Rashmi Rajgopal was sick of not finding anything on the internet on one of the most reputed jewellers in the country, so she decided she’d pay the Gazdars a visit.
Mumbai: I hate preparing for interviews. I mean, just think about it. Go in with a rigid set of questions. Remember to start with this question, cut off interviewee at this point, move on to next question. Then the next. Then get out of there. The rigidity is so pretentious. So I go in unprepared. I’m not a fan of interviewing people, but secondary sources are barely reliable. Internet searches are the virtual counterparts of tour guides hovering around airports/touristy spots, waiting to ensnare clueless visitors. I’m not falling into their trap. So here I am, at the Taj Hotel. Gazdar would probably be one of the most comfortable interroga—interview chambers. You’re thinking I’m the one in the hot seat. Yeah, it’s white-hot and about to blow.
At Gazdar, I sink into said hot seat, twiddling my thumbs and resting one leg over the other, body in rigor mortis mode. I’m waiting to interview Ravi Gandhi who now runs the place. He walks in with a wide smile and briskly shakes hands with me. I lower my guard slowly. It’s not as mortifying as I think it is. Ravi gets the conversation flowing for me. I know a little about Gazdar’s history—founded in 1933 by Dinshah and Rusi Gazdar. Gregory Peck, Hitchcock among famous celebrity visitors. Appointed jewellers in the courts of Hyderabad and Patiala. The epitome of high standards in jewellery-making and sourcing. Thank you, Hancocks and Christie’s. But that’s where it ends, and here Ravi fills in the gaps.
Though formally founded in 1933, Gazdar had pretty much been around earlier—not as the company, but as craftsmen designing and selling jewellery and antiques. Dinshah and Rusi Gazdar came from a well-off family, acquainted with the finest in jewellery and crafts. Exposure to the best and imbibing that into one’s creations is part of the process of excelling at something. The Gazdar brothers had an advantage—they trained for a year with Cartier before returning home in the 1920s with a group of artisans.
As Ravi fills me in on the history, I think of his father, Dharmendra Kumar Gandhi and the change of hands. Ravi tells me how his father came to be in the trade. As an established goldsmith in Varanasi, Dharmendra’s association with the Gazdars materialised into an apprenticeship sometime in the 1970s. With Dinshah’s deteriorating health in the eighties and his subsequent demise, Dharmendra took over operations. Designs are bound to change when people working on them change, I begin thinking. I want to bring this up, and when I do, Ravi shrugs his shoulders. “Not really,” he says. Sourcing and designing have always been their top priority, yes. But they have had to cater to changing demands in style.
Ravi speaks passionately about quality and standards, reflecting the company’s conviction in only delivering the best. I’m not so drawn to constants as I am to adaptations, so I ask for a few pieces from the past. He lays out four brooches on the table. I pick up a leaf-shaped brooch, turning it around in my fingers. “It’s not really a period piece,” I remark, grinning. It’s an elegant brooch, contemporary in design. Tiny round-cut diamonds separated by an emerald vein set in yellow gold glint under the lighting. I pick up a bulkier piece. This one looks ancient, I think. But that’s not the point. We go back to the constant: quality. I ask him if these pieces are for sale and he nods. I’d have liked for them to stay safe in their butter-wrap.
One of the staff enters the room, waving his hands and directing fumes from an incense stick. I feel more at ease and look around. We shake hands again and Ravi walks away to talk to one of his staff. That was smooth. I won’t call it an interview anymore. I still hate the word, so I’ll rephrase: it was a casual and informative conversation. I should leave, I think. I’m not around to buy anything. The conversation’s over. But I stay around a little longer, looking at the jewellery on display and screening out peripheral sounds.