Published Feb 3 2015, by

New Friends Colony

A world away there is talk of Superbowl, ball inflation and an Always ad. Here in the hotel it is quiet, although I am sure many were up early to watch The Game this morning.
I’m still laughing about our dinner on Sunday night in the home of a former Indian Ambassador. Caron has known him for several years and we were delighted to spend some time in his home among his beautiful collections. We were given an address (in English) and I did my best to read it out loud to our driver (who was quite dashingly clad in a gold-buttoned uniform from the hotel). He was friendly enough and assured us he knew exactly the address of our destination. Once we are in the New Friends Colony neighborhood we lurked through alley after alley looking for our gentleman’s name on the wall. We sought the wisdom of strangers who offer conflicting lefts and rights. Eventually we found the address back across the highway in another section of this master planned community. A gentleman walks through the gate ahead of us and I imagine (important word) that he is also arriving for this beautiful fete just a few minutes past 8. We follow him—no one stops us. We walk through the half-open door and I catch quickly a stunning contemporary painting. “Can I borrow that for Dallas?” I think to myself. However, my first clue something was amiss was the stroller sitting in the corner. A very kind woman walks toward us as we have basically walked into the fourth room of her house.  She greets us warmly and tells us we are in the wrong house but only one house off (even though the numbers matched). She offers a “boy” to walk us over “Because it’s not safe to walk on the streets”. I panic slightly realizing the driver left to go “take his dinner” and we were without his number, he without our correct destination.

Much to my relief this knight in a white suit with gold buttons had not left but waited at the gate to make sure we were where we needed to be. We walk down the lane to the next compound and thrillingly see the name of our kind host on the wall. Success! There are now three gentlemen accompanying this little entourage. We walk through three doors and a kind woman greets us INSIDE her home and explains that we are still in the wrong house. As was happening in the first house, she was cooking up a fabulous meal and my stomach grumbles. The names are the same because of course these two families are related. We get back in the car and drive to a new street. Finally we arrive, dupattas flowing, heels clicking on the pavement.  We make our way into his museum-like home. He is happy we are there and humored by our thrice-made effort.This gentleman loves to cook. We are greeted with a dry martini and six different canapés—each one totally marvelous: an Indian version of guacamole (charmingly served with fiesta Doritos apparently a delicacy), spiced cashews, stuffed zucchini, fried lotus stems, stuffed gooseberries and pickled radishes. We get to know each other—the additional guest is on the board of a local museum. I pepper her with questions about the health and future of museums in India. We talk about partnerships and opportunities. My favorite conversation however was one on the aesthetics of sari collections. Unbeknownced to me, the acquisition of a sari is an art in it’s own aesthetic realm. True collectors of saris (and most are) consider color theory, compositional design and pattern parings –this is not something the tailors do. Choices for the silk combinations of sari and blouse are for the recipient to select. In a shop filled with thousands of options the experience is quite daunting. And of course in this sea of choice everyone is in a hurry. My new friend, clad in a gorgeous gold block printed sari gave me a tutorial I will always cherish. I look forward to setting my next compositional stage upon purchase of my next sari. Could I start wearing saris full-time in Dallas? It would be like Georgia O’Keeffe’s iconic taste for black dresses. I’ll have to think about that one. They are so totally beautiful, so practical and so comfortable.

We linger long into the evening. Indian dinners start late and end later. I loved every moment, candle lit table, beautiful heavily starched linens—there was an elegance in this home brought I’m sure by this gentleman’s wife who was off traveling. Her presence was palpable. He was a perfect host, even in her absence. Caron and I laughed all the way home (I am now referring to the Taj Hotel as home.) over our naïve trespassing past all of the security, the cameras, the watchmen with double-barreled shotguns in this “gated” community. I love the name though: New Friends Colony—so British yet still working its magic almost a century later. And for these New Friends: those expecting us and those not expecting us, grateful I am.