Obama is here. At least that is the adrenaline-inducing catchphrase being tossed around the lobby of The Pierre. I hold my breath as secret service agents and suited-up black tie security whisk someone passed me. To my left is a ballroom filled with Victoria’s Secret pink bags and a band singing a Black Eyed Peas cover. Certainly not the event I am here for, and it doesn’t seem like the Obama lackeys are headed there either. As the security cloud saunters into the “To India with Love” Assouline book launch party, I realize it is not B.O. but Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri and his wife, on their way to join Waris Ahluwalia, Lauren Santo Domingo, Tory Burch, and Natalie Portman to raise spirits, awareness, and funds by leveraging the creative arts to draw attention to the people and culture of India.
In recognition and support for all who were affected nearly a full year ago in the November 2008 tragedy in Mumbai, “To India with Love” is a collection of love letters to the country of India — personal photos, stories, and memories from contributors who “completely fell in love with India, and wanted to share how much they felt for this place. Nearly everyone I’ve known who has ever visited this placed has kept it in their hearts as something magical,” Waris Ahluwalia told me a few weeks ago in anticipation of the event he felt so strongly about. Assouline’s Mimi Crume says, “Waris came to me with a list of people he thought he could get to contribute to the book. I laughed at the list and told him we’d do it if he could actually get every single person to contribute. He did — he got every person on that list.”
Contributors include Adrien Brody, Kenneth Cole, Silvia Fendi, Diane von Furstenberg, Elizabeth Hurley, Evelyn Lauder, Natalie Portman, Rachel Roy, Owen Wilson, and Matthew Williamson, among others. Profits from the book and contributions raised from affiliated events go directly to Taj Public Service Welfare Trust in conjunction with Mumbai: We Got Your Back! (WGYB!), an organization founded by the three editors, jewelry designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia, Tina Bhojwani, and Mortimer Singer. To really up the ante, it was also Ahluwalia’s birthday, which gave revelers even more reason’s to party amid the finger food and bubbly. “My mom is here!” Ahluwalia said excitedly — a guest that would have certainly eclipsed Obama’s presence, had he attended.