LIFE IS A BALL
ANOKHIVIBE, WINTER 2005
Meera with Queen
Noor of Jordan and
Prince Pavlos at the
United World College
Socialite Meera Gandhi is having some serious fun
New York jetsetter Meera Gandhi has a secret - she's
still a child at heart. While most people put away their
dollhouses and toy tea sets, birthday parties and
imaginary friends as they grow up, Meera still
indulges in all that - except she's substituted them
with the real thing.
What could be more fun than playing house in the
historic townhouse where First Lady Eleanor
Roosevelt once lived? This is now home for Meera
and her husband Vikram, the co-head of global
banking at a major investment bank in New York, and
many a grand soiree has been held here for
celebrities and movers and shakers like Mike
Wallace, Paula Zahn, Pamela Wollin, the Consul
General of Canado, Robert Thurmon, Satish Gujral,
Mira Nair, Ismail Merchant and Kerry Kennedy.
Birthday parties? Meera loves them and threw herself
and Vikram a grand 40th birthday bash last year with
over 200 people, including friends like Steven and
Kimberly Rockefeller and Phylicia Rashad.
Her favourite kind of carpet is red carpet and she
loves hobnobbing with the beautiful and powerful, be
it Queen Noar, Prince Pavlos or Senator Hilary
She may not be dressing up Barbie dolls any more,
but her own stylish wardrobe covers every designer
from Oscar de la Renta to Versace to Monish
Malhotra, and you rarely see her in the same outfit
twice. The paparazzi love that.
What makes it easier for her to indulge the child in
her is the fact that all the partying and socializing is
generally for a good cause, The spirit of Eleanor
Roosevelt is very much in the house. with pictures of
the First Lady during her India trip on the walls of the
foyer. The Gandhis spent over two years restoring the
The house has a certain cachet, which makes it a
great venue for holding swanky parties, Meera
hosted Amnesty International's Trustee Dinner along
with Kerry Kennedy; a reception for Eleanor
Roosevelt's grand-daughter Anne Roosevelt to raise
funds for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute
(FERI); she also had the Asia on My Mind dinner with
the theme 'Passage to India' with CNN's Anderson
Cooper. She organized a fundraiser for Artisans'
International. which is based in Washington D.C. All
these events helped raise funds for these
She also hosted a couture sale by top Indian
designers at her home, which was organized with the
American ambassador's wife and raised funds for the
Gujarat earthquake. More recently, she hosted a
cocktail reception for the gala benefit premiere of
Vanity Fair. with the proceeds going to Salaam Balak
Trust and the Indo-American Arts Council.
Sometimes the parties are just for fun, such as when
Dev Anand was in town shooting for Love in Timo
Square and she threw him a launch party, complete
with cake and candles.
Yet, if you thought that Meera was painting the town
pink, partying and Jetting around all day, you'd be
dead wrong, She Just doesn't fit the social butterfly
image. While most society princesses would be in
bed till at least mid-day, Meera is up at 6 a,m.
preparing breakfast for her three kids - Kiran. 15.
Kanika, 11 and Kabie 7.
The children's routines are the most important part of
her day, as she chauffeurs them to school and helps
them with their homework. She volunteers her time at
Chapin, her daughter's school, and helps with the
admissions there. She says, "I really believe that for
the future of the schooL it's important that it has a lot
of diversity by having a non-American involved in the
The daughter of an admiral in the Indian navy and an
Irish mother, Meera basically grew up in India, going
to convent schools in Bombay, Poona and Delhi.
Even as a kid, she loved being centre stage, She
recalls, "When I was in 10th grade, I was head girl of
St. Anne's, and then I moved to Cathedral where I
was head girl too, even though I was the new kid on
the block. And that's where I met my husband, he was
in my closs, sitting right behind me,"
Although she met her husband, Vikram, when she
was 15, she left for Canada where she studied at the
Lester B, Pearson College on a scholarship from
World College. Later, she studied at University of
She married Vikram in 1987, and the two came to the
U.S. together to go to business school. Meera to
Boston University and Vikram to Harvard. Their first child was reared in their dorm at Harvard!
She says, "We were living in the housing for married
students and it's pretty spartan. A child was so much
work. Vikram would hold her and study, and I would
hold her and study, and both of us did really well."
Meera, in fact. graduated Beta Gamma Sigma, the
top five percent of her graduating class.
Both went into investment banking, Meera working
for Banque Nationale du Paris and Banque Indo-
Suisse. After that she switched careers and worked
as a buyer for Lord and Taylor for five years after
which she did work for Calvin Klein, Armani and
Oscar de 10 Renta, collaborating with her mother in
Work and pleasure became one when she dabbled
in the fashion world, Her wardrobe has Manish
Malhotra, Rina Dhaka, Rohit BaL Oscar De la Renta,
Versace, Escada, Chanel and Givenchy.
'"I never wear head-to-toe anyone," she says. " I
always mix and love to bring my own sense of style to
what I wear, I was couture buyer at Lord and Taylor
and learned a lot about dressing myself while
deciding what my customers should wear! The many
fashion shows I attended as part of my job taught me
a lot too." Ten years and three kids later, the couple
moved back to India for three years where Meera
initiated the International Play School in Bombay, a
feeder school to the American School. with
swimming, yoga, painting and other activities for kids
from the ages of 16 months to three years.
Back in the U.S. Meera has taken a long sabbatical
from work to bring up the kids and to indulge her own
interests. The days are usually filled with charity
events or social lunches, She says, "Of late, I seem to
do less things far fun - my fun and my work is all in
one because I have such a good time doing it. I love
meeting people, I love learning, and I love being out
So, how does she fit in all the frenetic partying and
socializing that gives her title of New York Socialite?
She lets you in on a secret: "I never go early for
anything - I pretty much miss the cocktail hour!"
She's involved with several causes and sits on the
board of the United Worid College in the U.S. as well
as the Pearson UWC board, recalling the scholarship
that started her out: "I got a fine education and a fine
opportunity, so I really believe in giving back,"
She's on the board of Safety Net, a London based
organization that helps battered women in Muslim
countries, and on the board of Grameen Digital
Partners Foundation. And since Meera lives in what
was Eleanor Roosevelt's final home, she's a trustee
of the board of Val-Kill (Mrs. Roosevelt's summer
home) and is on the board of governors of FERI.
Although she seeks out adventure, sometimes
adventure seeks her out, especially when she
happens to be at the right place at the right time. This
is what happened when she went to the Pearl Exhibit
opening at the prestigious Natural History Museum.
The curator loved the Sri Lankan pearls she was
wearing, and said they ought to be in the exhibit.
Meera agreed, and now her pearls are jetsetting
around the world in the exhibit, traveling to London,
Tokyo, Milan, Rome, Houston and Taronto!
"They are going allover the world, and it's so
exciting!" says Meera. " I get invitations to all these
gala openings - not that I've been able to go - it's just
wild and so much fun!" So her pearls are in the
museums where thousands take a look at them,
along with Meera's picture which is right there next to
them. While In Toronto recently, she made a trip to
the Royal Ontario Museum to visit the pearl exhibit.
She arrived on a day that the museum was closed,
but the curator opened It especially far her. Talk
about VIP status!
The child in her is still curious about other lives, other
worlds. So, on a whim, she joined a whole group of
Wharton School alumni in Russia, She recalls, "I had
just the best time - I learnt so much. The most
outrageous thing I did was in Putin's palace - I sat in
Putin's choir! I almost got booted out but I just felt like
seeing what that felt like!"
A fun mom, she enjoys giving her children the perfect
New York growing up, with its mix of cultural
activities. She tools around Manhattan in her SUV,
picking up and dropping off her kids, planning perfect
birthday parties for them, and actually taking the
oldest, Kiron, to an MTV party or on the red carpet
with celebs like Reese Witherspoon at the recent
Vanity Fair premiere,
Holidays are usually spent in Ritz Carlton villas
around the world or traveling to India to meet the
family. This year alone, she's traveled to Moscow, St
Petersburg, Hong Kong, ShanghaI. Beijing, Bangkok,
Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, London, Bombay, Delhi,
Bangalore, West Palm Beach, Colorado and Los
An out and out optimist, Meera always sees the
positive side of things: "We are to the universe only
as much as we can contribute. Beyond that, life is
mere existence and has little importance:' she says,
expiaining her support of various causes. "This drives
my life and gives it meaning as well as happiness."
Then, she adds with a conspirational smile, "While
doing this, I am amazed that one can have so much
fun as well!" In fact, for her, fundraisers are funraisers.
Recently, Meera posed for a photo portrait by the
celebrity artist Baba Anand, who transformed her into
an ethereal nymph rising out of the ocean, her hands
joined in meditation, The ultimate in make believe,
the imaginary games of childhood! The image ran in
Now York Magazine and Meera has it on her
website. Obviously, she's having a lot of tongue in
cheek fun with it.
Yes, life is a ball, a non-stop party, and Meera
Gandhi Is determined to enjoy every last dance and
every last aria - and in the process, help the causes
she believes in.