Chhaya Momaya struts into the lobby of Four Seasons in a Marchesa biker jacket and vertiginous Prada heels. Designer Hemant Trivedi had once said that she has the best legs in town but she is known for more than that. Training industrialists, politicians, housewives, investment bankers and youngsters over the years — Chhaya has become a significant social presence in Mumbai’s chic corridors.
At her stunningly orchestrated soirees, one can always vouch for elegant décor, personalised food presentation and exquisite flower arrangements and most importantly, she will go out of her way to make each guest comfortable. Even though her social almanac is blocked with dinners and luncheons, Chhaya is a teetotaler and a strict vegetarian. Besides an enviable portfolio of luxury brands that she has to her credit, her great connections with the crème de le crème of the country make her quite the envy of the social circuit.
Being a life coach
“Everyone wants to get global and image building is the most important thing. To give you an example, most people don’t know the art of introducing someone. It shows the lineage and the class you have when you are introducing people. These things may sound ordinary but mean a lot. At a party you will see a lot of people hanging around you if you introduce people well because everyone wants an adjective to their name. How you do it is very important. You don’t need to go overboard. It’s just that little hint which can take you a long way,” she observes. She feels that people in India think that fine dining is about fork and knife but it is actually about conversation. “A good fine dining experience can connect you to a lot of people and bring a lot of business to your table if you know how to do it well.
I see a lot of youngsters coming to me. Formal education is one thing but image building is something else altogether. One needs to understand the corporate language and dress well. It’s not about wearing an expensive outfit. Even when it comes to nails, it gives away a lot about your character. The colour of the nail polish, even the hair and the way the skin has been looked after – every detail matters.”
“Every brand has a story behind it which needs to come out. When you wear a Roberto Cavalli, you bring out the flamboyance in you, there’s a time and place for that brand to be worn. Gucci is youthful, flamboyant and sophisticated and Armani is by far sophisticated. La Prairie approached me years ago when they realised that I was buying the product for a long time. So I did the launch at a refreshing venue overlooking the sea over lunch. I realised that women in India need to be educated about a very expensive cream. It’s important that you create the right audience and make them understand,” she says.
The art of entertaining
“I am very organised in my mind. Everything has to have a logic. Before planning an evening, I always put myself forward and think whether I’m going to like it. When I launched the Ulysse Nardin watches, Abhishek Bachchan was surprised that his father sat through the whole evening.
Sunil Gavaskar was being honoured with a beautiful watch. I made the evening special and at the end of it Mr Bachchan walked up to me and said, ‘Thank you for a fantastic evening’. When I launched Radhika Goenka’s exhibition, I could have got anyone from the film industry but I wanted to get someone who understands and speaks art and appreciates it so Abhishek Bachchan was the right choice. Abhishek spoke about art and how he dabbled into the medium. So there was a connection. It’s not about pulling the crowd.”
The lip lashing
“If some people don’t know how to behave themselves so I tell them off. The other day a couple hailing from a really high background came to a wedding and jumped the queue to congratulate the bride and groom. I had to tell them off. There were so many old people in the queue. Why would I care? Someone has to say it. Someone has to put them in their place and tell them this is not the way to behave. It’s also important for people to learn because second time they’ll think twice before misbehaving,” she says emphatically.
The birth and demise of the socialites
“I feel people who have survived and who are respected have taught the society about art and their culture. I have my flaws and others have theirs. Flaws should not get bigger that you because then it becomes a problem. Brands don’t make you. You create an image. You don’t have to tell the world about Gucci and Chanel you own. When you see me in the papers it’s about my work.”
Nirmal and I
“My husband is a very confident man and involved with six large businesses. He doesn’t really have the time to go out and socialise. He is travelling most of the time. My son was recently approached by a fashion magazine for a feature and he refused stating that ‘I have to prove myself first and do something on my own’. They are not into this zone at all. They understand that the kind of work I do brings me in the papers. We are all in tandem.”
Individuals I admire
“From gen-next I like Akash Ambani. He could be in the midst of talking to anybody but if you are passing by, he’ll introduce you well to people. He is warm, polite and well spoken. Even at work he never has to raise his voice to get work done. Ranbir Kapoor speaks very well and he essays into every character he portrays and socially too he doesn’t come across as loud. One man I truly admire is Anand Mahindra. I want to hear him all the time. I am all ears when he talks. He carries himself very well,” says the image consultant who has been offered to write a book but has been mulling over it.