In town for just two days, social activist and quintessential Mumbaikar Meera Gandhi shared her charity plans with this diarist over a leisurely cup of English Breakfast at a Nariman Point five-star yesterday.
Gandhi's Giving Back Foundation, which has Bono, Cherie Blair, Kerry Kennedy, Donna Karan and Eleanor Roosevelt among its partners, raises funds for destitute women and children in India.
The highlight of Gandhi's visit was her book, which chronicles 25 years of her charity work (as a teenager she worked with her mother at Mother Teresa's Asha Daan), with a foreword by Blair and photographs and testimonials from celebrity philanthropists, and some relatively unknown faces.
In the course of the conversation, Gandhi revealed to this diarist that her foundation has received tremendous support from her Cathedral classmates and others, including a high-profile but reticent billionaire she refuses to name for fear of "embarrassing him".
Given the current economic environment in the US and Europe, fundraisers and charity events are not really on anyone's priority. "Unlike in India," said Gandhi, "People are keen to open up their wallets and recession has not really hit home."
That comes as a surprise given the less-than tepid response to Bill Gates - Warren Buffett charity not too long ago. Gandhi ascribes it to a certain "indifference," but quickly points out that she is not here to "change people," but only "inspire them" and speaks of herself and the foundation as a "conduit" for effecting the much-needed change.
Meanwhile, Mumbai can look forward to a fundraiser gala in March next year, with Milind Deora promising to lend his creative muscles to the cause. Though her foundation now has an office in Delhi, and she received an effusive response from the city’s high net-worth individuals, Gandhi pins her hopes on Mumbai.
"I met my husband Vikram here (they have been married for 25 years), all my friends are here. I know what makes this city tick," she says before picking up the last piece of fruit tart from her plate.