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Friday, September 5, 2008

Sharmila Tagore and Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi's Daughter Saba

As she prepares to take on the mantle of managing her father Pataudi's property, Sudipta Basu feels that Saba Ali Khan was born for the job

Every one knows that she exists, but given the celebrity that her siblings Saif and Soha Ali Khan enjoy, thanks to their Bollywood successes; Saba Ali Khan has never really been heard (given that Bollywood is teeming with star siblings ever ready to volunteer sound bytes on everything from hair pins to cat fights). Tiger Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore's quiet 32-year-old second born, a jewellery designer with a line simply titled Saba, is poised to get very busy soon. Her father Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, currently the mutawalli or chief trustee of the Nawab's 250-crore ancestral property, reportedly is preparing to pass on the torch to Saba.

"I am reading up a lot on history and all that is involved for taking up office. It is something that will come to me eventually, but for now my father is the mutawalli," says Saba, stating that she is not willing to give away more, but adding in the same breath, "I have taken some interest lately and am getting groomed for this." That much, until everything is formalised. It is believed that Pataudi has been considering Saba for the role for a while now, over his other children, knowing fully well that their candidature would not be accepted by the clerics given their association with films.

A Chat with Saba reveals that she was born for the role. She characterises her childhood as an even blend of the old and new, and she feels it is she and her generation that really upholds the change into the future. "I distinctly remember when we made a transition from our black and white television to colour, and when we acquired our first computer. Today black and white TV is considered ancient; but we experienced the best of both worlds," says Saba. The family moved to Delhi when she was growing up; it was a time when Saif was already well ensconced at Winchester College and Soha was a mere child. The girls, at the behest of their grandmother, learnt the Quaran, and as Saba says, "my sister and I really imbibed from the texts, although Saif also got a fair dose of it too. I was around more and so I connected with small things, such as the correct manner of behaviour, tehzeeb and lihaaz, the value of the ghunghat in the presence of the in-laws. My mother never needed to follow the latter, but I learnt to appreciate the value of tradition. I felt that it suited me; just as when I was growing up the salwar kameez became a part of me," she continues. "I guess I am just an old soul." That, coming from the daughter of parents who were trendsetters in their own time… Says Saba, "My parents were very contemporary even in the '70s. I am much more conventional. I was the quieter one of the three siblings," she says and quickly adds that each one was encouraged to follow their individual pursuits. Her father is a man of few words, and she says she takes after him, while her mother is artistic. Saif and Soha, she says, are strong willed. "I am a little more flexible and adapting," she laughs. She is close to her sister, although she makes it a point to watch all of Saif's films.

While in her ancestral home, she would often find herself tinkering with the family heirloom and participating in its upkeep with her mother. Traditional costumes must be wrapped in mul muls, put away in trunks that are placed on bricks, a safe distance from the walls to avoid contact with moisture; old wooden cupboards are to be routinely checked for termites… being a traditionalist is no cake walk, she will have you understand. "The karigari of my mom's sarees from the '70s is a rarity today," she says.

Surrounded by such beauty and karigari of yore, it was no surprise that jewellery design was to become her natural calling. She launched, Saba, an eclectic line in precious and semi-precious stones, which she retails from her home in Vasant Vihar, Delhi. I hope to have an outlet and that my brand goes international," says Saba. "I would love my jewellery to be valued but they are designed for today's generation, that is living for now, and not really concerned about building an heirloom," she says.

Unwittingly, Saba has been walking along the fine line between the past and present for a while now.
Source: Mumbai Mirror

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