She has attitude. No-nonsense, spunky and wryly witty. And at this very minute, she’s at a sprawling mill compound, monitoring the preps for the Gladrags Mrs India pageant, coming up mid-December.
After pep talking the contestants, Maureen Wadia exchanges news-‘n’-views with
Lalita Iyer.. who’s contemplating contesting the pageant next year
Addressing a group of Gladrags’ Mrs India aspirants (married for 0-22 years), she says, “The next three weeks of training will be tough.. but if you can make it through the Maureen Wadia survival kit, you can survive Mount Everest with less oxygen.. Let’s start pretending you are Pamela Anderson.”
And then she organises some time for a face-to-face:
Why the Mrs India contest?
We’ve been handling the Megamodel contests for years. Around year 2000, I realised there was nothing for married women. At that time, the American franchisees had Mrs World, Mrs Globe, we had nothing.. so the Mrs India pageant was born. It bothers me that marriage is looked upon as an expiry date for women — that’s so not true. For most of the contestants, the pageant is a fun, liberating experience. Now even the husbands want one for themselves.
You have been married 37 years. What’s been your survival kit?
I just told my husband I deserve a Victoria Cross. Surviving marriage is tough.. it tries every muscle and bone in the body—you need tremendous mental and physical strength to hang in there. One always believes marriage is for life, particularly Indian women — so you give it all you’ve got. Being a wife is a 24 x 7 job and it depletes you. If I can find a man who can be a wife, I’d say, “Bravo!”
Shaggy’s song Strength of a woman comes to mind...
Women are like tea bags—you don’t know our strength till you put us in hot water.. we have the tenacity to adapt, deal with a sick child, in-laws and work pressures. In India, you end up becoming the appendage of the man you marry. I faced the same risk. It has taken me a long time to establish myself as “Maureen Wadia.” I have had to work very hard, so I should sit back and enjoy it now..
Was it love at first sight?
It was love at first sight from his side. I was an airhostess for Air India. I believe Nusli Wadia had seen me and he sent a message that he wanted to meet me. I said, “Hmmm.. good for him.” We met when I didn’t even know who he was.. eventually I was signed up for a modelling campaign for Bombay Dyeing through Air India, and we subsequently fell in love.. the ads of course never ran.
What has been the toughest part about marriage?
Motherhood. Even though you are aware what pregnancy is all about, only the woman knows what she has to go through. Either you are sick or you feel like a cow.. you are never fully prepared for it. Both my pregnancies were very tough. I had morning sickness throughout. And who said morning sickness is only about mornings? But then my happiest moment was when Ness, my first son was born.
Which role do you enjoy the most?
Grandmother.. actually mother too.
So are you a good mother-in-law?
Well, I am a good mother-in-law, but it’s for my daughter-in-law (Jeh’s wife Celina) to answer that. God, now I’m sure you’ll ask me what it would feel like to be Preity Zinta’s mother-in-law.
Yes, but you beat me to it…
Okay darling, our choices are our choices.. and marriage for Ness is up to him. Nusli and I are cool with whatever. It’s just that whenever I have brought up the subject of marriage and Preity, Ness always tells me, “Chill, mom, just chill..”
But I’ve been chilling for so long, I might turn into an ice cube.
So you have a chilled-out relationship with your sons
No we have a fiery relationship.. we still have lots of fights.. but then we learn to accept things. At the end of the day, they are still my cubs.
One thing you won’t excuse in your children or grandchildren?
Disrespect, bad behaviour, vulgarity, exhibitionism.
How do you stay rooted with all this affluence around you?
It’s a good thing that Nusli and I have no social life. I couldn’t be bothered with partying and schmoozing. And I’m so beyond all that Bollywood glitz, I just want to hide.
Keeping up with the good life — is it a pressure?
It’s all so blasé. It’s all about my Bentley, my visit to Saint Tropez, my yacht, my new house..it’s all about keeping up with the Joneses and the Singhs.. I also find people’s fixation with luxury goods and labels so OTT. I have never been label conscious. I just wear whatever I find.. of course today I’ve dressed up for you. (Smiles) Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t care if I wear a Chanel or a Marks and Spencer or Alberto Ferreti. I think it’s extremely rude to ask someone which label they are wearing. And I hate it when people say, “Darling, I only wear Gucci or Jimmy Choos.” As if I care!
What do you feel about the current economic crisis?
It’s tragic that we have had to go through a global economic crisis to be humbled. I am so happy Obama has won, he is a good man.. it’s just sad that he has had to take over at such an inopportune time
Have you ever thought of joining politics?
God forbid. Nusli was keen to do that many moons ago, but decided against it. Thank God for that. Being Jinnah’s grandson, he was expected to toe the line somewhere, but better sense prevailed.