Nino's Dad and I went to a brand new pre-school/day boarding programme's orientation session on Sunday. It's a new concept in Ahmedabad: a large majority of women here don't work full time, or live in joint families, so day-boarding has never really taken off. But the new school offers a variety of programmes, from regular pre-school hours to day boarding to evening activity hours. I for one know atleast half a dozen journalist friends who work crazy hours, are not bonafide gujaratis and have no family support system in the city, who'd grab the chance: a curriculum that combines the best of montessori and its critics, a campus that's full of trees (such a rarity these days) and lots of outdoor activites such as a swimming pool (we've been wanting to get a club membership for us so Nino can swim, but the fees - well, that's a story for another post!). Though we don't know if we are signing up Nino for it, (because we're really happy with his current montessori pre-school), I do know the school has its heart in the right place.
Anyways, the real reason for the post's title. Well the orientation also served to bring together some friends of the couple that's promoting the school. We sort of fit in that definition as well: we know through a relative the couple's siblings. A six-degree sepration sort of thing that would wear anyone down, but in aapnu (which mean hamaara, ours) Ahmedabad, it's what we call 'family friends'.
So when the orientation wrapped up and we were all standing in groups drinking coffee/having icecream (at 11:00am on Sunday morning!), I saw a lady with a Bottega Veneta Cabat . Okay. Exhaling slowly. For those in the know, exhale slowly as well. For those not in the know, the Bottega is a premium and exclusive leather goods brand, and it's bags are exquisite and very expensive. The reason I love the brand so much is that there are no monograms on display (remember the LVs that airports are stuffed with these days?), and no one who's not read about the bag will say much about it, other than, 'it's a beautiful bag.' No bling, no show, just pure choclate brown, soft leather, woven similar to the warp and weft on a cane basket. It retails for around $4000 (Rs1,60,000).
Now Ahmedabad is a rich city. A generation back, it was known for its textile mills and old industrial families, many of whom have lost the firms, but still retain the money. Unlike the north, old money (even if the money's not currently there!) commands a fair bit of respect here, and the feudal system of old money marries old money still works. Many of these families don't even have a surname, the names of their forefathers serving as second names, as in the Hindi saying naam hi kaafi hai (the name is enough). There is a certain genteel-ness about this - a certain charm that makes them carry a cloth zari batua with more ease than a Channel. The nouveau riche on the other hand, and there are loads of them, the state being the hotbed for all things entrepreneurial, love their monograms, so much so that local grocers, pre-school gates and saloons see more than their share of Coach, Gucci, Channel and ahem, the ugliest of them all, Louis Vuitton.
The best part about these bags, monogrammed or otherwise, is that most of these are fakes. Bought from New York City's famous China Town when visiting friends and relatives in the US. Because no true blue Gujarati would spend a ridiculous amount of money on a bag. A sentiment to cheer, considering that some of the price tags are enough to get someone a roof over their heads.
Unfortunately, bags such as the Bottega, or the even more exclusive (and beautiful, may I add) Birkin, don't have fakes. If they do, the fakes cost nearly as much as the originals themselves. So seeing this lady with the bag sort of took my breath away, making me happy (about her good taste, ofcourse) and sad (so much money, for a bag?) at the same time. This is when our host rescued me. 'It's got to be a fake,' she said. 'She's just returned from Hong Kong.'
God bless the Chinese.
3 hours ago