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Relishing food... and life beyond glamour

Photo: S. Subramanium.

Nafisa Ali reveals a thing or two about her life and meals at Radisson Hotel's Italianni's restaurant in New Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium.

"I GOT married on two conditions: I won't cook, won't do any washing," but Nafisa Ali, cannot only cook very good food but also well, does everything that needs physical labour. Be it erecting bamboo huts in Bhuj, running for financial support of HIV-infected patients or just painting on the wall.

"I am on a diet, but don't mind having a light meal," she declares at New Delhi's Radisson Hotel. We are sitting at Italianni's restaurant. "I love this place, the ambience and the food," she says in a moment of candour and substantiates her statement with proof - she decides to stay back for more than an hour instead of the scheduled 40 minutes.

Good food and comfort of a five-star hotel, she loves it of course. But hold on, she is not in Delhi for past 10 years to enjoy all this. She is grossly misunderstood as a socialite. "I am not page three-stuff," this former Miss India is irritated when she is only photographed and never quoted. "God knows when people will read in me something beyond Miss India label!"

Yes, she is the one who stayed at earthquake-ridden Bhuj for three months locating places where help did not reach. She is emotional narrating the experience, savouring spinach and artichokes formaggid - cheese dipped with garlic cibata bread and chopped salad as starter. "At an interior place 350 houses were razed in Bhuj and no camera clicked it. We took prefabricated huts there and made shelters. Quake will come six-seven times a day. One big boom and the earth will shake. It was scary."

Munching her mushroom cappuccino soup, she can also recall Ayodhya where she went after Godhra-Ahmedabad riots. "People have been asking me not to go there because I am a Muslim.

And wonder you, Ayodhya sadhus are telling me that all there work has been paralysed because of religion politics and they are fed up of it," she cannot stop laughing. "Advani owes an apology to the nation for engineering riots. The Constitution does not allow the State machinery participate in riots."

Let's talk of food for a change at Italianni's where Lobster and Wine Festival continues till April 13. Nafisa has Penne Arrabiatta, mushroom Parmesan risotto, corn and sun-dried tomato ravioli with pesto sauce in main course. "I love mushroom." And she loved it when she was crowned Miss India. She went to the contest because the prize was a black and white TV set! "My father was planning to buy one. I said don't worry, I will win so I will bring. It was thrilling." All at home saw her on TV repeat show!

More thrilling was her visit to Agra— at the mahurat of her eldest daughter, 22-year-old Armaana''s debut, yet untitled, art film. The story is Nafisa's personal experience of Aids patients, their sufferings, society's apprehension, reaction and then acceptance, forming a human bond. Armaana plays a doctor.

Nafisa is also acting in a Boney Kapoor's film, playing Sushmita and Kareena's mother while Anil Kapoor is the hero. "I and Anil are of same age, but see, he is the hero." She was very shy, so never opted for films as a career.

End of the meal, she is headed for Aashray, a home-plus clinic for HIV-infected patients at Rajoukri Village, a kilometre away from Radisson.

Her heart beats for it for all her "savings have gone in making it a reality."

And her heart beats for Chef Mohammad Naushad and team's preparations here. "Excellent," she sums it up.

RANA A. SIDDIQUI

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