1. What ensues being a good influencer in a city like Chennai?
For me Chennai is home, my comfort zone. At most places I visit in town, I am made to feel very welcome. By being known, doors open and people are always courteous and forthcoming.
2. Is the term ‘socialite’ something you identify with? What would you prefer calling yourself?
I had been given the name tag of socialite more than a decade ago. I recall in those days people were not comfortable with the term because they saw a superficial, flippant connotation to it. People who know me well, are aware I have a serious and intense side. But I never dispute a title the Fourth Estate confers on you! Yes, I am a socialite among many other things. I have worn many hats. I was in advertising and a sports marketing professional; an associate dean of a business school and involved in numerous social causes. I need to earn my place in heaven! I have contributed over 380 columns on society, events and fine dining in leading newspapers and magazines. My daughter Anu Menon, the popular stand-up comedian says I suffer from ADD! I laugh because it’s funny. But I personally believe I am not re- inventing myself as people say. Rather I like challenging myself and when these opportunities come my way I have always taken them on readily. For the last six years, I have been a semi-precious jewellery entrepreneur /designer of a bespoke brand, and a champion of worthy causes. My plate is overflowing at the moment, but I thrive under pressure. There’s a saying: if you want something done, give it to a busy person. I was inducted about 15months ago into the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association by Vijay Amritraj, when he took over as President and earlier this month I was nominated as the President of the Madras Wine Club.
3. As a cultural ambassador of the city of Chennai, what do you think are the city’s USPs?
Thank you for the title. Chennai’s biggest differentiator is its perfect fusion of modernity, tradition and culture. I prefer Western outfits for an evening out but I am also perfectly comfortable in a Kanjeevaram sari for a cultural performance. Chennai is widely regarded as the intellectual capital of our country. Many eminent figures like past Presidents of India, Nobel Prize winners, RBI Governors, corporate titans and educationists; hail from Chennai. And many who reside abroad do come back to India for a holiday like homing pigeons. Residents of Chennai are known to welcome visitors and professionals even if they are on a short term posting. So many diplomats or bankers I know leave Chennai carrying special memories of our city and the friendships they have forged. So, despite the diabolical traffic, and our steamy climate, the warmth of the Chennai people does leave a lasting impact on peoples’ minds and hearts. I for one have followed management guru Stephen Covey’s principle: carry your own weather.
4. Where do you enjoy hanging out/partying at in the city?
My husband and I attend a number of private parties at friends’ homes. I also do a fair bit of home entertaining.
But for the occasional night out I like places like Radio Room, Hyatt Regencyand Chipstead.
5. How do you use your popularity for a greater cause and what are the issues in the city that you think need immediate attention?
Well, I like to use my professional skills to champion worthy causes. In the past I have curated events to raise funds for deserving causes. Currently, I am on the steering committee of a group which is uplifting and up skilling a society of 42 female handloom weavers in the handloom belt at Chendamangalam in Kerala. Their lives and livelihood were ravaged by the floods in 2018. We conducted an art auction and exhibition at Taj Connemara in Chennai with a fundraising event. We used our skills in persuading people to identify with the cause and buy the art on offer. This is a cause very close to my heart. Every morning I open the newspapers (the seven dailies that I regularly read); I am horrified at the crime rate. The chain snatching against women not just after dark but in broad daylight as well. Rapes and molestations and crimes of passion. The lack of civic consciousness. Heaps of garbage thrown on the streets. One could go on. I was delighted that the meeting between PM Modi and Chinese President took place in Chennai. As a consequence many parts of Chennai wore a spanking new look.
6. A little bit about you that nobody knows…
I like to believe I am Mighty Minnie when I step out and Minnie the mouse at home!
I hope Mohan (my husband) reads this.
7. How has Chennai changed over the years — in terms of the social scene?
The Chennai social scene has changed dramatically. 20 years ago, parties were held at home and private partying was the norm. But since early 2000, the concept of events by brands and hotels has come into being. In recent years, of course, some events have morphed into a red carpet glitz, a gaggle of photographers, soundbytes and bloggers. And the, “what do I wear? I cannot be a repeat offender,” syndrome. A few of us could attend an event virtually every day if we wanted too, there are so many varied events taking place. I normally attend a few select ones these days. I am perfectly comfortable going for these events alone. There is distinctly an old Madras and a new Chennai. I believe I straddle both.
8. What do you do when you aren’t being an influencer?
I wish I had a minute to spare. I am always playing catch up on my ‘things to do’ list. But being busy is good. I would not want it any other way. Anu says I have the energy of a five-year-old! And whatever I do, be it a dinner party my jewellery event, or a social cause, working at zero error is my aim.