Monday, July 22 2019


Chronicling the Beauty Legend

Nilofer & Shahnaz Husain
Shahnaz Husain, one of the six Indians at Barack Obama’s entrepreneurship summit, is a business dynamo who lives luxury to the core. Daughter Nelofar Currimbhoy’s Flame presents a humanistic picture of the real Shahnaz. Medha Shri catches up with the mother-daughter duo.
Much has been written and spoken about the herbal tsarina Shahnaz Husain, partly because of her own love for staying in the public sphere and partly because of people’s interest in her life. She has denied requests from acclaimed writers seeking permission to write her biography until one day her daughter Nelofar Currimbhoy proposed the idea to her. “Nelofar and I have grown up together. I got married at 15 and became a mother within a year. She has been a witness to most of what I have been through and experienced in life,” says a visibly moved Husain to ATELIER. That is what Nelofar’s book, Flame: The Story of My Mother Shahnaz Husain (Hachette) does – paint a humanised and emotional Husain.
We met Currimbhoy at her mother’s lavish house, full of travel memorabilia and several prizes that Husain has received, including the World’s Greatest Woman Entrepreneur Award from Success Group of the US (she was the fi rst woman to receive it in 107 years). She even has a dedicated helpers’ entourage. The house refl ects Husain’s fi ery and larger-than-life persona. And then enters Currimbhoy. She is calm, speaks softly and appears to be a foil to her mother’s blazing personality. She agrees, “My mother and I are completely different. That is what helps us bond and keeps us together within any confl ict zones.” Currimbhoy is the president of the Shahnaz Husain group of companies and has been instrumental in the company’s growth.
So how did the idea of writing a book come about? “I used to write poems. In fact, I once wrote a 60-page poem on a Buddhist monastery and sent it to Darley Anderson. He said ‘great work’. Then one day, mom saw this book written by Gulzar’s daughter on him. She wrote, ‘Promise me you will write a book on me,’ and gave me the book. I believe that was the seed,” shares she.
While writing the book, it was quite traumatic for Currimbhoy to relive a few moments, for instance the death of her father and brother. She would often get depressed; it took her two months to write those chapters. But the emotional and physical labour has been rewarded. “I’m happy I wrote this book otherwise so much would have been lost in time,” she smiles.
Husain joins the conversation again, adding that she hasn’t read the book yet! “Every time I try to read it, I get emotional. I haven’t been able to read it,” Husain says.
Flame is interspersed with witty lines and interesting anecdotes. For instance, Husain, who isn’t a graduate, always longed for formal education. Thus, when she got a chance to be a guest lecturer at the prestigious Harvard, she denied charging any fee and went ahead and enrolled herself as a student too. There are several other incidents and accidents that tell the world the story of Husain’s professional success and personal turmoil. Currimbhoy informs that the inspiration to name the book ‘fl ame’ was not her mother’s red Swarovskistudded, gold-soldered hair but the fact that no matter how many storms came, her mother rose against all odds like a fl ame.
Husain listens in teary-eyed and smiles, “I’m going for my evening ritual – a coffee at Barista. Why don’t you join in?” Surrounded by fans and media all the time, having all the material luxuries at her disposal and covetable awards at her altar, with names like Indira Gandhi, Hilary Clinton, Princess Diana and Michael Jackson in her client list, would she say she has achieved her dream? “Not yet. The higher I go, the higher I want to go,” replies the beauty baroness.
Beauty baroness Shahnaz Husain and
daughter Nelofar Currimbhoy.

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