‘We are very accepting of each other’

‘We are very accepting of each other’

meher eifgteen sept a d - ‘We are very accepting of each other’

Ayesha (Pooh) Sayani, 71, filmmaker  

Rashmi Gupta, 70, yoga instructor 

Bound by a strong emotional bandwidth over years of shared personal experiences, Ayesha (Pooh) Sayani and Rashmi Gupta could not claim more different backgrounds. 

The daughter of broadcaster legend Hamid Sayani and Zarina Padamsee, Pooh has worked in commercial radio, on programmes for satellite TV research for rural Indian regions with ISRO, documentaries for Films Division, award-winning advertising and feature films, corporate films for industrial houses and public service organisations.     

With Ayesha’s daughter Aadore in Coonoor ←The friends at dim sum lunch

Presently an exponent and instructor of Bharat Thakur’s Artistic Yoga school, Rashmi grew up with senior corporate executive and homemaker parents. She was a TWA flight attendant and Oberoi boutique manager before a career with Commonwealth Government departments in Perth. Her areas of expertise, at individual and team levels, included human resource development, equal employment opportunity, and occupational health and safety.

The widely travelled friends explain why Bombay remains the most meaningful city for them both. 

Ayesha Sayani: My first memory of Rashmi is a bit hazy, lost in the passage of time. It was in Delhi. I was going through a difficult time in my marriage. Her brother Prashant was designing at a boutique belonging to my sister-in-law. We must’ve met there. After I shifted back to Bombay, so did the Guptas. We hung around together doing the things people used to in the 1970s.

Rashmi Gupta: I enjoyed Pooh’s company. We both loved the arts in general. It was easy to exchange information and views on what we’d seen or done, were experiencing, needed perspective on. 

The friends at dim sum lunch

AS: Rashmi is a wonderful listener. I was still getting over my woeful marriage. As she knew all the characters involved, it was easy for me to moan and groan to her. Plus, she was wonderful with my daughter Aadore.

RG: Dropping by frequently, Prashant and I got to know Pooh’s family, immediate and extended. Aadore was very young. It has been a pleasure to observe and be part of her growing up and journey in life. Pooh is family. She knows my whole family, who are so fond of her. My niece and nephew also see her as someone they can ask for advice.

AS: Because her nieces and nephews consider me their aunt, I get full use of their time and tech skills whenever I need it. As Douglas Adams mentioned, at my age, learning new technology is like climbing a mountain! We’re honorary members of each other’s families. Both of us had very difficult times with our mothers. Talking about this with Rashmi really helped. It’s important to accept each other as is, taking the good with the bad from friends you trust totally.  

RG: We are very accepting of each other. That’s a good space from which to build a friendship. If one of us is going through something negatively affective, the other voices concern. This is from a caring space, not one leading to arguments. Even having led rather different professional lives, we’ve always been able to share and discuss what we’re doing. I was in Australia for several years, working with the federal government. Now I’m with this yoga organisation, which is totally different. Pooh being an ad filmmaker in Bombay and from a theatre family, I have appreciated getting insights into these two worlds and attending what I might not normally have—a play reading or a play she’s been involved with and recommended. 

AS: When I actively made films, I discussed those related problems with Rashmi. She has a calm approach to problem-solving and a clear head for business. A great teacher, she encouraged me to start daily yoga. Recently, the three of us were in Coonoor, where Aadore and she had many sessions together. I was recovering from 
COVID—an excuse to do no exercise whatsoever!
RG: Yoga was my first personal passion, from age 18. It has played an integral role in keeping me healthy and together through different phases of life. Now, I work full-time with yoga. 

AS: I think some of Rashmi’s calm has rubbed off on me. I’d fly off the handle much more. Rashmi is quiet, yet brave and adventurous.  She constantly gallivants across the world on her own. I’m a real coward in these matters, hate going anywhere on my own. I complain that she does too much extra work for the business. She just smiles Buddha-like.  

RG: Pooh is extremely open-hearted and warm. She has a laidback sense about her, but is also grounded and practical. Her matter-of-factness helps in situations where I have my head in the clouds. She’s a wonderful hostess. I really appreciate how she pulls off big dinners with an ease that belies the organisation and effort going into them. She takes that in her stride, with the sense of casualness she brings to most situations. If I have too much on and feel bad not being able to travel (from Versova where I stay) to attend an event or dinner, Pooh is wonderfully relaxed and simply says “No pressure”. I often remind myself of that in similar situations. 
We love seeing movies at the Palladium, having lunch and wandering through the mall with shopping thrown in. A favourite haunt was Aadore’s outdoor cafe, with its lovely setting and great food. A pity it closed. We also enjoy dim sum lunches at Jia.

AS: The NCPA and Phoenix Mills are where we go for theatre, music, cinema and shopping. I’m a pure Bombayite, born and bred. The city fits me like a glove. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Rashmi has, all over the world. This is the city we have shared the most.

RG: I was 19 when I came to Bombay. Cosmopolitan, casual and unpretentious, it had a nice energy, was easy to get about in and for young people to chill in. Since then, I’ve lived in Hong Kong, Australia, with spells in London. But those early Bombay years are memorable and a big part of me.

Author-publisher Meher Marfatia writes monthly on city friendships. You can reach her at [email protected]/www.meher marfatia.com