay are homies. Well, yesterday they see each other again at the pool and Sanjay invites Kevin to a Russian party at the Trident on Nariman Point.
Kevin: “Sounds interesting. Can I bring my roommates?”
Sanjay: [Jokingly] “Only if they’re girls”
Kevin: “Actually they are…”
Sanjay: “Great. Wear a suit.“
This is how we got roped into attending a “Russian party” last night. Leading up to the event we tried to use our collective Googling prowess to figure out what exactly this event was – but to no avail. All we knew was that this thing was happening in one of the swankiest hotels in Mumbai, so the food would be delightful (and we would be safe).
Upon arrival we were ushered to a private ballroom where Sanjay was waiting for us. He escorted us inside and to the bar with zero hassle. No check-in, no nothing. Hundreds of people were mingling, passed hors d’oeuvres were going around the room and dancers/singers in traditional Russian garb were performing.
Some signage and flyers helped us figure out what we were celebrating. Two things: 1. in 1613, the Romanov family came into power in Russia so this year marks the 400th anniversary of the ascension of the Romanov dynasty. 2. June 12 is Russia Day (sort of an independence day for Russia following the collapse of USSR – June 12th, 1990 is the day when a declaration was signed to move towards democratic reforms). The Russian Consulate was hosting a party to acknowledge these two occasions but also celebrate the successful relationship between Russia and India.
With a glass of wine in hand Katie and I begin mingling. Kevin had already been approached by a number of businessmen, all of whom shared their business cards (some of these people have packed so much information onto their business cards that they actually fold). It becomes clear that the women in the room, Katie and I included, are looked at as arm candy – fine by us. We’re enjoying the food and the people-watching.
I have brought with me to India one nice-ish dress (yellow, structured, pleats, work-cum-cocktail dress) but it was definitely not nice enough for this party. We didn’t look out of place exactly but I felt under-dressed next to these women in floor length gowns and heavy anarkali suits.
About twenty minutes into the party the paneer tikka plate passes us, and a man, maybe in his forties, standing nearby motions toward me and says “Ladies first.” Aditya turned out to be a very jovial, life-of-the-party, type and after a few jokes about party etiquette he hands each of us his business card. The card tells us that he owns a cotton company. Neither of us had a business card to offer to him which prompted a new set of rules on party etiquette.
“Ladies, the first rule of parties is to never come to an event without 100 business cards. The second rule is you must hand out all of the business cards you’ve brought before you leave. And the most important rule is to take 100 business cards back with you.”
Approx 237 business cards of my initial 250 have been sitting in some box somewhere for the last six years. Should have brought them to Mumbai. I guess no one uses Bump here.
Aditya took us under his wing for the night, introducing us to business leaders and government officials. We chatted with the Australian Counsel General and a movie producer. We met with a chemical business tycoon and his wife who we were told we could expect to see on Page 3 the next day. Aditya seemed to know most everyone that walked by. I had asked if he attends a lot of similar events. The answer was “yes.” Apparently there were three events on his calendar for that night alone. He said he could have our calendars filled with parties for the rest of our time in Mumbai if we wanted – including invitations to the Star Channel Film Awards that are being held this Saturday. We begrudgingly had to decline that invitation since we’re traveling to North India this weekend. The American in me is pretty skeptical about that being a real thing we could have gone to though. It seemed a little too easy. BUT when Kevin asked Aditya if he has met any Bollywood celebrities, Aditya said – “What to meet? I’ve met so many times! Now there’s nothing to meet.” – He then showed us photos of him and the Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani stars at the GQ “Best Dressed” party last week. So I guess this guy is legit?
At some point a formal dinner buffet was set out that was absolutely delectable. The kothu paratha made with paneer and the chocolate mud cake were two notable items. Nom! We stayed for a few hours and continued to rub shoulders with the upper echelon of Bombay society. I’d say our spontaneous night out was quite a success.
Happy Russia Day!